August 28th, 2013 / 12:11 am

25 Pints: The World’s End


[Update 1 September: Since posting this, I’ve seen The World’s End a second time, which radically changed my opinion of it. I now think it an extremely complex film and a masterpiece, perhaps even Wright’s best work to date—see my second attempt at a review/analysis.]

1. I love everything that Edgar Wright has made.

2. Spaced is one of the cleverest sitcoms I’ve ever seen, demonstrating repeatedly how innovation can be wrested from the most hackneyed cliches of a given form.

3. Shaun of the Dead I rank among the greatest zombie films made, the full equal of Night of the Living Dead and (the original) Dawn of the Dead.

4. Hot Fuzz is probably Wright’s best film to date; three viewings in, I’m still grasping its subtleties.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is my probably favorite film of the past three years—when I am honest with myself, I’m forced to admit that I love it even more than Drive or The Ghost Writer.

6. Edgar Wright is the only celebrity that I follow on Twitter.

7. I now go into everything that he makes expecting nothing short of sheer brilliance and genius.

8. I went to see The World’s End opening day.

9. It pains me greatly to say that the movie is, to date, my least favorite work of his.

10. I get the impression that Wright was playing it safe here, aiming for a larger audience.

11. Some relevant numbers:

  1. Shaun of the Dead: budget: $6.2 million, gross worldwide: $30 million (profit: $23.8 million)
  2. Hot Fuzz: budget: $12.4 million, gross worldwide: $80.6 million (profit: $68.2 million)
  3. Scott Pilgrim: budget: $60 million, gross worldwide: $47.7 million (profit: -$12.3 million)
  4. The World’s End: budget: $20 million, gross to date: $25.6 million (profit: $5.6 million and counting)

12. The problem is that, in the summer of 2010, Chris Higgs preferred Inception to Scott Pilgrim. (Chris’s pronouncement of SP: “Blah!”)

13. I wrote a little something about that.

14. So it’s hardly surprising that The World’s End is to some extent of a retread of Hot Fuzz, Wright’s most successful film to date. Newton Haven and its sinister secret recalls the idyll of Sandford. Pierce Brosnan’s Guy Shephard recalls (for me, at least) Timothy Dalton’s (brilliant) Simon Skinner.

15. In other words, The World’s End is a victim of Wright’s previous successes, this marking the first time he’s failed to top himself (in my estimation).

16. These criticisms aside, The World’s End is one of the better new films I’ve seen this year. (And like all of Wright’s films, it’s more complex than it may initially appear.)

17. If I had to rank the major releases I’ve seen this year, I’d order them as follows:

  1. Only God Forgives (a masterpiece)
  2. Blue Jasmine (superior)
  3. The World’s End (above average)
  4. Iron Man 3 (above average)
  5. The Wolverine (entertaining enough)
  6. Star Trek Into Darkness (dismal & depressing)

(Obviously I’ve not seen all that much.)

18. Looking at just the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, I’d rank them as follows:

  1. Hot Fuzz
  2. Shaun of the Dead
  3. The World’s End

19. Which is to say, they line up exactly with another famous trilogy:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars (“A New Hope“)
  3. The Return of the Jedi

20. I don’t think Wright intended things that way, but I doubt he’d be disappointed with that assessment. (And Bill Nighy >> fucking Ewoks)

21. The World’s End remains a wonderful film that entertained and delighted me from beginning to end.

22. And its ending is utterly brilliant, reminding me of nothing so much as the documentary made about Spaced, Skip to the End. (For any Spaced fan that hasn’t seen it, do check it out. In its last few minutes, it gives us Season 3!)

23. I plan to see The World’s End at least one more time in theaters. If nothing else, I’ll see it when it hits the local brew and view.

24. I still can’t utterly wait for Ant-Man.

25. I hope that Edgar Wright makes a million movies. You, sir, are a genius!

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  2. markbaumer

      The first half hour of scott pilgrim is the greatest achievement in big screen entertainment ever created, but the movie falls off some when he starts fighting people.

  3. William VanDenBerg

      A few points:

      -Nick Frost really steps up his performance in this one. He’s got this nervous energy that tightens and tightens throughout the first half of the movie. His character’s big reveal at the end felt a little flat, but Frost was able to sell it. And, you know, the barstools.
      -Wright, as usual, does an excellent job of moving the first third of the film along. There’s tons of exposition to get through with that many characters, but it never drags.
      -I thought the ending *spoilers* was kind of a cop out. Yes, the world did sort of end, but the main characters all got what they wanted. I think Wright and co. tried to meld the sad ending and the mega happy ending, while glossing over the amount of people killed by The Network’s departure (look, a lot of people died, but don’t worry, no one you cared about). Also, the blanks waking up afterward felt unnecessary, and it’s a strange plot point to introduce that late in the game.

      Overall I enjoyed it, but I agree that it’s the weakest of the Cornetto movies. There’s also the question of whether or not this type of movie (white men reliving past glories and coming to terms with whatever) needs to made over and over.

  4. scifibrarian

      I agree that World’s End is probably the weakest of the Cornetto trilogy. But it was still brilliant. Then again I thought Hot Fuzz was bit weak…until I re-watched it. So maybe World’s End just needs a few re-watches.

      And Spaced is hands down my favorite television show. Nothing else approaches it.

  5. Trey

      at first I thought I strongly disagree, but then I don’t entirely disagree. the first fight is a little satisfying if only because you don’t expect scott to succeed. the next few fights are boring (with mildly entertaining moments, including that metric song before the fight with todd). the fight with the twins is good. the last fight is mediocre (but this is easily explained because the ending of the comic hadn’t been written yet, so they had to wing it with the ending to the movie). so that’s fair. and also I love you mark baumer. and also I’m drunk at 3:45 pm so there’s that.

  6. A D Jameson

      I suspect I’ll appreciate it more as time passes. Like everything Wright does, it’s cleverer than it first appears. I was thinking about the film earlier today in relation to Middle English literature, partly because I’m TA’ing such a class at the moment, but also because I suspect Wright et al want us to. The film is something of an “ubi sunt,” in which an exiled king and his band of retainers return to the mead halls of old to relive past glories. The tone is perhaps intended to be more melancholy than in the previous two films. And I think the ending makes perfect sense: the critique is of modernization, and bureaucratization—the dissolution of kinship, and fealty. King represents an outmoded way of life—the modern world has no real place for him. Which is why he can thrive only at the end. The ending is actually an inversion of the elegiac Middle English mode—a triumphant return to the glories of yesteryear.

      I’m thinking aloud here, mind you. I should see the film again.

  7. A D Jameson

      For me, the ending works; see my reply below to scifibrain. What I like about it is its deliberate engagement with metaphor—even allegory—in a fairly anachronistic way. It announces from the outset that it’s concerned with “the world’s end.” King is an actual king, and the film is about his return, to summon again his retainers and return them to glory. The twelve pubs (a significant number) all predict the action that will unfold there. If the film were less intent on this—if it were less aware of its own nature—I might have a problem with it myself, but I think it plays pretty fair.

      And you’re right that Frost’s performance is a standout!

  8. A D Jameson

      The first fight is definitely my favorite. As someone pointed out, it’s a musical number that gets interrupted by a fight that gets interrupted by a musical number that gets interrupted by a fight.

      I also really like the third fight, but mainly because I have a huge crush on Brandon Routh. (And that Metric song.)

  9. markbaumer

      I don’t really remember the fights, but can some sort of bored feeling I had during them.

      I think I just like scott pilgrim v. every day normal life than scott pilgrim v. the world

      thanks for the love

      good job being drink

  10. A D Jameson

      Yesterday, I listened to an NPR interview with Edgar Wright where the interviewer mentioned that some critics found the fight scenes in SP too long, or complained that there were too many of them. Wright replied that the fights were originally longer, and that he cut them down because (paraphrase) even though he loves ridiculously long fight scenes (he mentioned Hong Kong martial arts films), he gets that not everyone else does.

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