I've become quite the fan of writer/director Edgar Wright. It all started nine years ago when a friend introduced me to 'Shaun of the Dead.' Before the current ongoing zombie craze, Wright put out one of the most entertaining zombie movies of all time. At the time, my college roommates and I would geek out between rounds of 'Halo' by explaining what we'd do if there was a real zombie outbreak. Watching 'Shaun' was even more entertaining and fulfilling than it should have been because it hit on many of the points that we talked about during those conversations. Wright captured the fun of the genre and built upon it with two hilarious characters played by his co-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Their screenplay pointed out the genre flaws and toyed with them with an unmistakably British sense of humor.
In 2007, the trio reunited for 'Hot Fuzz,' an even more brilliant film that applied their same genre-bending model to the standard cop action flick. The result, in my opinion, was even funnier and more entertaining than 'Shaun.'
This year, they've come together once again for their third and (supposedly) final comedic collaboration with 'The World's End.' Together, this series makes up the unofficial "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy" (each of the movies features a Cornetto ice cream cone). If I had to rank the films in order of greatness, it would be: 'Hot Fuzz' first, 'Shaun of the Dead' second, and 'The World's End' last – but although 'The World's End' is in the back, it's still a hilarious and worthy installment to their series.
Following suit, the genre that 'The World's End' turns comedic is – if you couldn't tell by the film's title – end-of-the-world/disaster films. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play the two leads in this ensemble flick, but their roles are reversed from the previous two films. In 'Shaun' and even more so in 'Fuzz,' Pegg played the smarter and more successful of the duo. In 'The World's End,' surprisingly, Pegg plays the dummy and Frost plays the intelligent and successful one. Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, and Martin Freeman play the other member of the Five Musketeers.
Twenty years ago, five recently graduated 19-year-old friends attempted an epic pub crawl in their home town of Newton Haven, England. The crawl, known as "The Golden Mile," covered one mile of ground and 12 pubs. The gang was unable to complete the 12-pint trek. Now, 20 years later, the estranged "Five Musketeers" are returning home to try completing The Golden Mile.
Pegg plays Gary King, the onetime leader of the fivesome. Viewing that first failed attempt as the greatest night of his life, Gary is stuck in the past, left romanticizing that night by himself. The other four have moved on, growing out of Gary's friendship in the process. They don't view the events from that evening so fondly. For them, that night was the beginning of the end of their friendship. It's only because of Gary's lying and manipulation that the Five Musketeers agree to his proposal of giving The Golden Mile another shot.
The first act of the movie is pretty mature, focusing solely on our leading characters and their relationships. Three pubs and 30-something minutes into 'The World's End,' the gang makes a discovery that completely shifts it into the gear that we've been expecting – things in the town aren't as they seem. As expected, a lot has changed over 20 years, but there's something not quite right with the townsfolk. There appears to be a 'Body Snatchers'/'Stepford Wives' thing going on in Newton Haven. Are they aliens? Are they robots? The reality of their situation is revealed to the audience as the characters discover the truth while making their way to The World's End – which is the name of the final pub in The Golden Mile.
I thoroughly enjoyed 'The World's End' when I screened it theatrically, but a few aspects kept it from perfection: the 30-something-minute duration to action made it lag; the action was so styled and cool that I left wishing that it could have started earlier in the film; and the ending is so weird and wild that it didn't feel like it belonged in the 'Three Flavours Cornetto' trilogy. Watching 'The World's End' a second time changed my opinion on a few of those things. First, the character-building beginning of the film is crucial. Because the dialog is so fast and so... British... there's a lot that I missed on the first viewing. I didn't catch everything that I needed to about the characters on the first run. Those first 30 minutes were much more entertaining the second time.
Second, because I enjoyed the character bits even more, the amount of Wright-stylized action in the film was more than enough. Wright filmed 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' between 'Hot Fuzz' and 'The World's End.' It's obvious that 'Scott Pilgrim' made Wright stretch his techniques when it comes to shooting action. I believe that his outside-the-box style with 'Scott Pilgrim' style allowed him to stretch even farther for 'The World's End,' which is what makes the fight sequences within it so refreshingly entertaining. Liking the intro so much more with the second viewing, I found the balance of action and character development just fine.
And third, the ending is still bat-shit crazy, but I'm glad that it is. It's unlike anything you're expecting – which is also extremely refreshing. It could have buckled under predictability, but it followed suite with the rest of the trilogy and kept the original flavour going. I commend it for that. If this is really how the Wright/Pegg/Frost collaborations come to an end, although I selfishly want more, I'm completely satisfied.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal and Focus are making 'The World's End' available in two different ways – in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet combo pack and in the 'Three Flavours Cornetto' Blu-ray/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet combo pack (please note the lack of DVD copies in the trilogy set). If you're considering double-dipping on 'Shaun' and 'Fuzz' for the trilogy set, think again. The trilogy set features all three Blu-rays in a standard keepcase with a slipcover – no exclusive extra features included. In fact, the packaging for the trilogy pack only says "Three Flavours Cornetto" once on the back cover. The cover and spine make it look like nothing more than a cheap triple feature Blu-ray collection. The only unique aspect to the trilogy pack are the new interactive menus for each of the discs.
The stand-alone release of 'The World's End' contains a BD-50 and a DVD of the film in a two-disc vortex keepcase. Along with the slip containing the redemption code for the Ultraviolet and Digital Copy, there's a slip carrying a $3-off coupon for the 'Shaun of the Dead,' 'Hot Fuzz,' 'The Big Lebowski' or 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' Blu-rays. The standard blue Elite keepcase is housed in a glossy and embossed cardboard slipcase with an easily-removable sticker promoting the digital copes. The only thing to play before the standard Universal left-sided main menu are skippable trailers for 'Machete Kills,' 'Kick-Ass 2,' 'R.I.P.D.' and '2 Guns.'
Focus (and Universal) have given World's End' a strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that presents the film in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video quality is so close to perfection that you can barely be upset by it's minor nit-picky flaw.
If you love the look of clean and clear celluloid films, then get ready for greatness. 'The World's End' is sharp and detailed. Fine features like facial pores and hairs can always be seen. You'll notice textures of surfaces, like wooden table tops, pitted concrete walls and soft clothing. There's a very fine dusting of grain throughout the bulk of the film. With the opening sequence being shot on hand-cranked 16mm camera, it's flashy, jerky, and extremely grainy.
The film features a wide array of colors once the robots/monsters/aliens/whatever-they-are enter the picture. With wildly blue ink-like blood, the palette then starts to incorporate small flashes of that blue in its decor and settings. When the gang enters a night club, the vibrancy of color becomes explosive as exaggerated neons wash over the settings and characters. Because the film literally and figuratively gets darker as it progresses, these colors burst onto the screen. The only pale colors in film are the light blues that glow from the eyes, mouths and palms of "the blanks." The black levels are rich and consuming, adding an uncertainty to the outdoor scenes because you never know who/what is lurking in the shadows.
My only complaint with the video quality is a very small amount of noise that shows up in handful of shots. The noise doesn't catch your eyes because it doesn't hover over black areas of the screen. Instead, it's layered over colorful sections.
'The World's End' arrives on Blu-ray with a great 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Most comedies don't feature exemplary audio mixing, but the action brings out the potential of a lossless mix.
The film opens with Gary King's voice-over recap of the gang's failed attempt at The Golden Mile from 20 years in the past. The '90s music that plays is incredibly mixed, digital drum beats bouncing from channel to channel. Music is consistently strong.
The clarity of the vocal quality is fantastic - which is a must because of how fast the dialog flies. Had their been a mistake in the vocal mixing, many of the fast jokes would be lost.
Wright has a great style for creative scene transitions. Much like those on the 'Hot Fuzz' Blu-ray, these feature great sounds accompanying the quickly edited on-screen actions. Some of them exemplify amazing imaging, like vehicles seamlessly swooshing across the theater space. Action scenes come to life with the chaotic sounds. With ten or more people going fist-to-fist in small confined areas, loads of dynamic sound soar. The mix is deep and rich, featuring a a few great examples of LFE to punch the on-screen action.
And even in the standard mild comedic scenes, the mix functions well. Environmental sounds - especially the pub settings - naturally bring the locations to life.
Much like 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz,' 'The World's End' is a comedy that requires multiple viewings - not only to appreciate it more, but to be able to grasp all of the jokes, gags, and hilarious dialog being thrown around. What Wright, Pegg, Frost and Company achieve within the end-of-the-world genre is priceless. Their comedy has matured, as has their ability to tell grown up stories. The qualities of the film's video and audio are damn near perfect, making it an eye-and-ear-pleasing disc worthy of revisiting time and time again. The Blu-ray set includes DVD, iTunes, and Ultraviolet copies of the film, as well as several hours of special features. Three commentaries, multiple image galleries, deleted/alternate scenes and a few hours of extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes fill the disc. Although they've said that this will be their last collaboration, that this is the final film in their unofficial "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy," here's to hoping that they're wrong. Highly recommended.