There’s a scene in The World’s End where the main characters discuss what to call the androids that have taken over their hometown. One of the few remaining locals explains that they shouldn’t be called robots because the etymology of the word robot means slave, which these androids are not. This sets up a running gag throughout the film where the five main characters continually throw out names for the new town overlords. More importantly, the discussion about robots and slavery speaks on a deeper level about the main characters and humanity itself.
The World’s End begins in 1990 where five teenage friends decide to take on the Golden Mile, a twelve stop pub crawl that ends at a tavern called The World’s End. After a night filled with inebriation, bar fights, and drunken sex, the group fails to make it all the way to the end. Flash forward to the present where Gary King (Simon Pegg), the leader of the group, decides that he wants to attempt the Golden Mile once again with his friends. While Gary still clings to the life he lived as a teenager, the rest of the group have grown up to have respectable lives and careers, thereby forcing Gary to manipulate, lie, and sweet talk his reluctant friends to attend. While three of his old mates are easier to convince, it’s Andy (Nick Frost), Gary’s former best friend, who takes the most convincing. They all hesitantly arrive and the night of festivities begin- with an over-enthusiastic Gary leading the way while the rest grudgingly follow suit. In the midst of the group catching up, discussing the pitfalls of adult life, work, and family, the film immediately switches course after Gary discovers that the town’s residents have been replaced with robots. The gang decides to finish the pub crawl as to not arouse suspicion among the rest of the androids, which of course has the opposite effect.
As the final film in the Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End is a uniquely multifaceted film, with references to the first two films in the trilogy, homages to classic sci-fi films, and social commentary to boot. These first two aspects are to be expected from writers Edgar Wright (who also directed) and Simon Pegg, and while a bit of social commentary made it’s way into the first two films it was never so blunt as in this film. As many critics have pointed out, the film does delve into the complications of adulthood and the difficulty of letting go of one’s youth, but The World’s End seems to have a more important message- that of slavery. The mechanical antagonists of the film refuse to be called robots because of it’s etymological connotation to slavery- how can they be slaves when they are the ones in control? When questioned as to their motives, the mechanical entity called “The Network” reveals that they are here to civilize the world as they’ve done on countless other planets. Humans have been particularly difficult, but thanks to technological achievements courtesy of Earth’s new overlords, the robots have been able to infiltrate different cities around the world. It’s these technological achievements that have turned humanity into slaves- with cell phones, tablets, the internet, and much more distracting those who would notice an uprising. And thus everyone have become brainless zombies, ambling along with technology in hand. Technology isn’t the only form of slavery, however. Gary is a slave to his past, admitting quite pitifully that he must finish the pub crawl amid a robot overtaking because “it’s all I have.” Andy too is a slave to his past, albeit for much different reasons. He hasn’t been able to forgive Gary for abandoning him after a horrific accident, instead letting his bitterness effect his life. Still, Pegg and Wright seem to suggest that these aren’t necessarily bad things, but is instead what make us human. When given the opportunity to live as the teenage version of himself at the high point of his life, Gary refuses knowing that no matter how happy he would be, he wouldn’t have his humanity. In fact, Gary, Andy, and Steven all refuse eternal life, because they would rather live with their flaws and enjoy freedom than live a perfect life as slaves.
The World’s End is successful as an action comedy film, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reversing their roles to great effect (in the past Pegg typically played a mild-mannered character while Frost was more unruly and rambunctious). Edgar Wright, once again, proves to be a talented director, handling the shifting tones of the film perfectly as well as orchestrating action that is both visually entertaining and easy to follow. The supporting cast of Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan hold their own against Frost and Pegg, delivering laughs just as easily. By far the best film of the trilogy, Wright and Pegg not only deliver an entertaining film, but offer some food for thought as well.