Edgar Wright has done it again. He first gave us Shaun of the Dead, one of the most refreshing zombie movies ever made. He followed that with Hot Fuzz, a love letter to decades of Hollywood action that gets better and better with every watch. And now he rounds out his trilogy with The World's End, an absolutely inspired spin on a sci-fi subgenre that Hollywood has done many, many, many times. Of course, since this is an Edgar Wright film, it's simultaneously an ode to movies past and a completely original creation that stands on its own two feet.
As for what exactly the sci-fi subgenre is, I'd kind of rather not say since so much of the fun comes from seeing the way Wright and cowriter-star Simon Pegg take an ordinary story and slowly introduce it into an extraordinary situation. It's about a group of friends (Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine) reuniting for the first time in decades to re-create an epic pub crawl that they tried, and failed, to complete in their youth. Their group has drifted apart over the years, but Pegg's Gary King is doing everything he can to get the band back together. The magic just isn't there anymore, though. These friendships aren't what they used to be and it's obvious to everyone but Garry, the selfish wannabe rock star who drove the group apart in the first place.
None of the others actually care about doing this pub crawl, and they're about to call it quits when something unreal happens. They start to notice the hometown they haven't been to in years has changed. No one seems to remember who they are and everyone around them is acting rather strange and increasingly suspicious. Suddenly, before the gang really wrap their heads around the situation, they're in for the fight of their lives as they try to escape the quaint British town they used to call home, all while trying to repair some badly damaged friendships in the process.
What's most impressive about The World's End is the same thing that's so impressive about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It's Wright's commitment to giving his characters a complete emotional journey. It's never just about the high-concept scenario. The sci-fi side of the movie never overpowers the human side, and it's that human side that strikes hardest. There's some surprising emotional weight to everything that happens - thanks in no small part to stellar performances by Pegg and Frost - and their story of fractured friendships is handled with the utmost maturity and pays off in clever, organic ways. This isn't a Hollywood movie where characters are just thin enough to each have a basic function in the grander spectacle. This is an Edgar Wright movie where the characters matter just as much as the cool action that's happening all around them.
And as for that action, it's all derived from a plot that's just brilliant and wholly original. Again, there's no need to spoil anything, but this is the type of story that feels like it could be newly discovered side chapter in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It shares Douglas Adams' same brand of bemused, cosmic humor where everything has its weird, unexpected purpose, and it uses a small story and average people to explore bigger ideas about the entire human race. It's rather brilliant and makes for a wildly entertaining, original, surprising and heartwarming sci-fi story that's bound to become as meaningful to its respective genre as Shaun of the Dead is to the zombie genre.