The World’s End continues to impress me the more times I watch it, and as expected, the Blu-ray release contains much more information on the moviemakers’ aims and intentions.
I described the premise when I talked about how much I enjoyed watching the movie. In short, five former friends reunite, drawn together by the one of them whose best years really were in high school while the others have moved on and grown up.
We open with young versions of the characters in 1990, celebrating their graduation with an attempt at the Golden Mile, drinking one pint of beer at each of 12 pubs in town. It’s quite a shock when the good-looking, young Gary King cuts to a worn-out-looking Simon Pegg, Gary as he is now in a therapy circle. (I’m surprised any actor let himself appear this trashed-looking on film, actually.)
Soon enough, Gary’s trying to get everyone back together for another try at the marathon pub crawl. He sees the attempt as a chance to “finish what they started”. The friends are Andy, former wingman, now corporate lawyer and recovering alcoholic (Nick Frost); Oliver, a real estate salesman (Martin Freeman, Sherlock, The Hobbit); Peter, the meek put-upon (Eddie Marsan, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows); and Steven (Paddy Considine, The Bourne Ultimatum), a good guy who’s always been in Gary’s shadow.
Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddy Considine, and Martin Freeman in The World’s End
Since the others have jobs and families, they aren’t nearly as excited as Gary is by the concept of spending an evening getting drunk, so he ends up lying to them to get them together again. In his world, he’s still the center of attention; to everyone else, he’s a pathetic basket case who’s still acting and dressing as though he were a teenager. While Gary keeps thinking about his long-ago posse, they rarely think of him, or when they do, they recall the jerk things he did without realizing.
I appreciated the film at this point, since like other middle-aged people, I find myself wondering at times how life could have gone differently if I’d made other choices, or thinking about what might have happened to the people who meant so much to me in high school that I haven’t seen since. But since this is a Pegg/ Frost/ directed by Edger Wright film, things get weird. Along the way, Gary discovers that the inhabitants of the hometown village they’ve left behind are all alien robots (“blanks”), adding a new urgency to the proceedings and a question as to whether any of them will survive.
The result is a comedy – action – science fiction – horror film that manages to say a great deal about growing up, making strengths out of annoyances, and managing old hurts while being highly entertaining. Not only Gary’s future but the literal future of the world is at stake. And watching The World’s End more than once is necessary to catch all the details at the beginning that make the ending that much stronger.
The boys and Rosamund Pike in The World’s End
I’m left wondering whether widening our perspective makes the world better or worse, and if Bill Nighy really would be the voice of the internet. And I’m reminded that you can’t save someone from themselves unless they’re ready to change, and that a virtue to someone might be a detriment to another, particularly when it comes to stubbornness. Lots of people have a boring hometown they escaped from because they didn’t fit in, and they’d love to know that it wasn’t them, it really was about everyone else being the wrong ones.
There are a ton of extras, led off with three commentaries. The first, a feature commentary with co-writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, reveals a lot about the more subtle pieces of the film. For instance, during the prologue, everything that happened more than 20 years ago winds up foreshadowing what happens later. They point out how many synonyms for drunk are violent, such as “destroyed” and “annihilated”, what the pub names mean, and how the color scheme for the blanks is always blue and green.
World’s End director Edgar Wright
The cast commentary, with Pegg, Frost, and Paddy Considine, is like watching the movie with buddies who chit-chat the whole time and laugh a lot. I didn’t learn much, but it was companionable. There’s also a technical commentary with Wright and Bill Pope, director of photography, as well as a trivia track visible as subtitles. I found it repetitive of the feature commentary, at times, but it does identify all the music in copious detail.
One one-minute deleted scene shows the guys in the hotel before heading off. Eleven minutes of outtakes and goofs are entertaining, particularly when Pegg can’t get the order of the pubs right. Of course, there’s footage of people trying to jump over things and falling down. There are also 4 1/2 minutes of alternate takes included.
The big making-of is “Completing the Golden Mile” (48 minutes). The cast and director talk about what they think the movie and characters are about. It’s fun seeing how they filmed some of the effects, particularly the crowds moving in unison, and the discussion is actually substantial, more than the usual marketing piece. There are also four featurettes:
- Director at Work (2 1/2 minutes)
- Pegg + Frost = Fried Gold (3 1/2 minutes)
- Friends Reunited (4 minutes)
- Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (5 minutes)
These are all about praise and promotion. In the second, it was neat seeing clips from the other movies the two have done together, including Paul and the TV series Spaced. The last explains how the three films (this, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) fit together and shows, among other things, all the fence-hopping footage among the three.
“Filling in the Blanks: The Stunts and FX of The World’s End” (28 minutes) has a lot of information on the fight scenes and special effects, including what Wright learned about shooting action from directing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Animatics for the “The Prologue” (3 minutes) and “Catacombs” (8 minutes) each run storyboards accompanied by the soundtrack. Hair and makeup tests (4 minutes) just show actors in various costumes. Rehearsal footage (6 minutes) is fight staging practice. Stunt tapes (from 2 to 3 1/2 minutes) cover three fights: in the bathroom, with the twinbots, and at the Beehive. They’re much like the rehearsal footage, only it has the stars and the stunt tapes have the professionals.
The VFX Breakdown (8 1/2 minutes) is narrated by VFX Supervisor Frazer Churchill, who compares final footage to the bits that were assembled to create the effects. It’s quite informative, but it’s almost too much seeing behind the curtain.
“Bits and Pieces” (3 1/2 minutes) are alternate takes and quick clips, including lots of fake head-smashing. “There’s Only One Gary King – osymyso’s Inibri-8 Megamix” (4 1/2 minutes) consists of dialogue looped over a background track. “Signs & Omens” (8 minutes) highlights some of the film’s Easter eggs in the pubs and foreshadowed connections. “Edgar & Simon’s Flip Chart” (13 minutes) shows how they planned out the movie’s plot.
There are three trailers (the last of which has someone badly imitating Michael Caine and Sean Connery) and three TV spots, plus 3 1/2 minutes of a “TV safe version” where there’s lots of “funked” and “fluffing” dubbed in. Five galleries cover Production Photos, Animatronics & Prosthetics, Theatrical Posters, Concept Art, and Hero Pub Signs. (The studio provided a review copy.)