Small Wonder: ‘The World’s End’ combines the suburban and the supernatural

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Phoenix Delman/Staff

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Nick Frost has come a long way from making $3.00 an hour as the the “world’s wittiest waiter,” and so too has Simon Pegg from the days when they shared a flat together. The duo, — along with director Edgar Wright — have come a long way, too, from the releases  of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” the first two films in the Cornetto trilogy (so called because each film has a different flavor and in each film, a subtle reference to a Cornetto appears). With their newest film, “The World’s End,” Frost, Pegg and Wright bring the Cornetto trilogy to a close — but not their working friendship.

“We’d like to work together again,” Wright said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “We definitely wanted to make these thrilms, three films” — “Call it thrilms”, Pegg interjected — “and have them as a sort of piece …  a thematic trilogy, but you know, this marks the end of a chapter, and hopefully when we work together again, it might be something that is radically different.”

Co-penned by Pegg and Wright, “The World’s End” shares many of the characteristics of its predecessors (“Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), notably a focus on the relationships the characters share and terrifically funny writing. It follows a group of schoolmates, now adults, as they try to complete the legendary pub crawl through their hometown that they failed to finish 20 years earlier, with the last pub conveniently called “The World’s End.” As their journey continues, complications ensue in the form of an insidious, extraterrestrial change within the town that the friends must fight to make it out in one piece.

The instigator of this quest is Pegg’s Gary King, who finds himself nearing 40 and still dressing, talking and acting as if it were 1990, eager to reclaim his days of glory. It is this kind of nostalgia, the idea of reliving one’s youth, that ultimately drives the film. The dangers of nostalgia are embedded more subtly  in the film too, like in the robot-aliens, or “blanks.” The heads of the “blanks” pop off like toys, and they bleed blue blood, which Wright designed to be reminiscent of schoolchildren whose hands were stained from blue ink.

“There is a line, like Rosamund Pike says in the film, when she says you’ve got to look forwards and not backwards,” Wright said. “I think that’s the moral of the film.”

As only a Frost-Pegg-Wright venture can be, the film is concurrently a hilariously absurd adventure and a work with much greater substance than other films of the genre, exploring themes such as forgiveness, identity and the general incapability of the human race to do as its told. Yes, there’s drama, fight scenes, sirens (the female kind) and laughs galore, but it is aspects like the exquisite cinematography by Bill Pope that really give the film a different dimension.

The soundtrack, too, contributes to the immersive experience of the film, where every movement was mapped out meticulously. “We had that (“Alabama Song” by the Doors) played out so we could walk in time with it and we had a choreographer on set so that everyone’s movements were completely choreographed … All the extras were all doing ‘5, 6, 7, 8’ so that was super important, and that was on set. And most I would say, if not all, of the musical choices were pre-loaded: they weren’t something we came up with afterwards; they were on a playlist we’d already determined when we were writing the film,” says Pegg.

One of the greatest triumphs of the film and the trilogy at large is the superb contrasts that Pegg and Wright draw between the normal and the paranormal. In “The World’s End,” the contrast between the seeming normalcy of the town and premise, and the challenges that the men — and one woman (notably the only real female character in the entire film is Sam, played by a kick-ass Rosamund Pike) —  face as the night wears on shines: the least of which is increasing intoxication and the most of which is, well, the world’s end.

“The more you juxtapose mundanity and fantasy … the more effective it is,” Pegg said. “If you put an ordinary person in somewhere crazy. It makes that experience seem more real than it is if you have someone who can fly.” “Maybe that film (“Superman”) would have been better if it was just Superman working in an office,” Wright ruminated. “And he snaps like a thousand pencils,” jokes Frost. “He has problems… Even he can’t get the copier to work,” Wright mused.