Five brief thoughts on a recent film.
I mentioned here how the film This is the End was basically just a stop gap until The World’s End came out. Let’s see how it holds up…..
1) Let’s start by getting apocalyptic. When all the dust is settled, this isn’t a film that needed to be made. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were two great films and it’s only because of the great worship of the trilogy in western culture that we ended up here. Like the Oasis discography, it does very much feel that Pegg and Wright put all their best ideas into Shaun of the Dead, all their next best ideas into Hot Fuzz and then had to figure out what the third film was going to be about. This is most tangibly in terms of plot, where the two previous films are very strong but here feels a little patched together with the best scenes stretched out with a lot of running and fighting. My impression was that the trilogy was a set of comedic yet serious takes on American films – Shaun was Romero, Fuzz was Wicker Man meets Bad Boys but End seems like it doesn’t really have any corresponding source material, which is odd for a team that put together Spaced, a near constant stream of pop culture references. In fact, you might say that the whole idea of the film being structured around a pub crawl is a second hand joke that they already covered in Shaun of the Dead.
So does that mean that End is Pegg/Wright’s godawful Be Here Now? No, not at all, it’s brilliant. It’s a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, amazing film. I just never walked out of an Edgar Wright film before thinking anything along the lines of, “I would have done that differently”. Yes, they made the rod for their own back, and out of respect for them I feel like I have to pick it up, pull down their pants and start beating them with it.
2) Since I am being a brave keyboard warrior criticising something that is better that anything I or probably any of the rest of hollywood can achieve, let’s wallow in the negativity and get one more criticism in. Call it a cathartic moment. Once I say it, it’s out and I don’t have to dwell on it. Think of it as therapy. What I am talking about is the monsters, in this case Robots. Now as everyone knows, there is one rule in monster movies and that rule is not to show your monster too early as nothing is impressive enough to stand up to viewer scrutiny for the next 80 minutes. End breaks this rule like the glass at a Jewish wedding (Mazel Tov!). The robots appear very early on in the film’s pub crawl in a needless fight scene that seems to happen for no reason and last for a long time. In the scene after next, it is obvious that not only do these robots exist but that the town is full of them, marching in step. Unfortunately, this is it as we then see the robots in every other scene until the end of the film with no new visual effects or revelations. It’s not as if Pegg and Wright didn’t follow this rule before: The zombies in Shaun are only seen in the distance to begin with, then only one or two up close in the garden and then only small crowds until they reach the Winchester and then only as a howling mob in the final scenes. Such subtlety is lost in End where the robots quickly become unimpressive and uninteresting with a kind of frankly lazy visual design that even TV shows like Äkta människor (Real Humans) easily outperforms. Ok. That’s it. I liked this movie, I swear. I promise to behave.
Did I say the ending felt tacked on?
No, shit, forget I said that. I never said it. On to the next point. Quick. Scroll down!
3) So End isn’t the best Pegg/Wright film but for sure, Gary King is the best character they have ever created. He’s the perfect mix of someone who is completely annoying, yet utterly sympathetic in a way that characters like Shaun‘s Ed just weren’t. In fact, he’s an archetype character that we can recognise in ourselves or our friends seemingly without any kind of precedent in any film or novel that I can remember. King works in every way that he needs to – he’s the source of much of the film’s comedy being someone who you laugh both with and at and yet at the same time many of the scenes are very naturalistic and rely on little details. It was a brave and smart choice to switch Pegg from being a hero into something of a stooge and a challenge he passes with flying colours. More than this, when the film’s plot lags, it’s the structures and metaphors around Gary that make the film work – the second pub crawl mirroring the first and the circle of the “Network” at the end being a mirror for Gary’s hatred of therapy group circles. The scene where Pegg and Frost discuss their friendships and problems as they face certain death worked excellently in Shaun and works again here. From time to time, Gary’s devotion to finishing the pub crawl in spite of an alien incursion seems illogical but when it comes down to the line, “It’s all I have,” everything seemed to fall into place and make sense, taking that masterful turn where a figure of ridicule and humour suddenly reveals themselves to be deadly tragic and in need of serious help.
4) It’s so much fun to spot the returning cast members from the previous films but the Cornetto Crew take the opportunity to add a new person here: Eddie Marsan. Eddie has a great role in that he’s one of the only former friends of Gary that actual starts to enjoy the gang being back together and off on the crawl again. Like Gary’s he’s pretty much stayed the same, working for his dad rather than forging his own life and revels in the change to revisit his past, be wild again and face up to his school bullies. Like Gary, this journey has both pathos and humour. Marsan’s an amazing actor and as good as Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman are, he acts them out of the park.
5) Well, it’s the end of an era I guess. We have Edgar Wright’s Ant Man to look forward to. And I guess Nick and Simon will continue to make….okay-ish…..kind of……films directed by people who don’t understand their talents. And I guess Pegg’s in Star Trek…..That’s ok, I guess. Not terrible. I mean not really good but not terrible. And yeah, they’ll all make films separately and we’ll have the DVDs…..
Full marks if you get this picture.
Who am I kidding?
Make another one! Please! Please! Please! I mean I just need one more Cornetto film. Just one. You know you want to make one too. That or a Spaced special episode. God, I need this I beg you. It’s all I’ve got left. I watched Hot Fuzz so many times and it just never got better than that. It just never got better than that.