I dressed like that. In college more so than high-school. Black trench coat (but mine was brown). Black slacks. Doc Martens. I never owned that Sisters of Mercy T-shirt, but I did own the album with that cover.
That was Gary King’s wardrobe on the last day of high-school in 1990, the day he and four friends started (but didn’t finish) a legendary twelve-pub crawl in their English hometown. It’s still what he wears twenty-three years later as he rounds up his old gang to go back and complete the mission.
Such is the simple but unusual setup for “The World’s End,” the third Simon Pegg-Edgar Wright fanboy satire of the genre films they grew up with. Then the robots show up. If you don’t like the plot in a Pegg-Wright movie, don’t worry, give it fifteen minutes and it will change. “The Big Chill,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and “Trainspotting” are among the loose ends that tie together at “The World’s End.”
In one way “The World’s End” is right up the alley of those around forty. Dust off my CDs and I own a lot of the nineties British alternative music (Sisters of Mercy, Stone Roses, Soup Blur) that sets the nostalgic tone. While the characters are clichés, they’re my clichés. Wright has called the film an “anti-nostalgia” movie – essentially that you can’t go home again because of the killer robots. But in reality, it’s more effective as a lost Zima bottle of nineties goodness.
(Can anyone besides Generation Xers appreciate this film? Perhaps. Are the end-of-his-rope antics of the addict Gary King is, for today’s youngsters, like watching the hippie teacher in “Heathers” twenty-five years ago. But it does seem focused on its base demographic.)
There’s a David Lynch attitude to Wright and Pegg’s comic doodles. Hot Fuzz and The World’s End are both set in small towns that look like small towns in studio pictures from the forties. The familiar homilies are then smashed against a spooky movie-plot underbelly to small-town life. Is this an artistic statement, a social observation, or only a convenient alchemy for making comedy?
The humor of “World’s End” has sent many critics into an arms race of synonyms for hilarious. However, there is an itch of hollowness to it that I could never scratch. Shouldn’t the characters be less cartoonish, the situations a little more substantive, its “importance of friendship” message much less forced? Like a weekend away with old friends, it’s a fun lap through old times. But it’s ultimately a refreshing fiction––there’s always real life afterward.