A brief summary of the plot: The World’s End follows the story of Gary King (Simon Pegg), a middle aged alcoholic who invites his high school friends to join him on a pub crawl called “The Golden Mile” in their old town. The turn occurs when they discover that the town has been secretly overtaken by alien invaders. In order to avoid being replaced, they must carry on the Golden Mile as if they know nothing.
What’s remarkable about The World’s End’s setup to this genre turn is that the story does not indicate that it is going to be a sci fi film until it becomes one. Shaun of the Dead delights in the foreshadowing of zombies in the background of the first act. Even Hot Fuzz has foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the film before the mystery at the center of its story is revealed. In The World’s End, Wright keeps its foreshadowing closer to the chest, with any sort of foreshadowing being more lowkey and comfortable in the context of a comedy. Simple observations such as not being recognized by certain people and closed off behavior, and the general bizzare energy of being in their hometown appears to be normal for these men, except for Gary who can’t stand it. As Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg point out during the film commentary, Gary is relieved to find out that aliens took over the town, because it means that it isn’t the traditional reasons one would feel this way: getting old (Wright, Pegg, 2013).
Now to look at the scene in which the turn occurs (Clips below). Gary King goes to the bathroom, knowing that his friends want to call it a night, ruining his plans to finish the Golden Mile. Nearly slipping in the bathroom, he nearly punches the wall in the same exact spot he hit as a teenager when he first attempted the Golden Mile. It symbolizes Gary’s desire to return to the past, to remain in his prime despite being well past it. As he goes to the bathroom, a teenager goes to the bathroom. Despite Gary’s attempts at small talk, even asking the teen to join him on the Mile (which Wright and Pegg determine to be his lowest point), that is when the twist occurs as a fight scene breaks out, causing the teen to lose his head, revealing that he isn’t human (Write, Pegg, 2013). After the head comes off, Gary’s friends storm into the bathroom, ready to ditch him for lying to them earlier, but end up roped into the conspiracy. Now this group of friends at their lowest moment are now forced together in order to survive.
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Another film of Wright’s that nailed the hard right turn that involved a shift in genre was Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010). Scott Pilgrim began as a simple, quirky, stylishly directed love triangle story that turns into a video game-eque action film where Scott must fight his girlfriend’s evil exes (see the two clips below). Just like The World’s End, Scott Pilgrim takes a shift in genre, but the central ideas, themes, and drama remain the same. Scott Pilgrim is about the baggage we carry into a relationship and how we respond to it. When Scott has to fight his exes, it becomes an exaggerated metaphor for something that many people struggle with in their romantic relationships.
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"Feature Commentary with Writers Edgar Write & Simon Pegg." The World's End. Dir. Wright. Universal Studios, 2013. Blu Ray