Sometimes going to the movies can be really confusing. Take, for instance, the pair of apocalyptic comedies that ransacked movie theaters this summer. Earlier this season we had "This Is the End," which featured Seth Rogen, James Franco, and a bunch of other Hollywood weirdos playing themselves and dealing with the apocalypse. And now, this weekend, we have the incredibly similar-sounding "The World's End," which is a British sci-fi comedy also involving the apocalypse.
But the end-of-the-world scenario -- and the titles of each film -- are where the similarities end: "The World's End" is a comedy starring people who are more famous on the other side of the pond -- actors like Simon Pegg (known to most American audiences as Scotty in the new "Star Trek" movies), Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, and Rosamund Pike, who is about to be very famous thanks to her lead role in David Fincher's upcoming "Gone Girl." It concerns five friends who return to their hometown for a pub crawl, the same crawl that they failed to finish decades before. Soon they realize that the sleepy English town they left long ago has transformed, and not in the there's-a-new-Starbucks way. You see, intergalactic robots have invaded and replaced many of the townspeople, and it's up to our drunken heroes to save the day (and the world).
Now that we've established that it is, in fact, a different movie than "This Is the End" (another difference: the actors actually play characters and not heightened versions of themselves), here are 10 other things you should know about "The World's End."
1. It Was Made By the Same Guys Who Did 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz'
The first thing you should probably know about "The World's End" is that it's the conclusion of a thematic trilogy of movies that began with 2004's "Shaun of the Dead," continued with 2007's "Hot Fuzz," and now concludes with "The World's End." All three movies are directed by Edgar Wright and co-written and co-starring Simon Pegg, who stars alongside Nick Frost. The first film was a wicked romantic comedy set inside a suburban London besieged by zombies, equal parts Woody Allen and George A. Romero. "Hot Fuzz" transplanted the cinematic pyrotechnics of Tony Scott and Michael Bay to a small town in the English countryside. The references in "The World's End" are less direct but just as apparent: it's a bodysnatching sci-fi movie in the tradition of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Puppet Masters," or John Carpenter's "The Thing," only this time it's questionable whether or not being replaced is such a bad thing after all...
2. It's Really Different Than 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz'
One of the things that we were so taken by in "The World's End" is how, tonally, it's quite different than the other two movies. The other two had a goofy, kicky whirligig energy, which is still maintained in "The World's End," but it's undercut by a strong strain of mournfulness and rueful ruminations. The thematic concerns of the two earlier movies, about the bonds of friendship, remain, but this time things are sadder and more unexpectedly emotional. It's a bold maneuver, especially since audiences are going to expect one thing, given the other two movies, and are going to get another. But it's a decision that you can't help but applaud. It's big, it's bold, and it's beautiful. Even if the plot gets a little tripped up towards the end, it's excusable because the level of ambition is so great.
3. You'll Probably Have to See It More Than Once
Like the other two movies, there is so much packed in -- both visually and in terms of dialogue -- that at least one more viewing will probably be required to get everything. It's like a really long episode of "Arrested Development," mixed with some '70s-era comic book. Basically, it's really, really dense, which is a welcome change of pace from the flat, over-lit studio comedies we've been bombarded with this summer (things like "The Internship" and "The Heat").
4. Giggling Will Ensue
We've made it sound like "The World's End" won't make you laugh, but it definitely will. It will make you laugh like you're 10 years old again, watching "America's Funniest Home Videos," where they just ran a clip of some dad in middle America getting whacked in the groin with a baseball. (I'm not sure why this is the analogy I chose, but you'll laugh exactly like this all the same.)
5. The Robots Are Really Cool
This summer it's fair to say that, between "Iron Man 3" and "Pacific Rim" alone, we've had some pretty spectacular robots. The robots in "The World's End" are way different and subtle, but they're just as cool. The robo-replicants have figured out how to perfectly mimic humans, and bleed an inky kind of goo when you kill them. Our favorite gag is probably the light that the robots emit from their hands, eyes, and mouth. It's a ghoulish touch worthy of a John Carpenter movie like "The Fog" or the movie's obvious touchstone, "The Thing."
6. As Far as Social Commentaries Go, It's Better Than 'Elysium'
"Elysium" whacked you over the head with its social commentary, with the idyllic space station standing in for everything from immigration reform to the unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With "The World's End," subtle points are being made about the toxic potency of nostalgia and the intruding effects of globalization and corporatization on small towns, but it's always just in the periphery. The social commentary is there, if you want to look for it, but it's not standing out front, waving its arms.
7. The Cast Is Amazing
Seriously, the cast of "The World's End" is absolutely stunning -- between returning veterans Frost and Pegg, we also get Paddy Considine, an amazing Britsh filmmaker in his own right (he also appeared in "Hot Fuzz" as one of the clueless local cops), Eddie Marsan (who American audiences might remember from the two "Sherlock Holmes" movies with Robert Downey, Jr.), and Martin Freeman (who is a big time star now that he's leading Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy). Every actor has a distinct comedic style, and instead of violently clashing with one another, something that ensemble comedies sometimes fall victim to, they all mesh and flow.
8. There Are Some Secret Cameos
The cast is even bigger and better than we've let on. But there was a lovely letter written by Edgar Wright that was passed out at our screening and we would never want to disappoint him, so we'll keep our traps shut. Still: great cameos await you at "The World's End."
9. It's Slightly Clearer Why Pike Got 'Gone Girl'
When it was announced a few weeks ago that Rosamund Pike would be the lead in David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best selling thriller "Gone Girl," the news was met with a collective shrug. Her? Seemed to be the most common response. In "The World's End" you get more of a sense of her dimension and potential movie star-ness. She is charming and graceful and funny and tough and gorgeous. We now are starting to see why David Fincher found her so alluring.
10. You'll Be Sad the Trilogy Is Over
It's true that these actors have become sort of like our friends, too, and seeing the trilogy wrap up is something that is definitely bittersweet. Thankfully, they went out with a bang.