Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can’t reveal in our review.
The advertisements for The World's End have been disappointingly careless with the film’s secrets, especially given that the big reveal—that Newton Haven has been taken over by “robots who aren’t robots”—doesn’t happen until roughly the midpoint. But then how could Focus resist giving prospective ticket-buyers a taste of the mayhem that occurs in the second half, when Simon Pegg and his reluctant drinking buddies start tearing off the impostors’ limbs and stomping their heads into blue goo?
The World’s End is a better Invasion Of The Body Snatchers remake than the last two real Body Snatchers remakes, in part because it’s found potent metaphorical functions for its pod people. The plastic decoys, who replace anyone who doesn’t get with the extraterrestrial social-improvement program, embody an array of problems and fears. For several members of the gang, they’re representative of what Martin Freeman’s character calls “a nationwide initiative to rob charming little pubs of all their character.” For Pegg’s nostalgic party animal, the eerily polite drones provide a supernatural explanation to a common phenomenon: triumphantly returning home, only to discover that your legacy is nonexistent and no one remembers you. Most shrewdly, perhaps, the “blanks” symbolize the boring life of good-mannered sobriety that Pegg has stubbornly resisted for two decades.
It’s that last angle that gives the film’s climax such a funny, subversive charge. While most man-child movies feel the need to force their characters through a belated emotional growth spurt—see This Is The End, the summer’s other apocalyptic ensemble comedy—The World’s End finishes on a note of defiant immaturity. When faced with the light-based alien culprit, a talking energy beam he hilariously calls a “big lamp,” Pegg basically makes the case that humanity is too fundamentally pig-headed and proudly self-destructive to be civilized. Is the otherworldly entity, laying down booming decrees from above, a stand-in for the almighty Himself? If so, that makes Pegg’s refusal to give up the sinful partying life and submit to “what's good for him” an especially daring victory. “We’re all fuck ups,” the movie seems to be declaring, though it’s tough to say if it’s celebrating a willful refusal to change or lampooning it. Given that this is an Edgar Wright joint, probably both.
Having arrived at a pretty perfect ending, The World’s End then spirals into a bizarre, post-apocalyptic coda, which reveals the fate of the body-snatched members of the group (Eddie Marsan and Martin Freeman, the latter of whom shrewd viewers will recognize as a “blank” long before the movie reveals it). Pegg, meanwhile, gets a “happy ending” nearly as sad as the one in A.I.: He now wanders the charred, Road Warrior-like landscape, teenage robot versions of his old companions in tow. He’s kicked the sauce, but is still drunk on his glory days, which he gets to relive in the strangest way imaginable. Wright and company could have built a whole movie around those final few minutes. It’s a testament to their talents that The World’s End feels so complete, but still leaves viewers wanting more.