As of July 10th, two years have passed since the last entry in Edgar Wright’s vaunted comedy trilogy hit movie screens. Hard to believe but it’s true. The World’s End is entering into its terrible twos, while Hot Fuzz turned eight this year and Shaun of the Dead will be starting sixth grade in the Fall. It feels like only yesterday I was sitting in an AMC theater seat in anticipation of the Cornetto finale, eagerly recalling my favorite fence gags from the series and trying to decide if I could pee before the trailers ended. I ended up sprinting out to the restroom during the last trailer, which was a good move. World’s End is not a movie to watch on a full bladder.
The movie fulfilled my every expectation and more. The Holy Geek Trinity that are Wright, Pegg, and Frost have been churning out deceptively deep nerd romps since 1999’s Spaced, proving there’s room left for slapstick to grow as an artform. The films have interesting worlds. I care about the characters instead of wanting to see them get shat on. Fence gags. Need I say more?
Well, today, the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy have firmly ensconced themselves as culturally relevant masterpieces of cult cinema. Edgar Wright is without a doubt one of the top comedy directors of our time, or maybe any time. But the films aren’t exactly high art, right? How many Oscars has Nick Frost won?
Screw the Oscars. These movies aren’t just funny. They’re important. They’re validation for an entire generation of geeks like me who feel the icy whispers of adulthood approaching on the wind, like the mists of White Walkers and their zombified hordes.
I’m 24 right now. I remember the days when we had to hike fifteen miles uphill without shoes upon trails of broken glass and LEGO bricks to get to the Blockbuster Video so we could lay down six deer hides and a box of Winchester rounds upon the old bartering table to score the latest Banjo and/or Kazooie title. I remember when we traded issues of Nintendo Power under the lunchroom table like drug dealers. These days, I look at your Splatoons and Bayonettas and whatever the hell pass for Pokémon these days and I just get confused and a little sad. Adulthood is staring me down like the barrel of a phaser set to “Taxes”. Each passing day, that Bowser figurine on my dresser looks a little cuter, a little more kitschy.
Almost like an antique.
Maybe that’s why I identify so strongly with the madcap realities of the Cornetto films. These are NOT movies about growing up. Quite the opposite. These are movies about man-children who find strength in their juvenile predilections. Hot Fuzz is the purest rendition of this theme, featuring diligent, efficient Nicholas Angel learning the gospel of Michael Bay. It’s through his burgeoning nerd-dom that he learns how to be not just a police officer, but a hero. One who dives through the air shooting two guns and going “AAAArrrrgh!” as all true police must do from time to time.
But he’s just the most obvious example. Shaun’s story arc is set up like a coming of age drama, featuring the lackadaisical underachiever who watches with apathy as his life falls apart piece by piece. Certainly a quick lesson in personal responsibility is called for. Nope. Like any great screenplay, the story does not follow what you want or expect. Shaun is saved by the zombie apocalypse. He throws off the yoke of his shitty step father, renews his relationship with Liz, and learns some badass survival skills along the way. He even gets to stay buddies with Andy, even if Andy’s a bit zombied up these days. Those years Shaun wasted on video games, raves, and comic books weren’t wasted. They were training. In the Cornetto-verse, nerds like Shaun will save the world.
Or destroy it, I guess. I’ve never seen a movie make the total eradication of human civilization feel so necessary and freeing as The World’s End. Every action Gary King and Co. make during the course of the movie flies in the face of basic human logic and decency. They stay in town even when they’re fully aware that alien robots are coming to turn them into compost, they continue drinking because drinking is fun, and they make an incredibly stupid decision to kill millions of people and send humanity back into the Dark Ages purely because some snooty blue lights told them it was a bad idea. No one tells humans what to do!
But the Cornetto films aren’t about real life with real decisions and real consequences. They’re about fantasy, a brilliant, infantile kind of fantasy that turns us into zombie-slaughtering hunks or indestructible super-cops if only we have the gumption to chase our childish dreams. So says Gary King as he rides into the sunset, a broadsword on each shoulder, having resisted the pull of adulthood so thoroughly he infantilized the entire world.
Edgar Wright is proof positive of his own concept, a man who’s made one hell of a career out of playing pretend. And he wants you to know that what the kids are into may change, but nerds never really grow up. They just get bigger, louder, and drunker.
Thank you, Edgar Wright.
Now let’s all go down to the pub, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all this “adulthood” business to blow over.