In a Monty Python-esque comedic sequence, the drunken main characters try to respect their would-be conquerors' sensitivities by making up a more accurate name than "robot." They eventually settle on "blanks" because they're too plastered to dedicate much thought to the task.
While the "blanks" provide some good sci-fi-spoof entertainment, and even some philosophical cud, the first half of the movie, before anything supernatural occurs, is so smart and well-crafted that it makes one wonder where the script could have gone had there been no "blanks." The dynamic between Gary (Simon Pegg) and his friends is rich with the realistic history of high school buds who have lost touch while following different paths.
Former high school badass/wayward adult Gary King is on a mission to relive the most glorious night of his life. During the peak of his high school days, Gary dragged his friends on a mission to drink twelve pints of ale at twelve pubs scattered throughout their hometown. He calls it the "Golden Mile" with a tone of reverence usually reserved for the unattainable lost cities of El Dorado and Hamunaptra.
As young, reckless men, the quintet drank, fought and toked their way through only nine of the twelve pubs, leaving unfinished business for the rest of Gary's largely wasted life. Twenty years later, he manipulates his friends into giving the Golden Mile another go. Hijinks and clever comedy ensue as Gary drags his friends on a drunken Odyssey. Then come the robot alien replicants...or whatever. "Blanks." The interactions between these five guys while they drink themselves into oblivion would have provided more than enough material for a memorable comedy. Alas, that was not the film Pegg and Edgar Wright chose to make.
I suppose The World's End delivered everything I expected. It had intense and funny moments that simultaneously touched emotional chords, just as this same creative team mastered with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It also had the same rapid-fire banter between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. However, I was not expecting it to offer such impressive emotional gravity and complex history only to let all that succulent fruit shrivel on the vine. Nonetheless, this movie is about a robot (kind of) apocalypse (kind of), and that's how it should be viewed.
The internal logic of the plot fails at every turn. The blanks can remember everything from the life of the person they copy, but fail to recognize anyone from their past. The blanks are as soft and fragile as the vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn, and then suddenly durable for no reason. It's probably silly to complain about such things in a movie about alien robots.
When I walk into a movie about alien robots, I just want to be entertained, and in the end, I was. The World's End is fun-fare. It's to giggle at and enjoy as it makes fun of itself. It did its job, but for the second half, I couldn't help but feel that I got the rug pulled out from underneath me. Then again, if it did a poor job of defining the characters to begin with, I may not feel let-down by a breezy and silly second half, but I wouldn't have cared what happens to these guys. That surely would have made for a worse movie experience.
What we get in the end is a funny and touching movie about friends and memories and growing pains and squandered potential and, of course, alien robots. Works for me.