Ultimate Guide to 'The World's End' - PART 2 - Easter Eggs, Themes, andFinal Thoughts!

By: Heather Seebach

This is a continuation of part 1! Click here to read that!

** The following contains major spoilers ** 

Character Names

There is definitely a medieval/royal theme going on here: Gary KING, Andy KNIGHTley, Peter PAGE, Steven PRINCE, and Oliver CHAMBERLAIN (okay, that is more political than royal, but makes sense considering the character). Each of the names are fitting since Gary is the fearless leader; Andy is the braun; Steven is the handsome one; Peter is the less brave but still loyal one; and Oliver is the diplomat and businessman. He represents the very Starbucking the guys claim to hate which is perhaps why he's such an easy target. Mr. SHEPHERD is named as such because he is leading the flock of "sheeple" controlled by the Network.

Gary also drops a lot of medieval imagery when he talks like, "Let battle commence!" And Crowning Glory is the first beer of which they partake. It's also been suggested that there is a King Arthur motif happening, but I think it's more broad than that. Still, the term "quest" does come up. Gary King and the Quest for the Holy Ale? :)

Pub Easter Eggs

Similar to what Edgar Wright did with the exes in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, each pub features its numbered spot on the bar crawl somewhere (if not numerous places) inside the bar. Like the "9 Real Ales" sign in the Beehive, or the "Open at 11am" sign inside The Hole in the Wall. Look carefully in each bar and you'll seem them all. This could just be a fun Easter egg, but I actually wonder if it's not a deliberate action by the villains of the film. The final pub simply has a place card that says "12" with a welcoming pint of beer prepared for Gary. It gives me the impression this journey was planned for him and they're pulling him toward the end, where they hope to incorporate him in their plan.

Additionally, all the pubs have wi-fi signs (foreshadowing the ever-presence of the Network), and posters that says, "Enjoy and Relax." Every. Single. Pub. The exact same poster. It definitely gives a They Live-esque vibe of the Network attempting to calm and control the folks of Newton Haven through subliminal messages. You may also notice a lot of cell phone sounds (even that annoying sound speakers make near cells) in the ambient pub noise.

Off the top of my head, I can't remember where exactly I saw the following symbol in the movie, but it's definitely in there. Below is a photo of the coaster props with it. The logo resembles a signal a bit, eh? Also looks like five characters with one especially strong one in the middle ;) Furthermore, it says "established 1990." Mmhmm.

Pay attention to the ads in the movie, particularly prior to Newton Haven. I saw ads for the same electric car in two different locations. Is this just routine movie advertising, or deliberately placed for plot purposes? I can't recall the name of the vehicle, so I don't know if it's a real brand. But I do think it's interesting we see electric car ads during the guys' roadtrip in the Beast. It further emphasizes how the world is moving on without Gary, and perhaps foreshadows the Network.

Miscellaneous Foreshadow Lines

Typical to the Cornetto trilogy ("Go live in the shed!), here are some other random foreshadow lines:

Gary: "Yeah, it's shit here, in'it?"
(said in the first pub and while fleeing the Network ship)

Gary: "We are here to get annihilated!"

Andy: (cell phones fail) "It must be the Network."

Peter: "I hate fields!"
(perhaps a reference to his demise?)

(Blank) Oliver: "We can't start without you."

Andy: "We are gonna get to the World's End if it kills us!"

The Ever-Present O

Right from the opening AA scene and title card, there is a prevalent "O" motif in this film. Newton Haven is renowned for its roundabout and the town itself is a "black hole" of repetition in lieu of progress. The circle is all about repeating the past and living in the same viscous cycle as Gary has been - the same t-shirt, same car, same mix tape, same jokes he had in 1990. That is why the Network was luring him to the World's End (and their ship) because they expected him to embrace an opportunity to "Let the man you have become become the boy you were." After Gary declines this offer, Sam is driving them to "safety" and they are faced with that famous "ring road" roundabout. Sam asks, "Which way?" and they reply, "Go straight through!" Can't get much clearer than that!

The Once and Future King

Gary King is a fascinating anti-hero. Here is a sad man-child screaming for help. He hasn't talked to his closest friends in years, and yet he knows exactly where Peter lives and hides outside his home? He uses the Golden Mile anniversary as an excuse to see them again (though, as ever, he is late). He is obsessed with finishing the pub crawl because it's "all he has" but he can't do it alone. He does not know it, but this is a self-intervention.

Remember the scene when Gary leaves his phone on the pub table and they discover he lied about his dead Mum? Well, I suspect this was on purpose. Just as his crew have decided to abandon the pub, he gets a call and takes his phone out. I distinctly heard it ring beforehand, which was probably his Mom. Knowing his Mom was calling, wouldn't he be more careful about leaving it for them to find? Maybe not, but I can definitely see Gary leaving it there on purpose to piss off Andy and keep him around. For someone like Gary, an argument with a friend beats loneliness any day. Above all else, he just wants to be like the Musketeers. How sad is it when he says, "I thought we were home"? :(

Another powerful, telling scene is in the smokehouse. First we learn the details of Andy's accident, and how it wasn't Gary's drinking that he's bitter about, but the fact that Gary abandoned him. Also, when Gary is told to show them his arm to prove he's human, he becomes nervous and chooses instead to bash his head as proof. We don't realize until later why he would not show his arm - the bandages. He is obviously ashamed and doesn't want his friends to see the weakness in him. It is finally revealed in the World's End pub, where Gary confesses that June 22, 1990 was supposed to be the start of his great life, but it was all a lie and "nothing happened." Well, in fact something did happen - the world grew up without Gary King.

 Life After the Network

Gary is not your typical hero who tells the big bad guy to fuck off because he wants to save the world. Really, it's Gary's same-old stubbornness that drives off the Network and thereby throws the Earth into an apocalyptic state. Gary will not be told what to do or "when to go to bed." He refuses to ever submit to authority. He rejects the Network for the same reason he rejects 12-step programs and AA because he "wants to get loaded" and "do what he wants to do." By the way, that speech is from The Wild Angels (as told by Peter Fonda). There's another Easter Egg for you :)

When Gary eschews the Network and brings on apocalypse, it's like starting anew for him. Like waking up the first day of sobriety, he is left with the rubble he created but he's now uniquely prepared for it because he never was attached to the modern world anyway. In the end, Gary gets what he always wanted - not to be young and wild, but to be "king." Note the medieval sword on his back! Gary King is such a fascinating anti-hero because he did not grow up and join society like your average protagonist; instead, society fell apart and joined him!

In the apocalypse, Andy and the others found a happiness they never knew they needed. Andy - who earlier in the film said his wife always wanted to go organic but he liked "eating shit" - saves his marriage by going back to basics. Meanwhile, Peter becomes a better dad, not hiding from his kids behind a newspaper. Steve leaves behind fitness instructors for all he really needed - love. And Oliver makes the best of it by pretty much doing what he always did because he needs that comfort zone.

In the final scene, Gary walks through the Rising Sun pub (another aptly named bar) full of "big ugly bastards in war paint" and orders a glass of water. Remember when Andy said that takes courage earlier in the film? Gary no longer needs alcohol to be happy - he has found his past again in an unlikely spot - the future. And he is redeeming himself along the way by guiding these poor, lost blanks. The Golden Mile pub crawl became his unlikely journey to sobriety (12-step though it may be), which is why this ending is beautiful and unique.

Can Someone Explain This?

This I cannot explain: In the bathroom fight, the blank twice hit the hand dryer before attacking. Later, when Mr. Shepherd threatens the gang, he first pulls the fire alarm and it stays on throughout the fight. Could this be related to memory? If so, I get the alarm but not the hand dryers. Later, there was no compulsion to create noise first, but the blanks did themselves make noises (like the cop making a siren noise). If anyone has further input on this, please comment below! I really cannot understand why the need to initially create the noise (it's not like they had to mask the fighting from anyone - the whole town was in on the plan!). I tweeted my inquiry to Edgar and Simon - maybe they'll respond ;)

Final Thoughts on The World's End

 Unlike its predecessors, The World's End is not an obvious parody movie. Gary King does not walk up to a blank and say some one-liner about kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. The references to sci-fi movies are certainly there - from The Thing blood test vibe in the smokehouse to the Network being very Douglas Adams-esque - but this one is actually good science fiction unto itself.  There is a They Live sort of vibe going on, based loosely on the "red scare" anti-socialism mentality that began much earlier. Only instead of television and billboard ads that defined the 1980s, this modern take addresses the plague of convenience that is wi-fi, iPhones, etc. The Network does not want to hurt us, but instead assimilate us and make us more peaceful and perfect like them.

Like any good sci-fi, the extraterrestrials elements are used to tell a very human story. The Network and the blanks create a perfect metaphor for the complancy that detaches us from what is most important in life. Under the Network, life seems much happier for people, but they essentially lose what it is to be human - "to err." And the power of choice is lost. This is why Gary & co. reject it.

I adore Shaun of the Dead but I would not say it's a great horror film. Its most horrific moments are based on other movies as homage (like David's death ala Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead). Same goes for Hot Fuzz and its action scenes. The World's End, however, is not just a "sci-fi comedy" but a genuinely good science fiction film. As such, it is poised to be Wright's smartest and most mature film to date (even with all the frat boy humor). It may alienate (har har) some people with how heavy and personal it is, but with great laughs, stunning attention to detail, and a poignant emotional story, it's easily one of the year's greatest films.

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