Maybe we should start calling them the Super Friends.
In addition to seamlessly integrating comedy with horror, action and sci-fi, the connecting theme of what’s been dubbed the Cornetto trilogy -- “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “The World’s End,” which opens this weekend -- has to due with the power of friendship and collaboration. Those sentiments are also apparent in the easy chemistry between director Edgar Wright, and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who have worked together on all three films, as well as the TV show "Spaced." Audiences at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton, Colorado who watched all three movies last night walked away with a case of the warm-and-fuzzies too, a surprising emotional take-away after sitting through six hours of zombie bashings, slow-motion gun battles, and fistfights with robots.
Many in the sold-out crowd were there for the opportunity to finally see the older films on the big screen. “I’ve never seen Shaun of the Dead in theatres before so it was pretty cool,” said Patrick Yuan of Denver. “Same with Hot Fuzz. It’s nice that we get to see all of them, then be here for “The World’s End.”
However, the answers given to a question about their favorite element of Wright’s movies were as disparate as the genres of the films themselves. Jess Horning of Denver singled out Wright’s comedic timing. “The writing is really, really great. The fence bit gets me every time,” she said in reference to a recurring set-up in all three movies. Her husband Brandon cited Wright’s facility for staging comprehensible action scenes. “The editing is probably the best action editing I’ve seen. And he uses it in such a way that is comedic and satirical and very smart that others might be afraid to do. It just works.” Others noted Wright’s skills as a master of genre work. “I like how well the parody is done, especially in ‘Shaun of the Dead,’” said Crystal Preston of Denver.
The ability to not only juggle multiple styles but to expertly execute them all speaks to Wright’s unique gifts as a filmmaker and his cast’s talent as actors. This was evident from the their first film, 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead.” Instrumental in the resurgence of zombies in popular culture, “Shaun of the Dead” is remarkable in it’s ability to effortlessly shift from comedy to romance to horror without seeming forced. Much of this has to do with Pegg’s star-making performance as the eponymous hero, a warm-hearted slacker who finds himself as the unlikely leader of a group who plan to wait out the zombie apocalypse at their local pub. Pegg -- who co-wrote all three films with Wright -- is versatile enough to pull off the myriad emotions Shaun goes through over the course of the movie.
His character in 2007’s “Hot Fuzz” is much more single-minded, but Pegg again displays chops in his portrayal of a London policeman, excuse me, police officer who’s so good at his job that he gets transferred to the country where he’ll stop making his peers, and especially his superiors, look so poor by comparison. Once there, he uncovers a murderous conspiracy behind a series of “accidental deaths,” but is dismissed by his peers as an overzealous and paranoid Londoner. “Hot Fuzz” isn’t exactly graceful in its last-act transition to full-blown action flick, but it’s also funnier than “Shaun of the Dead” and does a brilliant job, like all of Wright’s films, in mining the audience’s familiarity with genre cliches for major laughs. The climactic battle between [SPOILER ALERT] Pegg and Frost and a legion of fully-armed geriatrics is hilarious for both the absurdity of the concept and credibility of the action itself.
“The World’s End” also pivots between high-concept comedy and well-staged action, but there’s a noticeably melancholic undercurrent to the story of five friends who reunite for pub crawl in their hometown and find themselves in the midst of a body snatchers-style alien invasion. Pegg’s nostalgia for the drunken revelry of his youth largely comes off as tragic instead of humorous to his friends, whose characters similarly display more complexities than “middle-aged stick-in-the-mud.” This isn’t to say that it’s by any means a heavy movie (a lightness of touch is one of Wright’s great strengths as a director) but it’s far more thoughtful than a movie centered on aliens and beer has any right to be. And as with all good sci-fi, the ending features a surprising, powerful allegory that jibes with the subtly subversive themes established in his previous works.
Now that the Cornetto trilogy -- so named because of an ice cream treat that’s featured in scenes from all three movies -- has come to a close, Wright is next scheduled to direct “Ant-Man,” an action-comedy based on a Marvel Comics character known for his size issues. Still, based on reactions from fans in Denver, a fourth collaboration between Wright, Pegg and Frost would be welcome.
“I’m ready for them to bring on another movie,” said Brandon Horning. “If even it doesn’t include Cornettos, I think they should keep it up.”