Published on August 28th, 2013 | by Andrew Porwitzky0
Thoughts on the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End)
If there is a patron saint of geek for me then it is Simon Pegg.
I saw Shaun of the Dead in theatres my senior year of college. I had no idea who these Brits were, but I was a long time fan of British comedy having grown up watching Monty Python and Red Dwarf on Vermont Public Television. I also wasn’t a big fan of zombie movies (something that Shaun changed for me). All I knew was that the trailer looked hilarious and that I had to see this movie. I was able to convince my then fiance (now wife) to go see it with me. She dislikes zombie movies but this was during that magical time where she just wanted to experience the things I loved so went along with me. So we sat in a nearly empty Vermont theatre with eight other people to watch Shaun of the Dead. Half way through the film the audience had shrunk by an equal factor. Yes, people were actually leaving. I noticed and was surprised, but I didn’t care. I was laughing hysterically. This was one of the most brilliantly written comedies I had ever seen, and it was also an amazing movie. Some comedies are funny but have a preposterous plot. Yes, it’s a zombie movie, but overall there is a lot more to it than that. George Romero, the father of zombie films, has said numerous times that he loves Shaun. What higher praise is there?
To this day, my wife still remarks about how I was the only person laughing in that theatre. How she’d never seen me laugh so hard at a movie in the five years we’d been together. She didn’t enjoy the film at first, but after watching it a few times on DVD it has become one of her favorite films and we quote it back and forth pretty regularly.
After seeing Shaun I discovered Spaced. Living in the USA I was forced to pirate the series to see it. So did a lot of other people because when the US boxset was officially released there were hundreds of people lining up at each of the signings on the US tour. Spaced appealed to me on a deeply personal level. Here were people that got me. They had the same sense of humor that I did. The same idea that something can be funny but also intricately layered and complex from a narrative standpoint.
By the time Hot Fuzz came out the wife and I were in line on opening day. By then I was in graduate school a few months away from getting married. Again the story was layered, engaging, hilarious, and superbly executed. I enjoy a good action movie and this was a brilliant one. The way the “buddy cop” dynamic was elevated to homosexual levels was inspired.
This weekend (opening weekend in the USA) I saw The World’s End. The wife and I have been anticipating it for months. It is difficult for us to get to the movies these days because we have a three year old son, but we were able to get a friend to watch him. The third and final film in the so-called “Cornetto Trilogy” was by far the most intricate and layered of the three, and the more I think about it the more I think it was my favorite. Not necessarily because it’s the funniest, but because of where I am.
Ostensibly, the only linking factor between the three films (and Spaced) is the team of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Nick Frost. Each stars different characters and is a different sub-genre film (zombie apocalypse, buddy cop, and body snatcher sci-fi). There is a thematic link between all the films though. That is friendship and responsibility.
In Shaun, we follow a slacker who can’t even get his life together enough to remember to make a dinner reservation for his anniversary. He has a slacker friend who seems to be more important to him than his girlfriend. He then has to grow up fast with the onset of an infinitely life threatening situation. In the end he gets everything sorted out while continuing to be present for his girl and his best friend.
In Hot Fuzz we have a man so driven by career and duty that he drives those closest to him away. Only when forced to spend time with a man who desperately wants to be his friend does he learn there is more to life than work and career.
In The World’s End we have a man so consumed with reliving the past that he recklessly endangers those who were once his closest and only friends in a desperate struggle to achieve even a modicum of something in his life. Attempting to reunite with his high school friends he discovers that they have all moved on, as people do, and have left those slacker years far behind. He is a man driven to the breaking point by the realization that whatever chance he had at happiness passed decades before. Yet in the end, in the most unexpected way, he finds true purpose and meaning in his life and achieves something great.
I grew up with these movies. When Shaun came out I thought there would be nothing better than living in a flat with your friends and playing video games when you weren’t working. Hot Fuzz came at that time I was working hard on my career and my girl would have to tell me to relax and try and make some friends. Now with The World’s End I own a home, have a good job and a family. That slacker mentality embraced in Shaun is portrayed in a pathetic light in The World’s End. “It’s time to grow up, Gary. Join society.”
But through all those transitions there is one common thread. Friendship.
“Why should time affect something as important as friendship?”
Be you geek or non, we all need friends. By any measure of life that is the most important thing there is, and in the end that’s all that matters. Geek culture is about supporting each other. The Cornetto Trilogy and Spaced have supported me through the most challenging years of my adult life. To Simon, Edgar, and Nick, thank you very much.