So here it is, The World’s End hit cinemas earlier this month marking the end of a 9 year project that begun with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. Wright and Pegg’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” conception came on late in its own production. Wright anecdotally claims that the Cornetto link was only made in the promoting stage of Hot Fuzz, when “someone pointed out the Cornetto connection, and asked if [they] were going to make a trilogy.”  So the question has to be asked, what links a zom-rom-com, a police procedural, and a sci-fi apocalypse movie? Are they only connected by a shallow allusion to an ice cream product? Or is there a deeper vein that runs through each one?
Clearly all three films are connected by their recurring cast (as most trilogies are), writers, and director (as is the case with most thematic trilogies). Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are undeniably the heart of all three films. However, the connection runs deeper that this though and stems from the trio’s origins in the TV sitcom Spaced. Spaced (directed by Wright, and starring Pegg and Frost) ran on British television for two seasons between 1999 and 2001 and was a modest success for its short stint, even giving rise to a possible American remake (an idea that was quickly shot down in the early running). In many ways Spaced is almost a prequel to the Cornetto trilogy, with much of the same humour and many of the themes throughout. See if this doesn’t ring a few bells…
The show’s extended cast has often had cameos within the Corenetto trilogy. Jessica Hynes who led the cast of Spaced alongside Pegg, made a cameo in Shaun of the Dead as Shaun’s acquaintance Yvonne . Julia Deakin (who played Marsha in Spaced) on the other hand has had cameos in all three films. The list goes on. In effect they are an in-group of British comedians who continue to collaborate despite moving on to different projects. What I love about this is how it perfectly mirrors relationships in the real world. Much like close friends drifting apart, the actors move in their own directions. When an old collaborator comes back to make a cameo it creates a sense of nostalgia reminiscent of that present when going back home to visit old friends. It gives the films a quality that is very individual, and may go some way to explaining their popularity.
While Spaced certainly does help to connect the three films, it only does so for the select few that actually saw the series (namely those who live in Britain). So what else connects these three films? My answer. Simon Pegg. ‘Well of course!’ you might scream… okay, but Simon Pegg is more that just the star of all three films. He has had a hand in writing the whole trilogy as well as Spaced. Pegg is central to understanding the thematic underpinning of the trilogy, especially when it comes to the protagonists. In many ways his protagonists can be interpreted as representative of one man’s progression through life.
In Spaced and Shaun of the Dead we see the 20 something with no direction in life, a slacker who runs the risk of losing everything he cares about because of his own apathy. In Hot Fuzz our protagonist has progressed, now in his mid-thirties he is focused, career-driven, but still at the expense of his social life. Finally, in The World’s End our 40 year old protagonist looks back at his life, and with an excess of nostalgia, longs for the care free days of his teens. To this you’ll probably say something like, ‘Well done Jack, I’d never though of it like that’ to which I say thank you, but please stop interrupting, your breaking my train of thought.
Pegg has come out as saying he will never make ‘another series of spaced … one of the reasons we’re not going to do it is because we couldn’t possibly write it with any degree of truth, because that’s not where we are or who we are any more.’  ‘Well what significance does that have?’ That’s what your asking now? Isn’t it? Well FUCK YOU! This is my article, stay out of it! The reason this is significant is because it gives us great insight into why Pegg writes these characters. He writes characters who he associates with, that’s why we will never see another Shaun, or another Nicholas Angel. He has moved on from those stages in his life. Now that he is truly successful it will be interesting to see what his next protagonist has in store for us.
Still, there are certainly discrepancies in tone between the films. Being the first in the trilogy, Shaun of the Dead set the blueprint for the rest of the series, it balanced humour and pathos in equal amounts to create an amusing ride with an emotional core. Neither The World’s End or Hot Fuzz did this quite as successfully as their predecessor. Hot Fuzz is by far the funniest of the series. It is more burningly satirical than either of the other two, and has, in my mind,the strongest gags. It is however less emotionally involving and while still interesting, the central relationship between Frost and Pegg isn’t so engaging. The World’s End is the Yin to Hot Fuzz‘s Yang. It is certainly less funny. It is constantly amusing but lacks the sheer amount of laugh out loud moments present in Hot Fuzz. Instead, The World’s End is the most emotionally engaging of the three. Gary King’s nostalgic longing is tragic, and despite his personality flaws, we can’t help but feel for him. As for Frost’s Andy Knightley, we feel his frustration with Gary, and as the film progresses we understand more and more why he feels this way. It culminates in the most emotionally charged scene of the trilogy, one that for me elevates the film above both of its predecessors.
Overall the trilogy has been nothing but a resounding success. As an Englishman myself I have grown up with these films. Watching them as such I’m sure has helped me to identify closely with way in which the characters and humour has developed over the last few years. This may well have biased me in their favour. However, I truly believe that they stand up as stand alone films. But, within the context of a trilogy the films really shine. Through them we have watched Pegg, Wright, and Frost grow and as a result the trilogy says something about the human condition. What that is is for you to decide.