Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The Irish and the English differ over World’s End

Celtic critics seem to have no time for the last film in the Cornetto Trilogy. Their English colleagues can’t get enough. We’re puzzled.

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 00:25


It is not too rare an occurrence for critics (if they are at home to independent thinking) to find themselves at odds with the consensus. This is not in any way a disturbing feeling. It’s rather bracing in fact. I couldn’t really understand all the fuss over Skyfall (though I thought it was perfectly okay). I was one of the few people in the world who liked Catwoman. And so on.

That noted, I was genuinely taken aback when, before adding a link to my own review, I took a glance at the Rotten Tomatoes page for Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. After enduring a completely silent press screening — well, silent apart from the odd sigh — I felt no reluctance in declaring Wright’s follow up to the excellent Shaun of the Dead and the fitful Hot Fuzz a dud of the crummiest order. I won’t list my detailed objections again. If you give a toss, you can read the review. If you don’t care what I think then, well, you don’t care what I think (and why should you?). I ended up awarding two stars, but I could easily have gone one fewer.

What’s this? Ninety-one percent of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are positive. Well, they were anyway. After my review was tallied, the score dropped a point. (Ha! Take that!) There are 28 “fresh” reviews and only three “rotten” notices: from The Scotsman, the Financial Times and your soaraway Irish Times. I have, in well over a decade at this lark, never been so surprised at a critical surge. It’s not funny! It’s tired! It’s unfocussed! What is wrong with these people? Last night, on Gavin Burke’s excellent show Cinerama, all three critics that had seen The World’s End — Mr Screenwriter, Daniel Anderson and Tara Brady — slammed it into the ground like a tent-peg. It ended up with an average score of 1.5/5. This is most confusing.

There’s more. At this morning’s press screening, I mentioned our feelings to Paul Whittington of the Irish Independent and George Byrne of the Evening Herald. I hadn’t yet seen their notices and, given the mass of reviews on Tomatoes, I was quite prepared to hear that they loved it too. (Neither Paul nor George have registered with that review aggregate site.) Not a bit of it. They were equally unimpressed. You can find their two-star reviews here and here. Other contributions came from front and aft. Nobody seemed to like the blasted thing.

All of which leads us to that headline. The film has yet to open in the United States. So, virtually all the reviews currently on Rotten Tomatoes are from British publications. There does, thus, seem to be a fascinating divergence between the United Kingdom and Ireland. Actually, it’s more interesting than that. Note that one of the other three dissenters on Tomatoes writes for the Scotsman. So it’s actually a difference of opinion between the English and the other nations in “these islands” (as Sinn Fein used to say).  At time of writing, the inestimable Nigel Andrews of the pink paper seems to be the only Englishman to resist the picture’s supposed charms.

The producers and distributors will probably comfort themselves with the notion that some sort of group-think has taken place. Perhaps, we all retire afterwards to come up with a united front. I am afraid that is not the case. I genuinely had no idea where the other Irish (not to mention Scottish) critics were going with this. Nor is it anything to do with any lingering Anglophobia. A Field in England got raves from the Irish contingent and it’s so English it’s actually got “England” in the title and everything. Heck, none of us had a bad word to say about Shaun of the Dead. So, we all like these particular Englishmen.

We will just put it down as a sort of weird anomaly. Or is there some deeply buried magic element to the film that repels the Celtic nations? I would say: go and see it and decide for yourself. But I think it’s hopeless. I think I’ve already said that.