The World is the second Jia Zhangke film I have seen, and my reaction is similar to what I thought about Platform. My ignorance about the cultural and political context of these films prevents me from fully understanding what I'm seeing. Both movies look idiosyncratic, with The World even including brief animated sections.
The very existence of the Beijing World Park fascinates me. As is said at the beginning, "See the world without ever leaving Beijing." It's a theme park that features recreations of famous places around the world, so France has the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and America has Manhattan (the towers are still standing in the park), and there are the Great Pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Big Ben and much more, all scaled down. Most of the characters in the film work at the park, including many who work in stage productions that fit the replicated area. It's like Las Vegas ... of course, there's shopping and places to eat ... Las Vegas plopped into the middle of a socialist republic.
Platform also focused on a young entertainment group. This allows for plenty of interactions among the young characters, while making subtle statements about the presence of art in China. (This was more obvious in Platform, where the troupe is meant to create productions the government will approve of.) While much of The World is taken up with character development, the presentation is often surreal, as people have conversations while standing in front of recreations of famous landmarks.
As with Platform, I'm sure I am missing a lot, too much to lock completely into what Jia is doing. Zhao Tao is excellent ... she appears in many of Jia's films, and they eventually married. From scene to scene, there is always something interesting going on. I don't want to damn The World with faint praise; I'm just noting the distance between what is on the screen and what I can usefully process. Which is on me, not on the film makers.