CONTAINS SPOILERS AND A SENSE OF JUSTIFIED PATRIOTISM
Every so often, for whatever reasons, two movies come along that have much the same theme and ideas behind them. We've had competing volcano movies, competing CG insect animations, competing asteroid movies, even competing dramas about Truman Capote. And 2013 somehow brought us two competing apocalypse comedies featuring all star casts. America's offering, This Is The End, was an unadulterated disaster in which a bunch of thoroughly repulsive arseholes (Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill) demonstrated they couldn't be even mildly funny under any circumstances imaginable by doing absolutely nothing but swearing and taking drugs. Our version is, happily, a lot better.
The World's End is the final stop on a legendary pub crawl that Gary (Simon Pegg) and his mates never managed to finish on the last day of school twenty years ago. He reunites the older, sadder "five musketeers" to finish what they started - only it gradually dawns on them that the town isn't quite the same. Newton Haven, like thousands of other sites around the world, has been targeted by an intergalactic federation turning everyone into smiling, eternally youthful simulations in the name of universal peace. With barely a handful of genuine humans left, can they thwart the benevolent alien menace?
Clearly it's several thousand parsecs superior to This Is The End. The casting is a lot stronger for one: you get solid character actors like Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, reliable comedy performers like Martin Freeman and Nick Frost, good turns from ex-Bonders Rosamund Pike and Pierce Brosnan. And while Pegg's central character in particular grates in the early stages, discovering the backstory diffuses it. There is enough character detail built into them to explain why they are the way they are, with the result that you don't hate them the way I quite honestly wouldn't give a toss if Danny McBride never graced the inside of a Cineworld again. The bottom line is that our Btirish apocalypse is so much better than the Americans' because deep down we care about the people involved.
It's not a classic, granted, and it's not up there with Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, but I generally enjoyed it, though there's perhaps too much swearing as a lazy way of getting cheap laughs. It's got a nice Doctor Who-ish feel to it in places, and obviously the effects and technical work is top notch. It's also pleasantly odd to see locations you know showing up in films: this is (at least) the second time Letchworth has been seen in a British apocalypse, as the found-footage horror The Zombie Diaries was also filmed there.