2013 saw the release of two unrelated yet similar films, released around the same time (one just a few months after the other) that both had a strange setup: a bunch of guys get together to have a good time and end up trying to survive the apocalypse. Both of these films I had the chance to see in the theater, and one was (in my opinion) hilarious, while the other was (again, in my opinion) awful. Still, the connections between these two movies are quite interesting.
The first of these movies was of course This is the End, the story of a group of celebrities trying to survive after the Rapture happens while they're at a party. Personally, I really didn't like this movie (though evidently a few people disagree, as I recall when I saw it in the theater at least one person a few rows behind me kept bursting into laughter every other moment while I remained almost completely deadpan). In fact, I recall that as soon as I got out of the theater I found myself really wanting to watch The Road just because I wanted to see a good movie about the apocalypse.
None of the jokes stuck with me and the only person I really cared about at all was Emma Watson, who of course is only involved briefly because the guys were all idiots who had a completely pointless discussion about rape, and we're forced to continue watching their unfunny shenanigans when I'd much rather see Emma Watson fighting demons.
The second, as you may know, was Edgar Wright's third installment of the "Cornetto Trilogy", The World's End, a hilariously dark comedy about a few guys going on a pub crawl only to find out that their hometown has been taken over by robots as part of a massive alien conspiracy. This was a hilarious film with a wonderful cast, well-timed jokes, a bit of drama here and there to balance things out without taking over, and of course a fun narrative.
In some ways both films are quite a bit different. One centers on a group of celebrities playing themselves while the other involves a group of fictitious characters. One uses the set-up of a party while the other uses a pub crawl. In some ways, though, this also makes them surprisingly similar. Let's look at the basic structure.
In both films, we start off with an all-male group of friends, in fact with a similar number of people: This is the End has six (though that is including Danny McBride, who joins in a bit later and initially remains completely oblivious to the apocalypse happening around him), while The World's End has five. In either case, said group of friends starts off by getting together to have a good time.
Granted the "good time" is a bit different in each case, given that in one it's just the five friends going on a pub crawl, and the other involves the six protagonists being the last remnants of a much larger party. We also get a whole sub-plot about Michael Cera being an annoying idiot who likes to blow drugs into people's faces without their consent.
Though the central group is entirely male, we do get a female supporting role, someone who is memorable but whose role in the story seems relatively small compared to the men. Personally, I'd say The World's End handled this much better with Sam, who despite having much less screen time does manage to stick around long enough to have an impact on the story.
This is certainly more than can be said about how this aspect was handled in This is the End. Now granted, Emma Watson's appearance was memorable, in fact it was really the only thing I actually liked about that movie. I remember while I was saddened to see Sam leave partway through The World's End, I had grown attached enough to the other guys that I didn't mind spending most of the rest of the movie following them.
In This is the End, I found I really didn't care much for what happened to the guys there and was way more interested in what happened to Emma Watson. Seriously, if This is the End had centered around her transformation into an action survivor during the apocalypse and the guys the movie insists on following just had a minor cameo, I think it would have been a lot better.
So in terms of structure, we have something similar, even if the apocalypse itself is different: a group of male characters and one female supporting role in what initially seems to be everyday life going out to have what they consider a "good time" only for things to start getting chaotic. Over the course of the story, the characters have to make difficult decisions to figure out how to survive as eventually they get picked off one by one.
I do find it curious how each of these films utilized a similar premise, coming out the same year only a few months apart, and yet they're also both so different. One may be great, and the other is terrible (though some might disagree with me on that point), one is British, and the other American, but it is weird that somehow in the same year two different parties managed to come out with a comedy based around the same basic premise of a few guys having fun only to get caught up in the end of the world.