Olympus Has Fallen Review
By Bret Dorman
There are two great curses that plague action movies.
The first one is one of my own personal pet peeves. And that is bland characters. When you’ve got a fun script, badass moments, and a good-to-great cast the last thing you want is for all the energy to be sapped by the fact that everyone is the same (as each other and as what has come before).
The second is the Great Plague. The muddled, fast, crazy camera used to disguise bad action by being bad action.
Despite what obviously started out a pretty badass script, Olympus Has Fallen succumbs to trying to please the masses by being as banale and confusing as possible, in hopes people will leave rooting for America.The Story: Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) used to be awesome Secret Service but now he’s bored security. That doesn’t stop him from saving the President (Aaron Eckhart) from evil Korean Kang (Rick Yune). The Speaker Of The House Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) is there because as you can see he is played by Morgan Freeman. Lots of guns are shot and people ignore the one dude who is the best and he gets mad at them a lot. Also, a lot of people promise to not give in to torture only to break the moment someone else might get hurt.
Olympus Has Fallen does not mess around. The characters crack some stiff jokes like you might with your boss’s boss, but for the most part people die. Good people die near the beginning for no reason and so Mike Banning has to sort of resign. Then the Koreans come in a plane and kill a bunch of people for no reason. Then once they kill the Air Force more Air Force come in and the Koreans get killed. Then more Koreans show up out of nowhere and they start killing their way into The White House. Then they start killing hostages right away to show they aren’t messing around. And the whole time Banning is killing his way THROUGH the Koreans en route to the President because he knows where everything in The White House is but no one expects him to be there.The point being, this movie has a lot of killing. General gun shooting, giant rubble falling on people, head shots, point blank head shots, head bashing in, neck snaps (is there any sound sweeter to action fans than a neck snap?), violent crashes, and full on suicide bombers. More surprising than the bloodless, CGI filed deaths of many many innocent people is the tactical precision of what is basically a bunch of rebel fighters and one of the world’s most leading terrorists. I’m pretty sure the audience was supposed to be awed by their brute force and actually question how safe our Government really is (“this could really happen you guys!”), but I was actually impressed by how far they were willing to go; including 9/11 meets The Washington Monument imagery, suicide bombings and hostage killings, and even blowing up multiple parts of The White House. All in the name of fun!
And yes, I as a sane human being am able to get enjoyment out of this! Well, kind of. I am able to get entertainment out of realistic to crazy action under the right circumstances. I don’t mind the violence, its actually quite the opposite. I want to be able to see it. From the moment the chaos starts the camera never settles until its time for people to start talking again. It shakes, rattles, and rolls to the point where all you get are glimpses of people shooting and other people falling. People start beating other people up and eventually our hero is the last man standing. I appreciate that the script keeps things focused on the matter at hand but if the matter at hand is the violence, I want to see what’s going on.There are a lot of standard plot twists and conventional playing with logic. Some thing called Cerberus plays a big part in the story and in a very Metal Gear Solid-esque turn of events the end games switch from one thing to another. This twist is telegraphed from a mile away but its still pretty awesome. In fact it makes the initial demand (which is crazy anyway) seem like child’s play. There’s also a thing called Hydra which is a White House secret weapon. Everyone is scared of it except the one guy who really knows what it can do. Anyway it’s just a dual mounted spin-y gun with some rockets that anyone could take out if they kept their cool. But its almost as if the camera’s insane inability to keep still affects the actual characters in the movie. At some point our hero is about to take it out but he kind of gets detoured. The big difference between a movie like this and a movie like Die Hard is that in Die Hard for every bad thing the villains do the good guy responds with something more badass, even if its just to prove his machismo by blowing stuff up. Here, our hero pitter patters his way through the baddies. He’s surprisingly efficient, but during the big hoorah moments he comes up short.
Now, normally I don’t mind if my hero is a bit bland. He’s *the hero*, the main character, the guy I am supposed to and going to root for no matter what. Yes, these characters tend to be a bit sarcastic which gets a chuckle here and there, but for the most part the hero is allowed to be normal. It’s the other characters I want to see more of. Kang is just a bad guy because he shoots people. Trumbull is just a semi-intense political guy. His military advisor, played by Robert Forrester, is just a military chest puffing dude. And The President is just a simple goody two shoes who caves in at everything but always talks a big game. All of these are things that should be different or unique in SOME way to give me something to grasp on to. Yes, the story moves fast and takes a lot of liberties with how real life works but that’s okay. The internal movie logic is sound. But having generic characters line the movie is like smoothing over the wall of a deep well. As the movie hurdles me down the well I need something for my attention to grasp on to otherwise I’m just simply along for the fall. But instead of helping me through the movie, it instead insists on punching me in the face over and over by slapping its camera around as the most important part of the movie is happening, i.e. every action scene.
Spoilers!Okay. So The First Lady dies for no reason. Something happened, some car slipped on ice(?) then she dies. Not sure if this is supposed to be like saying “No person is safe! Anyone is game in this script!” but I need a FEW more scenes to attach myself to her before you start threatening the death of main/majors characters. Yet this prompts The President to transfer our main guy away because he reminds him of her. Yet he still keeps her pictures plastered all over The White House so there goes that.
I do love how midway into this movie they get rid of the kid. I seriously moaned at the idea of the kid being in The White House because I thought Banning was going to save him then the kid would start doing some wacky kid things a la Home Alone to help out. This does not happen. Awesome.
Kang is some super secret guy who gets past our secret service security. Okay. Cool, whatever. But later Robert Forrester’s character says “No one even has a photo of him.” AS A PHOTO OF HIM IS BEHIND HIM ON THE BIG SCREEN UNDER HIS FILE. I know you *could* argue someone took a screen shot of the video feed and photo shopped it and put it in his file BUT THE FUCKING PRESIDENT’S LIFE IS AT STAKE WHO IS UPDATING THIS GUYS FILE LIKE THAT?! This did NOT ruin my enjoyment of the movie but I did chuckle out loud at the balls of the movie to do that.
The President tells everyone to give up their code so they don’t get hurt and promises the terrorists won’t get his. But obviously his one weak spot is ANYTIME SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT GET HURT. What? Did he think the terrorists were only going to torture him for his code and forget about the others because they already tortured them? And then they are able to figure out his code anyway? From some Bible quote (I think?)… so… the people pick their own code? Why didn’t the terrorists do that much crazy mind reading research about the other two people? And why didn’t the Government have a failsafe so if they gave them the wrong code it stopped working for good, so if they were under distress they could disarm the damn thing from within the only place it can be disarmed? Again, I don’t mind these nitpicks, its the camera and literally incomprehensible action sequences that drive me nuts.
In Conclusion, Olympus Has Fallen could be open to a beating. I could nitpick it apart, morally rip it a new on for how it handles violence in a post 9/11 world, or bring up the fact that only certain characters and certain places and certain edits get title/name/timestamp cards even though really it doesn’t matter. But I don’t care about any of that. I only bring them up because the shaky blurry action of the movie tries to replicate the chaos of the situation instead of letting us enjoy it. And enjoying the action is pretty important for a popcorn action flick.
Final Grade: D
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