March 26, 2013

Movie Review: Olympus has Fallen

Last weekend I saw the latest Gerard Butler vehicle, Olympus has Fallen. What can I say but, "Well, that happened." Seriously. As the theater erupted into applause as the credits began to role, I couldn't help but think this was just another entry in a long line of lackluster actioners. Simply put, this is no all that great a movie. It relies on a faux sense of patriotism rather than give us any interesting characters. The best thing about it is that it gives us the chance to use the old action descriptor phrase "Die Hard on a ..." You Remember how that phrase popped up after the success of that film? Like Under Siege is Die Hard on a battleship.

Olympus has Fallen is a loud, flashy, crowd pleasing sort of production. This was evidenced by the crowd reaction, which was overly positive. Sure, the movie was exciting and fast paced, filled with bullets and blood, but I just didn't get sucked into any of it. It may be easily described as Die Hard in the White House, but it is nowhere near Die Hard's league.

It gets off with a bang as we are introduced to Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the president (Aaron Eckhart), his wife and son. We watch them head out into a snowstorm and suffer a tragic accident that results in the death of the President's wife. This is what passes for character development. Rather than make Mike some sort of Everyman hero, he gets to live with letting a woman die. This gets him away from the president and opens up the door to redemption of allowing him to rush in to save the day when it all hits the fan.

Everything is telegraphed. This movie is not about subtlety. It is about a red blooded American hero (played by a Scot) kicking terrorist ass and saving the day. It really doesn't leave much to talk about.

While Olympus has Fallen may be Die Hard in the White House, it does not have the character or genuine audience involvement of that original Die Hard. Now there is an amazing action film with stakes, character, excitement, you know to the drill. This one, like I mentioned earlier, relies on ham fisted sequences to fill in for genuine development.

Gerard Butler's Banning is initially played up as a thoughtful guy haunted by the tragedy, but when the bullets begin to fly, he is one liner spewing killing machine like Arnold in his prime, only not as seemingly spontaneous. It is a shift that just feels weird to me, it just didn't ring true when compared to the earlier moments and the one liners seem scripted rather than in the moment making them less funny and more robotic. Sure, it was nice to see Butler kicking but again free from the shackles of romcoms and family dramas, but at what cost? He certainly has something better than this in him.

I also did not really care for Aaron Eckhart's president. He came across rather wimpy, nothing like Harrison Ford's "Get off my plane!" president from Air Force One. He seemed more than happy to just roll over for the baddies. Even Morgan Freeman wasn't at the top of his game, he as a couple nice moments but otherwise seemed rather bored.

Overall, Olympus has Fallen is a misstep of actioner. Yes, there are far worse films around, but this one commits the cardinal sin of cinematic complacency. It sits back and relies on Team America's idea of "America! F*ck Yeah!" Wave the flag, kill some foreigners, let the blood fly and the people will cheer. Bah. At least it's better than the last movie Butler appeared in, Movie 43.

Not Recommended.

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Dan O. said...

The weight of what's happening does make itself noticeable mainly because of how much the destruction of the terrorists plan is going to affect America and I actually did like that part of the film. But this movie isn’t meant to be taken seriously, it’s meant to allow you to have fun and let that be it. Good review Chris.

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