Thursday, April 11, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen is a new action film from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur). It very, very closely follows the Die Hard template: Terrorists attack a building, taking all inside hostage. Normal security is killed or incapacitated, leaving a lone and outnumbered man to defeat the terrorists and save the innocents inside. 

In fact with just a minor bit of tweaking it would have made a worthy entry in the Die Hard franchise. I could easily have seen Bruce Willis in the Gerard Butler role. I know I certainly enjoyed this film more than the recent lackluster A Good Day To Die Hard.

Where in the heck did this movie come from? I go to the movies every weekend and I never saw a single trailer for it in the months prior to its release. I never even heard of it until I saw the poster in the theater lobby. Whoever's in charge of Film District's marketing needs a good firin.' Maybe they just didn't have the budget to promote it.

Olympus Is Down is certainly a timely movie, I'll give it that. In the film North Korean terrorists invade Washington D.C. and take over the White House. Whether by design or just plain dumb luck, the movie premiered just as nutty cuckoo North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un started ramping up the crazy and threatening us with extinction.

Based solely on this poster, which actor would you guess plays the President? If you said Morgan Freeman, you have an ordered and logical mind. You're also dead wrong. Despite the fact that he's featured front and center, Freeman plays the Speaker Of The House (who later becomes acting President). Aaron Eckhart is the President and is stuck over at the left for some reason.

Also take a look at the names strewn across the top of the poster. Notice that they don't correspond to the actor's images beneath them. Whenever you see this staggered labeling on a poster it's a sure-fire sign that there was an argument over who should get top billing.

In a couple of weeks you'll probably start seeing trailers for a film called White House Down, which for all intents and purposes appears to be identical to this one, but with a larger budget. Even the names are the same: Olympus (code name for the White House) Has Fallen, White House Down. So much for originality in Hollywood.

The Plot:
It's Die Hard in the White House.

• Gerard Butler makes a pretty bad-ass action hero. Of course fans of 300 knew that already. He needs to concentrate on action and stop being in chick flicks with Jennifer Aniston.

• I want Morgan Freeman for President.

• Does Die Hard much better than the actual Die Hard sequel that recently premiered.

• There were a couple of times in the movie where Butler's Scots brogue showed through. Just a few words, but it's something he needs to practice.

Then again an incongruous accent never seemed to harm Arnold's career.

• The attack on the White House is led by a North Korean terrorist named Kang Yeonsak. Kang has two motives for the attack. The first is to use American nuclear weapons to destroy the country and avenge the death of his parents. That I can accept as a reason for attack.

His second motive is to force the U.S. to withdrawal from the Korean peninsula, which will allow the civil war to end and the two Koreas to unify after decades of conflict. I am no international diplomat, but even I can tell that's a cockamamie plan with little basis in reality.

• At one point the terrorists open fire on the front entrance of the White house. Hundreds of Secret Service men file out the front door to their deaths. Over and over and over. Like clowns pouring out of a tiny circus car. Even though they can barely exit the door due to the huge piles of dead bodies, they keep flowing out like water from a hose, only to be immediately cut down. It just went on and on the the point of absurdity; in fact the scene wouldn't have been too awfully out of place in a dark comedy. Not a very good strategy.

• This film features endless scenes of hackers breaking into computer systems, rewriting security protocols, remotely accessing missile silos, developing popular iPhone apps-- you name it, they're doing it. Of course as in all movies, the act of hacking is depicted by the characters frantically tapping away on the keyboard (at what must be a thousand words a minute) while saying things like, "I'm rerouting the security subroutines-- Got it, I'm in!"

I've seen this happen in many movies and I've always wondered what exactly these characters are doing when they're typing away like that. Are they supposed to be writing hundreds of line of software code on the fly? I don't think that's how it works. Have you ever seen a real programmer? They stare at the same screen for an hour before tentatively pressing a couple of keys, only to stare again for another hour.

• I've been a Robert Forster fan for many years, ever since I saw him in the film Alligator. That said, someone please, please tell him that he's bald. It's OK, Robert. Please get rid of those wispy bean sprouts growing from your scalp. It's distracting. Whenever you appear on camera I end up staring at your "hair" instead of listening to what you're saying. We'll still like you without hair, we promise.

• Is there really an automated Battlestar Galactica style gun turret mounted on the roof of the White House? Somehow I doubt it. It was definitely cool, but it looked a little too futuristic to me to be real. On the other hand if there isn't such a turret on the roof there oughtta be.

• I could have done without the President's rah-rah "America, F*ck Yeah!" speech in the last reel.

Oylmpus Has Fallen gets a little too jingoistic at the end, but overall is a solid action thriller. I give it a B.

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