Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen

I do not own the above image. For entertainment purposes only.  Copyright Millennium Films.  All rights reserved.

                Pro-American patriotism in movies has existed for about as long as movies have existed.  At first, most were war propaganda movies but over time the subtlety slightly dropped until the Reagan years when moved more towards individual non- or former-military American superiority.  OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN continues in this tradition, even adding a new, hypocritical layer to the system.
                Mike Banning (Butler) was at one time President Benjamin Asher’s (Eckhart) Secret Service right hand man.  Eighteen months after a tragic accident, Banning is behind a desk, relegated to the sidelines of the sidelines.  While Banning receives a little respect from his fellow agents, his marriage is falling apart.  Everything changes when the Prime Minister of South Korea arrives in town.  Soon after arriving, the President, the VP, Cabinet members, the PM and his security detail are all trapped in the White House’s (or is it Whitehouse?) underground bunker.
                Director Antoine Fuqua’s most ambitious project to date, OLYMPUS features a terrorist plot that makes the heist in OCEAN’S ELEVEN look like a the robbery at the end of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH.  First-time screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt go all out, sometimes needlessly so, throwing in double-crosses, aircraft w/ anti-anti-aircraft flares and even armed & armored garbage trucks.  This operation would make the IRA blush and say, “Whoa, guys!  Tone it down a little.”
                The star-studded cast didn’t disappoint, least of all, star/producer Gerard Butler as Agent Banning.  Butler takes the second half of the movie and has his way with it.  To paraphrase my best college friend, “The last half is like DIE HARD and RAMBO had a kid.  Then that kid started taking drugs at age five.”  Aaron Eckhart is a great President of the United States, playing cool confidence better than most.  The rest of the cast including Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and an (at least to me) unrecognizable Melissa Leo are solid.
                But OLYMPUS has a few glaring issues.  First, there is what I would like to call “written exposition”.  And what I mean by that is that many places and people are introduced to us by medium-sized white text in the bottom left corner of the screen.  For instance, the first time we meet many members of the executive & legislative branches, such as Freeman & Leo, we see “Speaker Trumbull” or “Defense Secretary Ruth McMillan” in said text.  Even the obvious stuff is labeled, such as a scene where the enemy’s plane veers left and we see beautiful Washington D.C.  But do we know this because we recognize the Washington Monument & the U.S. Capitol Building or because of the “Washington D.C.” text on the screen?  The filmmakers assume you and I are complete morons! 
                But what really bugged me was something I would like to call faux-patriotism.  I understand that the power & ingenuity of individual Americans is what makes America great.  But do we really need the obligatory “stupid police/military officer”, especially since the General never showed any of this trait until the helicopter rescue attempt.  Showing a man who dedicated his life to his country acting like a fool when his country needs him most?  And yes, the Secret Service is selfless and heroic.  But why is one of the enemies an ex-Agent who shows little to no signs of animosity towards the President or his colleagues?  Greed is the American way nowadays, but to cash in by selling out your country?  God bless America indeed.
                But two elements really ground my gears.  First, no respect to Mr. Butler, but why is the hero played by a Scotsman?!?!  I know that many heroes have been played by foreigners, but if a similar movie coming out this summer can get Channing Tatum, surely Fuqua could have gotten a fellow American?  To paraphrase Chris Rock: if Denzel isn’t available, wait!
Second, and more egregious offense, the visual effects.  It’s bad enough that the effects work is awful.  It took everything I had not to howl when the enemy plane crashed into the cheap looking Washington Monument, whose collapse momentarily resembled one of the Twin Towers.  The CGI flag left me Did I say cheap effects?  That’s because they were created by a company in BULGARIA!  Seriously!  Check the credits.  Sofia, Bulgaria!
Those are just the large issues.  OLYMPUS contains some truly ridiculous things.  Like anti-aircraft weapons THAT RISE FROM THE ROOF OF THE WHITE HOUSE!  South Koreans are able to crack anything, even the President’s nuclear code, despite the fact that they couldn't crack the codes of two lower officials.  And did you know the White House is able to track whether or not a Secret Service Agent is alive or not?
I could go on forever but 800 words is 775 too many for this mediocre, at best, action movie.  OLYMPUS wears its patriotism on its sleeve but constantly wipes its filthy hands with it.  As thrilling as the last half is at times, there are too many things to ruin the fun.


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