I really did not like Olympus Has Fallen as a film by itself. I dislike it even more because released at the same time was a film that had a similar plot but had a much better execution of the plot.
After being unable to save President Benjamin Asher’s (Aaron Ekhart) wife (Ashley Judd), Secret Service Agent, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) moves on. But, North Korean terrorist attack the White House and take it over, leading to Banning returning to save the day. The terrorists are led by Kang (Rick Yune) who wants to reunite the two Koreas by destroying America – I am still a bit confused about his motives, but that was about what I could make of it. There is not much more story to the film than that – there is a kid, a Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) and a token wife (Radha Mitchell), but really they don’t serve the plot much.
Olympus Has Fallen was released early 2013, later in the same year White House Down starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx was released. White House Down is the better of the two films based on the high concept that the White House can be taken over. The defining factor between the two films is the President. Aaron Ekhart’s President Asher is a weak leader who gives into the terrorists and is unable to watch his staff die in order to save the country. Foxx’s President Sawyer kicks terrorists in the face while screaming “Get your hands off my Jordans!” President Asher boxes with his Secret Service Agents. Sawyer runs around taking out terrorists with his Agent. Asher is a wuss, Sawyer is a badass.
There are other things about White House Down that makes it superior. Olympus Has Fallen has a lot of crude and disturbing violence. People get blown to bits and lots of people get shot in the head with brains shown flying out the side. This is violence porn and earns its R-rating. White House Down has a PG-13 rating and while it is violent, it is not as in your face with the violence. The villan in Olympus Has Fallen is less menacing than in White House Down. Rick Yune’s Kang basically stands around looking pretty and screams at people from time to time. Jason Clarke’s Stenz is a scary man in White House Down.
When the film starts, we see that the Agents in Olympus Has Fallen are also pretty stupid. Dozens of agents are mowed down by machine gun fire because they come running out of the White House directly into the sound of gunfire – I mean, like Lemmings, they pack runs straight into machine gun fire, row after row they are mowed down. The military in Olympus Has Fallen is also pretty dense. When a half dozen helicopters carrying troops to save the President meet with superior anti-air fire, they do not retreat or land and wait. Instead they fly around randomly and wait to get hit by the anit-air fire. There is just a lot of stupid going on with the film.
The opening of the film also shows a AC-130 gunship flying into the restricted airspace around the White House. There are fighters that come to escort the airplane out of the airspace, but let the combat airship fly close enough to attack the White House. First, how did the North Koreans get a AC-130? How is it that an attack aircraft could, I am assuming, be stolen and not be noticed? And how could this aircraft have flown anywhere near the White House without notice?
Outside of all of that, Gerard Butler was OK as the gruff Mike Banning. He does what he can. Ekhart does what he can also with his weak President Asher. How much longer can Antoine Fuqua milke Training Day? I am so tired of hearing “From the director of Training Day.” Training Day was released in 2001, if you haven’t done anything notable since then and have to keep milking that milk for recognition, it is kind of sad. Please Mr. Fuqua and studios, stop with the “From the director of Training Day” thing already – even with Fuqua’s latest film The Magnificent Seven, the poster has at the top “From the director of Training Day and The Equalizer.” Enough already, it’s been 15 years.
Surprisingly, Olympus Has Fallen spawned a sequel, London Has Fallen, which Fuqua was smart enough not to be attached to – though, Gerard Butler was dumb enough to be. The sequel was worse than the original and the original is not a film that I can recommend. If you want to see a film about the White House being taken over, White House Down is the film to see. Save your time and money, skip Olympus Has Fallen.
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