Olympus Has Fallen arrived in theaters as the first of two “White House takeover” movies scheduled for release this year. We’ll talk about the other one in a minute.
This is the second movie in 4 months (after Red Dawn, which I couldn’t be bothered to see, it looked so bad) where North Koreans manage to occupy United States soil in one way or another. If you know anything about the world, particularly about North Korea, this is among the most absurd concepts in the history of cinema. It’s fantasy is what it is; something only possible in an alternate universe. Or, I suppose, in a movie with a really mediocre script. The North Koreans can barely launch a missile, and we have every reason to believe they don’t actually know where the U.S. is on a map. Their primitive navy wouldn’t make it to Hawaii, let alone the U.S. mainland. And I’m pretty sure one F-22 Raptor could destroy the entire North Korean “air force”. Yeah, they have a million-man army, but it appears their sole purpose is to put on elaborate parades doing the high-step for Kim Jong Douche in Pyongyang, which, by the way, is the only city in North Korea that has electricity. Are you catching my drift?
You think I’m kidding? Here’s an actual photo of the Korean peninsula at night. See the bright lights? That’s South Korea, where civilization actually exists. The dark area is North Korea.
Here are 10 things that are more likely to occur than agents of the North Korean military ever stepping foot on American soil in anger:
-an actual alien invasion
-an actual zombie apocalypse
-the revelation that The Hobbit is based on a true story and that New Zealand actually is Middle Earth
-Apple having a “25% off all merchandise” sale
-the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series with Steve Bartman as their manager
-the Democratic Party instituting a policy where they will no longer play the race card anytime someone disagrees with President Obama
–Michael Bay directing a movie featuring three-dimensional characters
–Bill Belichick drafting a cornerback who’s actually worth a damn
-all ESPN analysts being required to say “NFL” instead of “National Football League”
-teenage girls having good taste in music
You get the point. This shit isn’t possible. It isn’t possible for ANY country on this earth to execute a land invasion of the U.S., let alone North Korea, so long as our military still functions. If there are around 200 countries in the world, North Korea is, at best, the 138th most likely to be able to invade American soil or take over the White House, right behind Sri Lanka. We spend more in one year on our military than the North Koreans have spent on everything…ever. North Korean calculators don’t have enough digits to display our defense budget. They don’t even have the balls to attack the 30,000 U.S. troops on the South Korean border, who they could in theory run over like a speed bump with their high-stepping million-man army. The only people who have successfully invaded this country are the 20 million illegal immigrants from Central America.
With these truths being self-evident, why then has Hollywood made North Koreans the new go-to terrorists? Well, that’s actually pretty easy. Because there’s nobody to offend! You won’t see China as an antagonist in a studio movie, because the studios need to open their big movies in China. However, nobody cares what North Koreans think about how they’re being portrayed in American movies, because Hollywood doesn’t make any money there. The only people watching American movies in North Korea are the residents of the presidential palace. That’s like 5 people. So we can use North Koreans as villains, even if it makes no sense, because there are zero political or financial consequences.
Just because you can, though, doesn’t mean you should, because the absurdity of the concept inherently decreases the quality and credibility of the movies that use it.
In Olympus Has Fallen, a North Korean special forces unit (an oxymoron if ever there was one), stages an attack on the White House so ludicrous that it makes Bane‘s Dark Knight Rises takeover of Gotham seem downright plausible. It’s so over-the-top that you actually start to believe, maybe this could happen. Then you remember you have a brain. Somehow they got 50 North Koreans into the country, got them armed with weapons that the actual North Korean military has probably never heard of, and overwhelmed the most incompetent Secret Service agents in history to take control of the White House. This is after apparently 2 guys took control of a heavily-armed AC-130 by themselves and flew it around Washington D.C., shooting at random people and monuments, for what grander purpose we never find out.
Seriously, how did these guys get that plane? They sure as shit didn’t fly it over from North Korea.
Putting all that aside, is the movie any good? No, not really. It’s entertaining, sure, but also incredibly stupid. The script is atrocious, and a pretty damned good cast goes mostly to waste. I’ll watch any movie where Morgan Freeman plays the President (or in this case, the acting president), but it’s pretty clear he collected his paycheck and mailed this performance in. I hate to say that about my favorite actor, but it is what it is. I don’t blame him. He gets to do a high-profile movie, work with some good actors, and it looks like they shot all his scenes in about a week.
I still can’t decide whether or not I’m convinced Aaron Eckhart is credible as the President of the United States. I dunno. I’m leaning towards no. He doesn’t quite look the part, even for a younger President. Eckhart is 45, so he’s obviously old enough to play the Commander-In-Chief, but I don’t know, something was off about it for me. He’s fine in the role and I love him as an actor, but if I were casting a mid-40’s President, there are probably at least 10 people I’d offer it to before him. It’s shocking how far Gerard Butler fell after breaking out in 300, but it’s nice to see him being moderately competent again. Moderately competent…is that a compliment? After making some of the worst movies of the last half-decade (and hopefully firing his agent), I hope this is the start of a comeback for him. He should probably stop playing Americans, though. He’s at his best with his natural accent. Not that his American accent is bad in the movie, but there are just some UK actors that you don’t totally buy when they play Americans, and I think he’s one of them.
There really are a lot of interesting actors in this movie (Robert Forster, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Cole Houser, Radha Mitchell, Dylan McDermott), but again, none of them really have anything worthwhile to do other than get shot or look concerned. I feel especially bad for Rick Yune, who now seems to be typecast as “leader of Asian bad guys”. That’s good ol’ Hollywood liberal hypocrisy hard at work, folks.
I also have sympathy for the film’s director, Antoine Fuqua. This guy has genuine talent, but hasn’t made an above average film since Training Day in 2001. It’s a shame, because that film showed how good Fuqua can be when he’s working with strong material, but it seems he just can’t get in the loop for the best scripts and is instead stuck directing various generic, disposable genre movies like this.
The only really cool thing about Olympus is that they had the courage to make it R-rated, and I can respect that. This allows for the potential of better, more compelling action sequences, and it feels more realistic to me as a viewer when gunshot wounds cause blood to spill. Go figure.
Olympus Has Fallen is a rental at best, though it’s off to a decent start at the box office. I’ll sum up by repeating what many critics and film writers have noted; it’s the best Die Hard movie released so far this year.
Olympus Has Fallen – Rated R – 120 minutes
IMDb rating: 5/10
About that other White House takeover movie. That would be White House Down, coming out June 18. It stars Jamie Foxx as the President (which I’m also not so sure about at first glance, but we’ll see) and Channing Tatum as “guy saving the day” aka the Bruce Willis role. It’s directed by the Master of Disaster himself, Roland Emmerich. If you’re counting at home, this will be the 4th time a Roland Emmerich movie has featured the White House being attacked or destroyed (after Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012). You tryin to tell us something, bro?
The plot of this film actually isn’t all that dissimilar from Olympus, except it appears the North Koreans are not involved. Bonus points there for sanity. We can’t really tell who the villains are yet, but from the cast listing on IMDb and the character names, it looks to be some wacko European types. Whatever. Somehow they blow up the Capital Building and take over the White House. As one does. This will definitely be PG-13, but it also likely has a budget triple that of Olympus, so the CGI destruction won’t be quite as mediocre. Based on the recently released trailer, it certainly looks better than Olympus, but at the same time it also looks just as implausible.
I have a soft spot for Roland Emmerich, who has proven he can do great work when working from a decent script. I don’t know if any script showing a hostile takeover of the White House can be any good, but the screenplay here is by James Vanderbilt, who has shown himself capable of really good writing in the past (Zodiac). It’s interesting to note that Vanderbilt also wrote the script for the upcoming Robocop remake. Make of that what you will. I’m not gonna say I have high hopes for White House Down, but I am looking forward to it, as I love a good ol’ summer romp.
Here be the first trailer: