Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.
What? What is this? A Die Hard knockoff in 2013? Why we haven’t had a legitimate Die Hard knockoff since… Hell, since Con Air, I think. And by the looks of things we have yet another “Whose Idea Is It Anyway” scenario with White House Down coming out later this year.
The story for Olympus Has Fallen is, in a nut shell, Die Hard in the White House. After twenty five years we all got the shtick down to tee: Bad guys take over a building/bus/battleship/airplane/ cruise ship and demand money/weapons/lousy reward in exchange for the hostages they’ve captured (a deal, by the by, they never intend on keeping) while our hero, always at the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the right time (depending on the scenario) gets caught inside, foiling the villain’s plans and saving the day, ending on a one liner.
So is the story bad? Strangely enough, it isn’t. True, it’s a tired, old formula that lazy writers use to make a quick profit, however it’s also a very familiar one and it’s actually really nice to see a Die Hard knockoff (or at least one that’s well written) after such a long time, not to mention that, after such overuse, the main things that drive a story like this are characters, the action scenes and of course, the dialogue, most of which Olympus gets down rather well.
However, in the case of Olympus has Fallen, there is one aspect of it that’s really shocking – it manages to do what a veteran writer like John Milius couldn’t – Plausible North Korean antagonists! Sadly they’re not perfect though. Their plan for taking over the White House, though some aspects of it being clever relied heavily on simple brute force and the hopes that every single person inside the White House has the IQ of a lunch menu.
They got lucky on both accounts. Their motivations also seem confusing. They’re goal is to show the United States what it’s like to live in severe hunger and poverty.
How do they do this? Well I won’t go into detail, though I will say what they do is actually quite brilliant. It’s also a win/win situation for our antagonists since, among their demands- they want the U.S. to pull out of South Korea as well as leaving the Sea of Japan, this way they can take over South Korea.
However, good plans aside their motivations are still muddled, by all accounts it seems like they should have more of a beef with the oppressors in North Korea rather then the United States, especially the main villain, Kang. What’s more, their plan for capturing the president is pretty bad and it only succeeds because all the characters in this movie, save for our hero Banning, are complete and utter idiots!
Olympus moves at a good enough pace so that the film never slows down or becomes a drag. The dialogue is pretty good and feels like something you would hear in an old action movie, however, for the most part they do seem unimaginative (usually consisting of someone using a variation of the F word), still they can be effective from time to time.
The movie also has a very cheesy (when a character screams the pledge of allegiance while being pulled away to her death then you know that it doesn’t want to be taken seriously), escapist feel to it that really does add to its overall charm and entertainment value
The CG is used conservatively, or more than one would see in a movie like this, and everything else: The story, the villains, the look, the action, all of it makes Olympus Has Fallen feel like a mid-90’s action movie, fact that truly makes me appreciate this film even more.
Mike Banning, played by Gerard Butler, is our John McClane/Jack Traven/Casey Ryback for this movie. Yeah, he’s your typical Die Hard knockoff protagonist. He’s a disgraced Secret Service agent (disgraced because he saved the president’s life but not the life of the president’s wife… Yeah, you’ll soon see that the president is a complete and utter moron) who just so happens to be at the right place at the right time and becomes the poison pill that runs around the White House, ruining those dastardly North Koreans plans. Yeah, there’s not much to talk about him, he’s your average Die Hard esque character, though there is one thing good I can say about him: He’s not a freakin’ idiot! Unlike the other characters, Banning is always careful, always looking at his surroundings and always knows what to do.
President Benjamin Asher is, for lack of a better word, unbelievably stupid! Why? Because he demoted the agency’s top agent because “looking at Banning reminds Asher of his wife’s death.”
Oh brother. Great plot line.
Yeah, he only gets worse from there. When Asher and his staff have been captured by the terrorists, Asher, his naval commander and the secretary of defense, are all tortured (well, not in Asher’s case, but he delightfully keeps getting the bejesus punched out of him) for codes for a defense system. The naval commander and the secretary of defense both have their lives threatened and would both gladly die rather then give the vital codes to the terrorists. His logic in getting around that one is…well, let’s just say he would fit right in with some of our most recent former Presidents.
Speaker of the House Trumbull, played by Morgan Freeman, doesn’t fare much better. In all honesty, Trumbull doesn’t really do much at all.
Kang (a name stolen from a very cool Marvel comic bad guy) is a relatively decent antagonist, but his backstory only makes him a very confusing character. Played by Rick Yune, Kang was a child his father was executed by the North Korean government. He tried to escape with his mother to South Korea but, en route, his mother stepped on a U.S. landmine and died, this is why he hates America so much. Hmm. Sorry to burst your bubble their Kang, but from where I’m standing it sounds like you should have a beef with North Korea rather than America.
The acting for Olympus has Fallen is pretty good. Gerard Butler does an OK job as Banning. He’s not bad, in fact, I prefer seeing Butler in an action role more than anything else. Aaron Eckhart does a good job as always, but that’s just it really. It’s a good performance, but nothing to truly let him be remembered like his roles in The Dark Knight or The Rum Diary. Morgan Freeman does a good job as well, though his only reason for being in this film is that he’s Morgan Freeman. Like Eckhart he doesn’t do anything outstanding and is only here because he’s incredibly well known and would boost star power. It’s sad that when most of the roles he gets nowadays have nothing in mind for him other then the fact that he’s Morgan Freeman.
Now the action is suprisingly wonderful to view and a marvel to watch. Despite some dumb characters and some forgettable acting, Olympus has Fallen is one of the best Die Hard knockoffs I’ve seen in a very long time. The story has some interesting ideas and the film has a cheesy, fun and nostalgic feel to it. Overall, a very entertaining escapist film.