Olympus Has Fallen



Main Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman

Director: Antoine Fuqua

I headed down to the studio earlier today to meet with the creative team behind Dancing with the Stars. I like to be prepared for these moments so I traveled with several z-racks full of glamorous gowns, Madame Rose my press agent, Lulu Pigg my tap coach, a full makeup hair and wardrobe crew rented specially for the occasion and Mr. Dean, an absolutely visionary choreographer whom I discovered when I dropped in unannounced on a little Gershwin review mounted by a local theater company. His staging of Slap that Bass was nothing short of revolutionary and I immediately offered him a position in my entourage. Fajer and Hellmann, my attorneys, arrived as well to double check the contracts so we were quite the merry little band descending on the production office.

I’ve always found it best to negotiate from a position of strength so I made sure we had all the chairs occupied before the producer came in and we brought a specially elevated chaise lounge with us, especially for me. I was arrayed on it most becomingly in a bias cut emerald and gold gown embroidered with monetary symbols. I wanted to send a subliminal message of fantastic ratings and potential profits if they incorporate my ideas for improving their little show. We were joined by a Mr. Popkins or some such representing the production. He was very polite but felt that their formula was tried and true. Not to be outdone, I had Mr. Dean start up a cunning little Ipod device which connected to several large loudspeakers concealed in my chaise and soon the room was filled with the strains of Gershwin. I leapt up, my skirt with train designed be a rip-away, and revealed a lovely set of tap shorts and I proceeded to slap that bass all over the production office.

Mr. Popkins seemed overjoyed at my display of talents. At least he sat there with his mouth open and without much further response other than to say that he would be in touch. I felt the meeting had gone well so we all sailed out of the office and stopped by the Ivy for lunch (where my tap shorts caused quite the sensation. I expect paparazzi pictures on the web soon.) before heading home to Chateau Maine. Once home, Normy and I headed down to the home theater to put up our feet and have a tequila sunrise or two. Normy was in the mood for an explosive adventure so we settled on Olympus Has Fallen, one of last summer’s two competing let’s blow up the White House extravaganzas.

This film, with its plot of one lone hero having to outwit and survive a host of bad guys in a building hostage situation, owes more than a cursory nod to Die Hard, more like a few complete head shakes and a pat on the back as whole huge plot devices are more or less lifted intact. Die Hard is one of my favorite films, even if my musical version, Flaming Desire, did not succeed some years back. It works due to sharp casting in the central roles and because it was something of a fresh idea when it debuted more than twenty five years ago. Olympus Has Fallen, unfortunately, plays like a bunch of studio executives sat down and said “Hey, let’s remake Die Hard but only this time, let’s set it in the White House and we can bring in all the best moments from the films of Roland Emmerich to flesh it out”.

We first meet our two action heroes, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) as they spar with each other in a boxing ring at Camp David. (I had no idea rustic retreats came with over sized gyms). It’s Christmas and the President, first lady (Ashley Judd) and their precious spawn Connor (Finnley Jacobsen) are a picture of a happy family as they head off with a bevy of tuxedoed security agents to a billionaire’s party in a major storm. Unfortunately, there’s a tragic accident on the road and the results send Mike Banning into a PTSD tailspin and off of the president’s security detail. We then fast forward eighteen months to a lovely July day when President Asher is to meet with the Prime Minister of South Korea and his assistant Kang (Rick Yune) against a backdrop of heightened tensions between North and South Korea. It turns out that Kang is an evil North Korean genius spy and soon there are unexplained North Korean planes shooting up DC, suicide bombers blowing up the White House perimeter and garbage trucks machine gunning everyone in sight. The president, his aides and the South Koreans are hustled to a secure bunker below ground, putting all the top officials including the vice president (Phil Austin) and Secretary of Defense (a politically correct Melissa Leo) directly in Kang’s clutches.

Gerard Butler in 2011. Photo by Siebbi.

Gerard Butler does look pretty. Photo by Siebbi.

Banning, now a desk jockey, notices planes and bullets falling from the skies and races to the White House to find mass chaos and manages to shoot his way in. He establishes communication with his boss, the Secret Service Director (an even more politically correct Angela Bassett) who is hunkered down with the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) leading the free world’s response to the calamity. Banning must figure out how to beat the bad guys, rescue the presidential spawn who is hiding in the ruins, and spring the president before the evil Kang can finish his nefarious plans. Think he can do it? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

The film is fun, for a shoot ’em up, but you can’t help think you’ve seen every sequence or moment in another, better film. It still might work if the director, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears of the Sun) were capable of staging his action scenes with any particular sense of brio. It’s all too perfunctory and at times hard to tell what’s going on, especially once night falls and everyone is running around a partially demolished White House in the dark. Casting does not help. Gerard Butler may look great on film, but sadly, he is a charisma vortex who sucks the life out of every scene he is in. He’s so dreary that we, as an audience, have no one to really root for. The character’s personal stakes are also not high enough. He’s battling inner demons and unlike in Die Hard where John McClain must work through his relationship with Holly throughout the film, his love interest (Radha Mitchell) is safely down the street at work. Aaron Eckhart tries to give a thoughtful performance but once his character is relegated to a bunker, he’s more or less boxed in and can do little other than give slow burns and stoic grimaces for the camera. Morgan Freeman gives the best performance of the leads as he gets plenty of moments where he gets to tell off the brass and the suits and run things his way, which, of course, turns out to be the correct way.

Ultimately, as the characters’ stakes aren’t high enough, and the performances aren’t good enough and Rick Yune is no Alan Rickman, the film just doesn’t become engaging enough to rise to the level of good entertainment. Unfortunately, they’ve already announced a sequel, London Has Fallen, in which Gerard Butler can bore us while Big Ben blows up behind him. I shall have to call the producers and offer my services in the role of the villain. My big third act tap number would keep the audience awake.

Icy roads. Domestic boredom. Fighter jet flame trails that defy the laws of physics. Machine gunned cops. Machine gunned business men. Extra small north lawn. Gratuitous secret weapons system codes. Escaping cabinet members. Helicopter crashes. Televised executions. Gratuitous Lincoln bust bashing.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

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