…and it doesn’t get up: “Olympus Has Fallen”

March 24, 2013


Olympus Has Fallen kicks off the summer movie season…sorta…I mean, it’s not even April yet, but what the hell. Think of it as palate-cleanser before the main course—not quite substantial enough to stand among the big boys of summer, but also not a complete embarrassment to be ignominiously shuffled into theaters during the dead zone of January. You can see why: It’s a big-budget, big body-count, action spectacle starring, ah…well, something approaching an action-movie star. It was also massively successful and spawned a lucrative franchise, you know, when it was released in 1988 and called Die Hard.

So, in Olympus, Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning, a disgraced Secret Service agent who was once the Agent-in-Charge of the President’s security detail. Unfortunately, after a tragic accident in which Banning was able to save the President (Aaron Eckhart), but not the First Lady (Ashley Judd), he has been banished to humiliating gig with the US Treasury. Now, if it seems odd that this would be considered a humiliation—given that one of the Service’s mandates is to investigate counterfeiting and used to be a part of the Treasury—and like the movie has no idea how the Secret Service works, don’t worry about it. This movie has no idea how anything works.

The varsity team in action...

The varsity team in action…

Fortunately for Banning, redemption beckons when a South Korean diplomatic delegation visiting the White House turns out to be comprised solely of North Korean moles. Yeah, that happens. They are the spearhead of a massive assault on the White House that includes multiple municipal vehicles with crew-served weapons, about a hundred armed soldiers armed with combat rifles and RPG-7 missile launchers, and an AC-130 Gunship. Goddamn it, wasn’t the Assault Weapons Ban supposed to prevent this?

So, long story short, Banning makes it into the white house manages to get his war kit on. Meanwhile, the terrorists North Koreans, led by Rick Yune, (who played the diamond-faced bad guy in Die Another Day), have holed up in the White House’s emergency bunker with POTUS, the Defense Secretary, and some other people whose only purpose is to be summarily-executed whenever the terrorists North Koreans don’t feel they’re being taken seriously enough.

Well, of course the terrorists North Koreans make their demands—full withdrawal of US troops from South Korea—while they desperately try to hack some magical computer whateverthefuck. At the same time, Banning must wage a guerrilla fight against the terrorists North Korean occupiers. Yeah, you’ve seen this movie before: not only with Die Hard, but with every Die Hard ripoff of the past 25 years.

"Yeah, I'm totally as cool as Bruce Willis..."

“Yeah, I’m totally as cool as Bruce Willis…”

I mean, not only is the whole scenario “Die Hard in the White House,” but we have a clone of the scene in which the SWAT team rushes into an ambush at Nakatomi Tower, despite McClain’s pleas for them to stop; a copy of the scene in which the bad guy is encountered by the hero, who doesn’t know who he is; hell, even the terrorists North Korean’s getaway plan is copied directly from Die Hard. What did it take, like, 20 minutes to write this movie? Just a script from Die Hard and a lot of FIND/REPLACE commands?

As Banning, Butler is…well, he’s Butler. Another generic slab of beefcake that manages to be an absolute charisma-suck when placed at the center of movie. Really, they might as well just put a human-shaped void in the middle of the screen. It’d be more or less the same thing. Also, halfway through the movie, Butler adopts this weird Sylvester Stallone cadence, like he forgot how to speak English or had a mini-stroke or something.

He's like the baddest chipmunk ever.

He’s like the baddest chipmunk ever.

But there’s more:

* Characters in this movie get dumber or smarter as the plot needs. The best example of this is Morgan Freeman’s Speaker of the House, who assumes the Presidency during the crisis. He flips-flops between being the wise, stentorian Morgan Freeman we know and love, and being a complete moron, willing to risk South Korea’s total annihilation just to get the President back.

"Sure, we can give them that. How about Montana, too? Do they want Montana?"

“Sure, we can give them that. How about Montana, too? Do they want Montana?”

* THIS MOVIE DOESN’T KNOW HOW ANYTHING WORKS (TMDKHAW) #1: Speaking of, in the beginning of the film, the President has a high-level strategy meeting about a response to North Korea’s bellicosity that is attended by the Speaker of the House, the Defense Secretary, and the Vice President…but not the Secretary of State, whose job it is to, you know, do foreign policy stuff. The Speaker of the House has jack-shit to do with that…the VP, even less. Hell, the Secretary of Indian Affairs has more to do with foreign policy than these jokers.

* One unintentionally-hilarious scene occurs during the assault on the White House: as the terrorists North Korean irregulars are blasting away from the Great Lawn with RPGs and machine guns, one security dude unleashes a couple of Rottweilers at the attackers. Yep, that oughta do it.

* TMDKHAW #2: The point-defense of the White House consists of a wrought-iron fence and about two-dozen Secret Service agents. No Uniformed Division guys, none of the paramilitary that exists solely to defend this building, no vehicle barriers…oh, and it takes the military fifteen minutes to respond to the attack…which, you know, seems long.

Pictured: The sum total of the White House perimeter defenses.

Pictured: The sum total of the White House perimeter defenses.

* This movie traffics in the casual brutality that kills all the fun of a decent action movie. I mean, Die Hard managed to be a fun movie that tells the same story without any scenes of a woman having the shit beaten out of her.

* Oh, yeah, and when Melissa Leo’s character is dragged away by bad guys, she defiantly recites the Pledge of Allegiance. You know, it’s not really that badass to go out shouting something you say every morning in grade school.

* TMDKHAW #3: The Speaker of the House never confers with the leaders of either Korea during this movie. He mentions he wants a meeting with them, but the time-frame makes it doubtful that ever happens. Boy, they’re gonna be pissed when they find out he plans on abandoning South Korea…you know, when they hear about it from CNN. 

* Banning tortures a couple dudes to death for information. Now, this is basically the same thing the bad guys are doing down in the bunker, but, see, when Banning does it, it’s totally cool. Because he’s the good guy. See how that works?

Goddamn it, stop saluting! You're not a soldier or American!

Goddamn it, stop saluting! You’re not a soldier or American!

* Movies have gotten worse in 25 years. Remember “Yippiekayay, mutherfucker!” in response to Hans Gruber’s taunts about America’s cultural bankruptcy? Yeah, with this movie, Banning just says, “Let’s have a fuck-off contest. You go first.” Uh…what? Later, he threatens to stab the bad guy through the brain, which is…not that interesting (especially compared to, “I’m gonna kill ya! I’m gonna cook ya! And I’m gonna eat ya!”)

* TMDKHAW #4: This movie thinks that the US military presence can be withdrawn from South Korea like, I guess, pulling out of a parking lot. And not removing a massive military presence that’s been amassing for 50 years. 

* The last fight scene is just a boring fistfight, in which Banning basically just beats Rick Yune up. Remember how John McClain used his wits and had a gun taped to neck, and lulled Hans into lowering his guard…yeah, but, hey, being imaginative is a lot of work.

* The Chair of the Joint Chiefs goes ahead with an assault on the White House, even after Banning tells him the bad guys have installed sophisticated air-defense systems. Then everyone is all surprised when those same defenses repel the military. Uh…what did you think was gonna happen?

TMDKHAW #5: Okay, I’m not an engineer, but I highly doubt the wing of a C-130 could shear off the top of the Washington Monument. I base this opinion on two facts: 1) a plane’s wing is made out of materials lightweight enough to allow it the ability to take flight; 2) the Washington Monument is made out of stone, which is really, really hard to make fly.

So, that’s Olympus Has Fallen.  At the end, Banning has been redeemed, his relationship with the President restored—they even crack wise as they stagger out of the ruined White House…and over the bodies of dozens of dead civilians. Yeah, Clint Eastwood managed to do this same thing without nearly the collateral damage. Just sayin’.


  1. Hey, you’re back! 😀

    I watched this movie like last week, but haven’t got the chance to write a review! Still have 5 movie reviews to go *sigh* I guess I watch too many movies at once, hahaha~

    Anyway, I love this movie. Despite the flaws that you mentioned here, I still love the tense and the good pace of the story. It keeps me interested. This is way better than Die Hard.. Maybe they should change the title into “Die Hard in the White House” LOL

  2. And use CGI to replace Gerard Butler with Bruce Willis 🙂

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