Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) surmises most prospective viewers would rather see Gerard Butler charging through the charred remains of the White House killing legions of bad guys than a nuanced discussion of American foreign policy.
Fuqua is so sure of what Butler’s fans want that he makes sure to include an inexplicable sequence where the stone-chested actor goes shirtless within the first five minutes of the film. If Fuqua could have curbed Butler’s urge to cover his abs and kept the cast from speaking, Olympus Has Fallen could have been a sort of masterpiece in meeting audience expectations.
Sadly, once Butler puts down a weapon or puts on a shirt, there’s very little to this movie. He plays burnt-out Secret Service agent Mike Banning, who is moved to Treasury after a tragedy occurs on his presidential protection detail. He continually blames himself even though it wasn’t his fault.
Viewers have no trouble discerning the good guys from bad guys in this struggle, but the writing - credited to Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt- is so shallow that many of the lead characters are indistinguishable from one another.
We frequently see subtitles indicating which character is which. Except for Banning and the lead villain (Rick Yune), it’s impossible to remember any of the characters’ names. There’s a surplus of Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning performers here, but none is asked to do more than look concerned.
It seems silly to cast Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House and Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense if all they’re going to do is look concerned and spout platitudes. Mind you, nobody recites them as well as Freeman, but it’s more fun to hear him read poems or Scripture than it is to watch him ruminate during a crisis.
But giving Freeman more to do would have interfered with the views of demolished D.C. landmarks and CGI pyrotechnics.
Curiously, Banning doesn’t turn to drinking, as is the cliche. He just broods, which annoys his boss (Angela Bassett). Thankfully, he doesn’t have long to mope. A horde of sympathizers to North Korea ambushes the White House and quickly kidnaps the president (Aaron Eckhart) and several of his Cabinet.
Simply doing that would make for a great nail-biter, but Fuqua and the screenwriters feel that holding the leader of the free world captive isn’t exciting enough. As a result, Olympus Has Fallen drifts from thriller to science fiction to fantasy to unintentional comedy.
Filmed in Shreveport and Bossier City, Olympus Has Fallen features some convincing doubling of our nation’s capital and a good number of CGIs that look like CGIs. Fuqua’s desire to make the movie bigger results in action that’s simply too outlandish to seem real. It’s surprising how much more exciting it was to watch Clint Eastwood hold off a single assassin in In the Line of Fire than it is to watch Butler take on every supporter Pyongyang has.
Olympus Has Fallen
68 Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser Director: Antoine Fuqua Rating: R, for strong violence and language throughout Running time: 120 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 03/22/2013
Print Headline: Olympus Has Fallen