Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen


Your Appearance Fee is What?!

The release timing cannot be more coincidental than it already is, with the movie's marketers quickly jumping onto the bandwagon to link this to a potential what if given the current North Korean crisis, with the hypothetical scenario of their clandestine forces somehow making its way into the USA, and doing the audacious with the taking over of the White House, with no less than the President (Aaron Eckhart), amongst other political stakeholders being hostages.

Can this really happen? I suppose it's only possible in Hollywood, with writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt taking plenty of artistic and dramatic license to craft something remotely possible through well orchestrated attacks that must be completed within 13 minutes, coupled with plot elements contributing to the loopholes, which you must suspend disbelief with in order for it to work, consisting of a combination of suicide bombers, swarmed armed assaults, a large cargo plane, and inside jobs turned ugly. Gone were the days of the Russians and the Arabs as enemies on the silver screen, with the North Koreans making the ultimate jump from one of the Bond installments, to the reboot of Red Dawn, and now this.

So in true action-adventure fashion, a hero must rise from his rut, given a second chance which he will take to prove himself once again that he's the nation's only hope. But this is not John McClane's show, although director Antoine Fuqua's film could have been positioned as the next Die Hard installment set within Washington, D.C. and the White House. Similar to Wolfgang Petersen's In the Line of Fire, the film's protagonist is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the US President's chief detail Secret Service agent until the incident seen in the trailer had him step down from his position, to serve in a desk position in the Treasury. Like all heroes, he's never far away from the action, misses it in his life, and gets thrown the opportunity to take it back again by the horns.

As much as this film featured its fair share of blood and violence, with the North Koreans led by international fugitive Kang (Rick Yune), a sadistic killer who doesn't flinch from executing his threats, there really isn't much of a danger posed toward Mike. There's the requisite wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) to provided narrative pause in the action sequences for Mike's extremely little bit of a human connection to a loved one, and with enemies never really threatening when getting in the way of our hero. Sure, Fuqua does design and shoot some intense battle sequences, but nothing was left remotely memorable as Butler huffs and puffs his way too easily through the long corridors and secret passages of the centuries old presidential quarters.

Some simple twists and turns got utilized to spice up what would be an average plot with piqued interests because of the effort gone to recreate both interiors and exteriors of the iconic White House, and see it getting damaged on a scale and level yet to be seen before (Independence Day's single, thick laser beam obliteration is no count). In fact, the White House itself is a character with its nooks and crannies, real or otherwise, put into the film to become that edged advantage for our hero, and the President's young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). Music by Trevor Morris keeps the tempo urgent, but relies probably on the same consistent bars for the main theme to be running almost forever.

Perhaps what made Olympus Has Fallen a little bit more fun, is its star studded cast. Gerard Butler proves once again he's action hero material, although too cool and hardly breaking into a sweat as he takes his orders and executes them with brutal efficiency, that you'd stop caring after a while since he's perpetually indestructible. Aaron Eckhart graduates from District Attorney to bland US President whose job is actually to give that rousing speech at the end, while Morgan Freeman strolls his way through yet another Presidency role, albeit an acting one here, since his Deep Impact days. Dylan McDermott and Angela Bassett were grossly underused as a mercenary bodyguard and Secret Service Director respectively, with the latter being nothing more than Ms Stating-the-Obvious, while Melissa Leo had a bit role as the needlessly gutsy Secretary of Defense. Rick Yune as the villain was as bland as Butler was the hero, and like all action films, the story's usually as good as how evil the antagonist is, which fell a little bit short on both counts.

It does seem that 2013 is the year for White House being under attack in the cinemas, with another film lined up with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx headlining the Roland Emmerich film. So while waiting for that to arrive, it's still quite the action-adventure fun witnessing Gerard Butler complete his no-nonsense tour of duty with the Secret Service, before Tatum arrives reporting for active duty, and hopefully emerges as the stronger film between the two, since this one didn't set the bar too high.

6 comments:

YTSL said...

Hi Stefan --

Wondering: how racist did you feel this film was? (And if you've watched "Red Dawn", please compare them in this regard.)

Stefan S said...

Hi YTSL

Well, I didn't read too much into the racism aspect. Only managed to catch bits and pieces of Red Dawn on a plane lol

YTSL said...

Hi again Stefan --

It seems like the distributors of films like "Olympus Has Fallen" and "Red Dawn" are counting on people not to read too much into the racism aspect when they're shown in Asia.

I wonder: would seeing reactions like these in the US have prompted you to read things differently?

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/04/olympus-has-fallen-anti-asian-slurs/63742/

http://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/racist-idiots-watch-red-dawn-tweet.html

Stefan S said...

Hi YTSL

Yes I was aware of those reactions and slurs, but really it just shows how mature audiences are?

Hollywood villains have always adopted the easiest country / cultural groups as the bogeyman. Back then it was Russians during the Cold War, then the Arabs (True Lies as an obvious example amongst others), and now it's Asia's turn with North Koreans being representative.

What do you think?

Stefan S said...

I also think Hollywood will steer clear of portraying Chinese/China as villains given that they're now pandering toward the China market for increasing its coffers in box office revenue.

YTSL said...

Hi Stefan --

I think some movies pander to immature audiences -- and when mixed with racism, it can get really ugly.

Re your query: First, let me preface by stating that I may indeed be more sensitive than some others to all this by dint of having lived in the US for more than 10 years. With that caveat out of the way...

I think it's been "Asia's turn" for umpteen years -- especially with all those world war 2 movies (noticed how it's the Nazis (political ideology), not Germans (nationality), often on the one hand but pretty much always "Japs" -- and hence a racial thing on the other hand?) and Vietnam war movies. But think also of Jet Li's first role in Hollywood being that of a villain, "Kill Bill 2", etc., etc.

Also, one big concern I have is that many Americans see all (East) Asians as the same. And in the case of "Red Dawn" and "Olympus Has Fallen", the North Koreans are actually a substitute for the Chinese who now are actually (commercial) enemy number 1 in many Americans' minds even while they also are a major market.

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