If you were under the impression that Olympus Has Fallen was going to be anything but idiotic then you clearly did not see the trailer in which an airplane crashes into the Washington Monument. Heading into this film with any hope of things being not dumb was an easy recipe for disappointment. However, heading in looking for stupidity could possibly give you one of the more enjoyable nights at the movies.
Movies can be so stupid they’re fun, but they really have to go all out stupid to pull it off. In a rare turn of events where I wish a movie was dumber, I don’t think Olympus Has Fallen lived down to its potential.
Olympus Has Fallen
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Release Date: March 22, 2013
I’m going to toss the plot out right here and you try to get through it without either laughing or rolling your eyes. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) leads the secret service unit that protects President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), but is basically forced to take a desk job after the President’s wife dies in an accident. It sounds like the worst news ever, but when a group of highly trained North Korean terrorists with want seems like infinite funding take over the White House — simultanously making the Secret Service look like a bunch of monkeys with guns — it turns out it’s a good thing. See his desk job looks right out over the White House so when the terrorists attack he runs over and sneaks in the building and becomes the only man able to save the President, who has been locked in the secret underground bunker below the White House with the evil terrorist leader, Kang (Rick Yune).
Seriously, the takeover of the White House is possibly the most illogical, ill-conceived clusterfuck of an action sequence I’ve ever seen. It’s almost fantastic. It pushes on the border of being so mind-numblingly overblown that it can only be good. As a giant aircraft somehow sneaks into DC airspace and then mows down people with some chain guns sticking out of its side only to eventually crash onto the front yard of the White House you’re hoping at some point the film is going to throw its hands up and all out commit to its camp. It never really does and it’s worse off for it.
There’s a plethora of opportunities for this movie to simply let go off all pretense and deliver some killer one-liners or ridiculous moments, but every time you think it’s going to it goes back to taking itself seriously. Director Antoine Fuqua at points thinks he’s making another Training Day and at other realizes he should just be jumping the shark at every opportunity he can. It’s so close to being so bad it’s good and yet it never fully commits to it.
It really drags down some solid and violent action as well. There are scenes where Gerard Butler as pulled off some really cool fights and instead of throwing out some cheesy dialog or a ridiculous camera shot we get an attempt at legitimate drama. Then at other points you get fantastic one-liners and shots clearly done just to be badass, but they’re not where they should be to keep the pace going. It takes skill (or luck) to make a bad movie that is enjoyable and sadly while Olympus Has Fallen has all the elements it never puts them together to make it not work.
One thing should help the film seem more camp is that the cast could all be showing up in Academy Award nominated movies next. Butler needs to be in more action as he’s easily the next John McClean every-man if he gets cast in the right films. Meanwhile, Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Dylan McDermott don’t seem to understand the kind of movie they’re in as they play their parts far too straight. Yune is the only guy on screen who seems to be laughing his way through the jingoistic screenplay as American flags wave in every other shot. (New drinking game: take a shot every time the American Flag or a Presidential portrait shows up in Olympus Has Fallen.)
While the movie never gets to the point that it’s so bad you’re really enjoying it, it is still relentlessly stupid and as such it can be fun. This isn’t going to go down in the annals of cult films that people secretly enjoy, but it’s hard to say that it isn’t a little bit fun. If the the movie had truly pushed itself it could have been beautifully moronic, instead it just turns out smirkingly simple.