Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
First off, this movie is, no joke, a complete rip-off of Die Hard. Actually, I think it's almost better to say it's a rip-off of Die Hard mixed with Under Siege, because Gerard Butler's character is more akin to Steven Segal's character than Bruce Willis', employing the whole "Unjustly demoted ultra-badass who saves the day by stepping up to do the job they used to have" gimmick. Butler plays Banning, a Secret Service agent who was kicked off the presidential detail by saving the President, but since the First Lady died in the car accident, the President didn't want Banning around reminding him of the accident. So, he gets sent to work at the Treasury Building. Sadly, all his old buddies regularly run into him and make awkward small talk, constantly reminding Banning of his disgrace. Banning, of course, still has a boner for the White House and pretty much pouts like a little baby every chance he gets because he's not guarding the President.
Anyhow, on to the real plot. The President is going to meet with the South Korean Prime Minister. Too bad for the SKPM, it turns out most (all?) of his entourage are actually North Korea-aligned terrorists. Good job, South Korean Intelligence! When a C-130 equipped with a belly full of Vulcan cannons starts blowing the crap out of D.C. the President and the senior cabinet at hand, plus all of these South Koreans, get escorted to the "Bunker" underneath the White House. Of course, now the President and cabinet members are all locked in with a bunch of terrorists. I'll just point out one gaping plot hole here: One of the bad guys is a former Secret Service agent. They NK terrorists are apparently relying on his intelligence to pull this off. But when the attack occurs and the Secret Service moves to take the President to safety, he insists, AGAINST PROTOCOL, on bringing the SK delegation with him. So my question is, did the turncoat know that, despite all regulations to the contrary, the President would violate this protocol and let a bunch of foreign nationals into the most secure facility in America? And of course, these NK guys are unarmed, and they naturally assumed they'd be able to overpower and kill all the Secret Security guys in the Bunker with their Kung Fu.
As an aside, the Secret Security turncoat pulls a stunt right from Die Hard, when he goes hunting Banning, only to run into him and pull that "Oh wow man, glad you found me, I was able to escape!" bit, just like Hans Gruber. I mean, come on people. Of course, you then learn that he's not REALLY a turncoat...the NKs have his kid. Wahhh.
But I digress. Let's focus on what happens outside the White House. C-130 starts blowing up crap, including the fighter escort that tries to stop it. Then the White House missile launchers try to shoot it down, but the C-130 deploys flares. Guess they never planned to shoot down more than one plane, because they only shoot two missiles at the C-130, which blow up on the flares. As one reviewer put it, classic example of Hollywood problem solving - if you try something once, you can NEVER TRY IT AGAIN. They finally scramble "reinforcements"...which means just one more jet, which shoots the plane down almost without trying. Of course, not before the C-130 shoots up the White House (including the American Flag - had to make sure we saw that), and then crashes...but not before clipping the Washington Monument. Of course. Take that, America!
All the while Banning is running the whole way from the Treasury Building to the White House, completely ignoring his job of, you know, protecting the Treasury Building. As every single thing around him gets shredded, blows up, etc. he's perfectly fine of course. When he gets to the White House the plane has since crashed, when it's time for Phase 2. All those Asian tourists standing around? BAM - TERRORISTS. They suicide-vest the White House fence and start whipping out a vast arsenal of automatic weapons, RPGs, pistols, you name it, and they begin to swarm the White House lawn. This is where I start to get really annoyed, because in classic stupid Hollywood fashion, all those Secret Service agents essentially beg to be shot and killed. No one goes prone, almost no one uses cover. No one is apparently wearing body armor, either. Of course, body armor would help no one in this movie, because throughout the course of this film, more people get headshotted than an entire season of The Walking Dead. Probably 2/3rds of everyone who dies in the movie takes one through the brain.
The assault on the White House continues. The NK terrorists drive two dump trucks right up along side the fence, where they become instant bunkers, equipped with heavy machineguns. These guys begin hosing the front of the White House down with heavy auto-fire, and the highly trained Secret Service agents respond to this threat by running out the front door and into a hail of high-powered bullets, like lemmings running off a cliff. Seriously, there's a scene where at least twenty agents run out of the White House and immediately die, piling up on the front steps like something out of the Normandy Landing sequence in Saving Private Ryan. At this point the White House is almost completely emptied of agents, and the NKs swarm the building, easily killing off everyone inside, who again, aren't wearing any body armor and/or get shot in the head. If this is how easy taking over the White House would be, I can't imagine why someone hasn't done this like, fifty times already. I mean geez, the Soviets should have pulled this off back in the 80's.
So now literally everyone who isn't in the Bunker is dead, except for Banning, whose managed to get into the White House. he sneaks around, ducking NK patrols and killing the odd guy here and there. He gets in contact with the Pentagon after doing a whole bunch of crap with the security systems that any half-decent role-based security system should have kept him from doing. I mean, hmmm, why is this guy whose job is way over in the Treasury Building trying to turn off all the security cameras in the White House? Maybe we should prevent that kind of access? Apparently any Secret Service agent can do anything, anywhere. Moving on...
We now find out that the reason the bad guys are doing this is to get the "Cerberus Codes". This whole plot point is so, so, SO stupid that it makes the rest of the movie literally unwatchable. This gimmick, taken right from Dr. Strangelove, involves a special failsafe that will self-destruct any nuclear weapon in our arsenal, anywhere on Earth. Apparently there are three codes, you need all three codes, and all three people who had the codes went into the bunker. There is no way to change the codes except by using this one computer in the Bunker, and apparently you can't, you know, disconnect the wifi or bluetooth or whatever it is that lets you INSTANTLY destroy every nuclear weapon we have. I mean, what's up with this belief Hollywood has that every single weapon we have has a "self destruct" switch built into it? This whole plot device, the idea of some ultra-capable and yet incredibly-limited gimmick that surely the bad guys will never be able to...oh. Whoops. It just REEKS of shitty writing.
Anyhow, the NKs try to get the code from Dude #1 (the Veep maybe? Hard to tell) and he's not going to give it to them, but the President tells the guy to give it to them, because they'll NEVER GET HIS CODE. So the guy gives it up and then they do this with the Secretary of Defense, and they start kicking the crap out of her, and she says she'll never give it up, but the President "orders" her to tell them, because they'll NEVER GET HIS CODE. And of course, they then run your typical Hollywood code-breaking thingy and get his code in a couple of hours. Apparently no one thought to set a lock-out that prevents invalid code attempts after the first 10,000 or so tries.
What really burns my bacon is that sure, you don't want to kill the two people who have the other two codes, but there are a bunch of other hostages, and frankly since the President is such a gigantic pussy as to not even let his Veep get killed, the NKs should have simply gotten the code from one person, then put a gun to that person's head and told the President they'd kill the person if he didn't give up his code. Since he asked them to give up THEIR code to spare their life, one can only assume he'll give up HIS code to spare their lives, right? OR, how about if we design a really dumb system like this, everyone agrees to NOT give up the code even if threatened with death? I mean, the Veep and the SecDef were more than willing to die to protect their code, and the President is the dude who wimps out. Brilliant plan, that.
Oh, and did we mention that this self-destruct mechanism apparently sets off the nuclear warheads? Yeah, this ingenious device is so well made that, to prevent a nuclear warhead from being used in the event of an accidental launch, it sets off the warhead. Kind of stupid, since detonating a nuclear warhead in the upper atmosphere can, you know, slap an entire continent with an EMP pulse that throws us back to the stone age. A simple command that shorts out a circuit board is probably a smarter idea...
The stupidity goes on and on. The President of course has a young boy, whose BFFs with Banning and misses his buddy when his dad banishes him to the Treasury Building. The kid is smart enough to hide, but then we're stuck on this 20-minute long subplot of needing to get the kid out so the NKs can't use the kid as leverage to get the President's code. Thankfully this only takes up 20 minutes, and the kid doesn't tag along, Sidekick-style, for the entire movie. Although there is a moment that brings up one of my pet movie peeves - people who empty high-capacity full-powered firearms in an enclosed space and then, seconds later, hold whispered conversations and hear faint sounds nearby. I think every Hollywood movie maker needs to stand in a small room while someone empties a .45 automatic or M-4 carbine right next to them, and then let them try to have a whispered conversation. Oh well, the technical adviser for this movie didn't do his job right anyhow, as Banning, a Special Forces Ex-Ranger superman, can't even carry his MP-5 right, walking around pointing it at the floor most of the time. The guys on Cinemax's Strike Back look like bona fide Delta Force guys next to Banning, who displays all the combat training of TJ Hooker.
So over and over, stupid crap happens. Like in Die Hard and Under Siege, we try to send in the "strike team" and they get wiped out because no one does any kind of intelligence gathering, as some dude in a boardroom has a kill-boner a mile long. The NKs set up some kind of top secret American-made anti-aircraft turret that shoots down six Blackhawk helicopters filled with SEALs in about 30 seconds. Why some sniper with a Barret .50 doesn't just shoot that thing until it stops working, I don't know. Just like Die Hard, it's up to the Lone Hero to handily destroy the device. Of course, now we can't send in any more good guys...for some reason.
Fast forward some more. For some reason we grab the Secretary of Defense and drag her out to the front of the White House. The bad guys clearly plan on doing the old "make her walk and we shoot her in the back" thing because they are stupid and fall right into Banning's trap of luring them all away from the Bunker where he can kill them. Hilarity insues when, as she's being dragged through the White House to her death, the Sec Def starts SHOUTING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. I don't know about you, but if I'd seen first hand how moronically we maintained our national security and the protection of our nuclear arsenal, I don't think that'd be the last words I'd be uttering. And of course, Banning manages to kill almost every guy EXCEPT the main bad guy. Whoops.
So now, instead of just letting the President sacrifice himself (after he insists they do so) the bad guys get their requested chopper on the lawn, and with a play stolen directly from Die Hard, blow up the chopper after everyone (wearing hoods so you can't tell who the terrorists and hostages are) gets on board. But, OF COURSE, the President and the main bad guy are left behind, just like the "blow up the top of the building and fake our deaths while we sneak away with the money" ruse in DH. For some reason, even when they assume the President and all the terrorists are dead in the helicopter crash, the White House isn't immediately swarmed with good guys. No, Banning is left to fend for himself to get the President out. And of course, he does save the day in the end, stopping Cerberus with only a few seconds left on the clock (yawn). Did I mention he kills the bad guy by stabbing him in the brain with a knife, JUST LIKE HE PROMISED? Yet another pet peeve - movies where the good guy tells the bad guy some time in Act 2 how they're going to kill said bad guy, and then they somehow manage to kill the bad guy EXACTLY like they promised? Why do screenwriters keep doing this? Do they think it makes us like the film more that the good guy is so badass that not only does he kill the badguy, but that he does it just like he said he would hours or even days later? I can't stand how contrived and just plain lazy this feels.
Anyhow, bad guy stabbed in the brain, bombs not 'sploded, America saved. Last shot of sunlight streaming through a waving, non-bullet-riddled American flag as triumphal music plays. The End.
We'll have to see how Roland Emmerich handles this exact same idea this summer, with his disaster movie, White House Down. I'll be sure to give you all a scathing review of that film, too. Really Hollywood, this is all we're capable of, even today? That Olympus Has Fallen is an Antoine Fuqua movie should have been my first clue, but I actually enjoyed Shooter and Training Day, and while Tears of the Sun had some problems, it wasn't AWFUL. This, however, was just trash. Lowest common denominator, junk-scripted, flag porn. I saw the new G.I. Joe movie later that day, and while it was just as dumb, at least it's based on plastic army men...
EDIT: Here's Badass Digest's review of the movie. I'm not alone...