Over the years, it really seems like ripping off Die Hard have become a genre all of its own. The 80’s action film simply defined a new form of action movie making, one that many, MANY people have tried to replicate over the past few years. There’s a reason the phrase “Die Hard on a [blank]” is synonymous with so many films; from “Die Hard on a bus” to “Die Hard on a boat”, we’ve seen a countless number of Die Hard rip-offs in the past two or so decades. And now another can be added to the enormous list: Olympus Has Fallen. What’s the pitch this time around? Well simple: “Die Hard on a…White House.” Does Olympus Has Fallen rise above its rip-off status to truly become an enjoyable piece of action entertainment? Well, surprisingly, yes.
Here’s the thing: I could easily see how someone could dislike Olympus Has Fallen. From the get-go, this film is dumb as hell: I don’t want to delve into too much spoilers here, but the first “attack” from the Korean terrorists is beyond ridiculous for a number of reasons. The CG is pretty terrible, bordering on early 2000 video game graphics at times. There’s no explanation really given as to what the Koreans were aiming for in this sequence, and the fact that no American resistance is given during the initial invasion sequence is laughable. When this scene ended, I have to admit I was worried about the future prospects of the film.
Thankfully though, things improved from there. And it’s not because the film got smarter or anything; no, it stays pretty dumb the entire time. But the movie simply gets funner as the focus is placed on Mike Banning, the main character played by Gerard Butler who is both a renegade AND a smart-mouthed badass. A combination to be dealt with indeed.
To put it bluntly, Butler absolutely owns this movie. When 300 first came out, I was nothing but excited for the future action stardom of Gerard Butler. But since 2006, Butler has been nothing but a disappointment, taking gigs in lame romantic comedies like The Ugly Truth and Playing for Keeps. But with Olympus Has Fallen, Butler has framed a comeback of sorts, as he imbues Mike Banning with a lot of likability and charisma despite not getting a lot of fleshing out as an actual character (then again no one really does in this film, but that’s not really the point.) Gerard Butler simply anchors Olympus Has Fallen, and I hope it will be the first of many great action movies for him in this decade.
Aside from Butler though, Olympus Has Fallen is just a really fun action movie, plain and simple. Director Antwone Fuqua does a good job here and, considering he’s the man behind Training Day, that shouldn’t be a surprise. My only complaint with Fuqua’s direction is that, since a large percent of the film takes place at night, sometime the film can be a tad too dark. That’s a small complaint though, as the rest of the direction is mostly solid.
The script? Yeah, it gets the job done. As I’ve said, it’s pretty stupid, and there are certain instances in which you can literally tell that writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt didn’t even attempt to explain the various plot failings (a betrayal by one of the characters in particular gets explained by an absolutely inane and non-nonsensical speech that conveys nothing more than “Wall Street, America, Blergh!”) Still, the script’s there to frame the action, and it does it’s job decently in that department.
All in all though, I’m surprisingly positive with Olympus Has Fallen. It could just be the general condition of the marketplace right now (a.k.a movies=bad), but I had a fun time throughout the film. It won’t win awards or anything but, if you want a joyously stupid action movies to laugh with friends afterwards about, Olympus Has Fallen is probably your best bet right about now. I could never in good consciousness say that this is a good movie, but it is good fun. And that counts for something.