Olympus Has Fallen
Olympus Has Fallen is a story which sees the most highly trained guards in history drop like stormtroopers as North Korean terrorists take over the White House and hold the president hostage. Its a pretty standard action flick. Many have called it Die Hard in the White House, and it does have that feel (they even emulate the scene where McClane briefly teams up with Gruber who pretends to be a victim), but it is far more serious. The problem with this standard action flick is that it fails in execution in a number of different ways.
The first glaring problem are the atrocious special effects. The effects they’re using it for are ones which could have easily been done practically. Its not like they need to add in spaceships or dragons, its planes and cars and even an American flag at one point. And do they fit into the picture seamlessly? Hell no, they stick out like a sore thumb. The motions of the cars in the opening scene skidding on the road for instance is incredibly awkward and unnatural. In fact the motion of pretty much any vehicle done up with effects looks that way. This is one ugly looking effects film.
Now I am not holding the effects companies entirely to blame. Its the studio themselves who should bear the brunt of it. This is a clear-cut example of a trend happening in Hollywood right now where the producers contract out the CGI to FX companies for the lowest bidder. They are cheap and incredibly rushed, and no wonder they end up looking like garbage.
Aside from the effects, there are also some equally awful performances. Butler is fine as the lead, though not exactly brimming with charisma, and Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, and Morgan Freeman are all fine as well. Dermott McDermot however is absolutely brutal as one of the secret service agents. The contortions he makes with his face are mind boggling, and his character has no understandable motivation. Melissa Leo as the secretary of defense is almost worse. I could not stand her character.
Aside from the poor acting and gross visuals, there’s also some really bad dialogue beats. For example, at one point Butler says to the president “Sorry about the house” to which he replies “I think its insured”. However, at this very same moment the president has just noticed the bodies of dozens of dead secret service agents. Now if the movie was set in a tongue-and-cheek spirit, this may have worked. But right from the get-go this has been a very seriously toned movie and a line like this only makes you look at disgust at two characters you’re supposed to be cheering for.
Okay, that’s enough I think. If you have very low expectations and just want a run-of-the-mill action film, yeah sure, this will work. It has all the common cliches you’ll be looking for. Just don’t expect not to flinch at the poor effects and bad acting.