Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Posted Image

About a month and a half ago, I wrote an essay detailing what I thought was a slump in the modern action genre, and the list of what I saw as the causes of that slump. After seeing this movie (which, admittedly, seems to be doing a lot better at the box office than the stinkers that inspired me to write that essay), I'd like to throw up another reason onto that list -- utterly brainless writing that existed solely to move the film from one action scene to the next. Olympus Has Fallen, while possessing some great action scenes, solid direction from Antoine Fuqua, and a great lead performance from Gerard Butler, is dragged down by an awful script filled with gaping plot holes and leaps in logic that shattered my suspension of disbelief over and over again.

Let's get this out of the way now: this film is beyond stupid. Both the heroes and villains pull plot contrivances directly out of their asses. One example that had me immediately saying "okay, that made no sense whatsoever" concerns the Cerberus system, the program that allows the President to call off an imminent nuclear attack and disable nuclear missiles in flight. How the North Korean villains (more on them later) managed to both infiltrate the South Korean government and steal an American AC-130 gunship is handwaved at best. For two-thirds of the film, the plot revolves around the villains trying to extract the three codes to use Cerberus from the President, his Secretary of Defense, and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President knowing that the other two can give away their codes because he'd choose death before telling them his... aaaaaand then in the third act they pull a sudden twist that allows them to hack the third code anyway... aaaaaand then they manage to use the system to try and detonate every ICBM in their silos (how?) in order to turn America into a radioactive wasteland. I've often heard about how video games are approaching the storytelling quality of Hollywood movies, but I'm sure that the people saying that didn't mean "movies have sunken to the level of cheap Modern Warfare knockoffs in the story department." That is exactly what the writing in this film feels like.

Oh, and about the North Korean villains, they're yet another example of what I call "Not-China Syndrome". The Hollywood studios are trying to enter the huge and rapidly growing Chinese market, but unlike America, China has a strict culture police that takes a very hard line on critical portrayals of the nation and its government. If a studio released a movie portraying the Chinese as wicked villains, Beijing might remember that and give that studio a hard time in the future. However, China has a crazy little neighbor over on the northern half of the Korean peninsula that absolutely nobody is afraid of offending. So Hollywood has found a ready workaround to their "China problem" in the form of turning the comically-named Democratic People's Republic of Korea into a military power capable of threatening the US. Never mind that anybody who actually knows a thing about North Korea understands that, for all their bluster and (per capita) military spending, South Korea alone could curbstomp that little tinpot dictatorship and its laughably outdated and under-supplied armed forces in less time than it takes to put up the headlines reading "WAR DECLARED". So when this film had its plot hinge on the idea that the North could overrun the South in three days without the all-powerful Americans bravely guarding the DMZ, I was ready to die laughing. It seemed like a parody of jingoistic action movies that you'd see on Robot Chicken.

You have to turn your brain off entirely to be able to enjoy this movie. However, if you are able to do so, you will find that, while this isn't a great action movie, director Antoine Fuqua (of Training Day fame) has still managed to craft many awesome moments. The opening attack on Washington, DC was thrilling and surprisingly brutal, setting the tone for the very R-rated action to follow. Fight scenes and shootouts are shot coherently and tightly, helped doubtlessly by the charismatic presence of Gerard Butler, here redeeming himself from the string of crappy rom-coms he's been stuck in these past few years. It would be an understatement to call the Scotsman's American accent "shaky", but here Butler shows why he skyrocketed to the A-list after 300 all those years ago. He is very much in full badass form here. However, even Butler and Fuqua have a hard time redeeming the more CG-filled action scenes, which are dragged down by special effects that look like something out of a video game from around 2005. This movie cost $70 million to make; it is inexcusable that the CG looks like it came from a movie with a tenth that budget.

Score: 2 out of 5

I guess I'm just not an "action guy", but this movie's laughable plot made it very difficult for me to shut my brain off and enjoy this movie, especially as the stupidity started piling up near the end. Fuqua and Butler deserve better than this.

1 comment: