Hollywood keep churning out so many action movies, that it’s becoming increasingly hard to find a truly great one. The last truly impressive action flick I saw was Skyfall – a masterful production that singlehandedly restored glory to the 007 franchise with an epic blend of thrills and character moments. I was hoping Olympus Has Fallen would prove to be a standout blockbuster with its majestic cast and awesome premise (and yes I know White House Down is coming out in a month). I’m sad to report that the film was extremely disappointing.
While the film starts out promisingly with a brilliant incident in a snowstorm and a fantastic attack on The White House, it soon settles for generic fights that don’t really offer anything we haven’t seen before in stronger franchises. Antoine Fuqua makes the action set-pieces the defining factor of his film without offering an original perspective in an already over-saturated genre.
Gerard Butler does an adequate enough job as Secret Service agent Mike Banning but his character doesn’t undergo any development throughout the course of the film. He start out as a heroic fighter, and he ends the film as one. Aaron Eckhart (playing the President) fares somewhat better as he silently realizes that he’s driven away the one person who could really save his ass. Truth be told there aren’t any genuine character beats in the film; it relies far too much on action to get things done. And that ladies and gentleman, is just not good enough.
As for the supporting cast, Ashley Judd is underutilized in a ten minute performance (which she pulls off quite nicely) while Morgan Freeman finds him playing the same darn role he’s been playing for the past decade. I think the guy has played the President (or God) enough times that he’s secured ample experience to assume the role in real life. Angela Basset is also wasted playing the same character she did in the fourth season of Alias. If you don’t remember that appearance, I don’t blame you.
One of my biggest gripes with the film is the horrible villain. Kang is a poorly-developed antagonist that is neither threatening nor compelling to watch. You know he’s not going to succeed so the stakes are inherently low, and the writers fail to give the guy any defining characteristics or stand-out moments. He’s merely there to service the plot and keep things moving when required. A truly successful action movie can’t thrive without a badass baddie and it’s here that the film really squanders its potential. A pity.
While I was entertained by Olympus Has Fallen in a disposable sort of way, the film proved to be a real disappointment. Cool name though. Let’s see how White House Down fares.