I’m talking about Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, just to be clear. In Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen, Aaron Eckhart grows angry and Morgan Freeman pulls strings from the sidelines, while a possibly crazy but altogether decent man dishes out some superheroic justice to save the city, yet the result is a terrible movie, arguably among the worst of the year.
The first of two movies of 2013 (so far) to deal with decimating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Olympus Has Fallen is the one that stars Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen) as former Secret Service agent Mike Banning. Some 18 months after he left his post in disgrace for the Treasury Department, Banning spontaneously goes into POTUS-guard mode again when the White House is breached by North Korean terrorists. The president (Eckhart) is held hostage in his own bunker, 120 feet underground.
The proceedings are as rah-rah and manipulatively patriotic as Eckhart’s last vehicle of note, Battle: Los Angeles … but only after Fuqua and company have delighted in shooting holes in Old Glory, taking down the Washington Monument and other comically extended acts of District of Columbia destruction the Blu-ray extras worship; you can’t have it both ways. The proceedings also are as dull and boring. I’d say you can’t get more generic and by-the-numbers than this, but I haven’t seen Roland Emmerich’s higher-wattage, lower-grossing White House Down.
Seeing Butler all dirtied up and crawling up through the rubble, I couldn’t help but think of Die Hard 12: Die Hungry, a 1992 spoof from an episode of the late, great Ben Stiller Show. I also couldn’t help but think that the only way this slog of a premise could possibly be interesting is to have replaced Butler with a woman. After all, Fuqua has a few incredibly capable ones in his all-star arsenal (Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo); why not give one of them the rat-a-tat-tat lead instead of having them sweat and fret? —Rod Lott