The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Olympus Has Fallen" (2013)

The term "perfection of the absurd" would apply this this Gerard Butler vehicle, if only it were perfect. It isn't, but as a "leave your brain at the door" movie, I had to admit I never looked at my watch, burrowed through a giant box of popcorn, and enjoyed it about ten times more than the latest "Die Hard", which franchise it apes so precisely I expected John McClaine to show up in the Lincoln bedroom looking for his shoes.

Basically, Butler plays a disgraced Secret Service agent (you know why if you saw the coming attractions) following an incident where, apparently, an owl breaks a pane of bulletproof glass in the presidential limousine. Don't ask. Eighteen months later the White House is attacked by North Korea, and our boy Butler is the only one in the world who can Save The Day.

Listen: leave your big boy pants at home. If you can't wrap your mind around the fact that it exists in its own universe, a cross between Die Hard and "24", you don't belong in the theater. Some of the effects are a tad iffy, some of the emotional through-lines aren't played for maximum charge (some business with the President's son could have been juiced much more, and should have been paralleled with a sub-plot about Butler's own family for maximum impact) and some last-act business about nuclear weapons was an eye-roller to say the least.

Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman show up as highly placed government types hunkering in bunkers, display charisma and total professionalism as they try not to laugh, and collect hefty paychecks. Tough talk is exchanged, martial arts techniques are blisteringly applied in shadowed rooms suitable for concealing expert stuntmen, and there is much gunplay, many exploding objects, and sharp thingies pierce vulnerable sections of human anatomy. A tough female secretary of state sings a patriotic song while being dragged by the hair, and it's one of the least absurd moments of the evening.

But I found it great fun. And oddly heartening, an odd statement about how safe the world has become that, in Hollywood's neverending search for supervillains for the superheroes of the world we've moved from major enemies like nation-states to rogue generals, industrialists and neo-Nazis to terrorist organizations and now a tiny country that can hardly launch a skyrocket without embarrassing themselves. In the larger scale of things, that's one of the most optimistic developments in years.

Oh, what the heck: my inner twelve year old gave it a B+. He LOVES this kind of nonsense. If you can't dial your head down that far...beware.


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AF1 said...

Were the fight scenes done with shaky camera and in the dark? Or were they well done?

Steven Barnes said...

Most of the fights are shadowed, but well choreographed and intense. You can make out the action, and Gerard Butler handles his aspects with power and grace.