Wednesday, May 15, 2013

3 Short Paragraphs: Olympus Has Fallen

2013, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur) -- cinema

Most often, in action movies, when the supporting cast of gun-wielding defenders die you feel little for those fallen NPCs.  Your energy is best directed at the named characters, the ones whose stories you have briefly learned, before they die. The former exist to fall, the latter to be mourned. But as I watched the number of bodies falling to the ground increase, in the astonishing opening sequence to Olympus Has Fallen, I felt a growing feeling of hurt. Not just for the collateral damaged, the fallen tourists and passersby who are cut down by the high calibre cannon firing from the circling plane, but for the numerous cops, security guards, and Secret Service men & women. For some reason, I was painfully aware that each of them was a person, brother or father or daughter. Each one is given a digital blossom of blood, each one receives a killing shot.  Sometimes they got a followup shot to the head.  It was brutal.  Each of them died performing a job, a job none ever thought would lead to death.

Conversely, I enjoy these Die Hard--ish movies.  A single hero overcomes all that is put against him, persevering through a combination of luck and skill.  In the rubble of the White House, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) survives only because he is the main character -- it is not his role to run blindly into the bullets.  It is also his environment, so he has a great advantage, which he makes use of quickly and securely, picking up the tools and intel he will need.  This movie knows and loves its predecessors, a few nods here and there while following along with the tropes of the genre. I was rather fond of one divergence, somewhat pandering addition to the style -- save the kid. Cliche unto itself, it gives weight to Banning's character in that he sets a first agenda, not to "save the President" but to rescue a kid who he is rather fond of.  This is not "you have to save kids" but a genuine connection between characters. And once it is accomplished, we move away from the pandering to towards the action movie goal.

When I saw who was playing the President (Aaron Eckhart) and First Lady (Ashley Judd) I was rather amused, building a story in my head where this President previously saved the world from an alien invasion (Battle: Los Angeles), got the girl (to me, Bridget Moynahan looks an awful lot like Judd) and ran for Office. But he won't survive this event, at least popularity wise, unless he spins the horrible events well. Not only does a large, well-armed plane invade Washington DC airspace ignoring the threats of two fighter jets, but it was his Administration that missed the smuggling of a few score Korean terrorists into the country, and the purchase of their equipment. He will have a short time as the re-builder, as he comes down hard on his failed Intelligence Agency, but I don't think he will survive such a disastrous attack on American soil. A sad end to his survival of the raw events.