Just in case the concept of North Koreans storming the White House and taking the President of the United States hostage seemed a little silly, well, the writers behind this new film have upped the ante with an unnamed terrorist organization taking the entire city of London, blowing up landmarks and taking out world leaders in the process.
Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen was one of two White House siege movies released in 2013, followed shortly by Roland Emmerich’s White House Down. Three years later, I cannot tell you the differences in storyline between the two.
While Emmerich’s movie was better – it didn’t take itself seriously, and provided some fleeting fun in the process – Olympus was first, and made more money, and now we have a lackluster sequel.
Here’s the problem with London Has Fallen: in style, tone, plot, and character it’s the same movie as its predecessor. But it lacks that premise, which was so strong that it led to two movies released in within months of each other that sold the idea of the White House going down in their title.
Instead, we get a routine action movie, slightly more violent than most, that sees Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) lead the American president (Aaron Eckhart) through the deadly streets of London after the city has been overtaken by what must be thousands of terrorist operatives.
Yes, a terrorist organization overtakes the entire city of London in about as much time as it takes to make a sandwich. They’ve apparently infiltrated the royal guard and the city’s police force, blown up Westminster Abbey and the Tower Bridge, and now wait on rooftops with missile launchers, ready to take out helicopters as they fly by. Yawn.
I’d be fascinated to see just how this epic-scale terrorist operation was assembled – given recent events in Paris and Brussels, something like this might be a real-world threat – but the filmmakers, including four credited screenwriters and Iran-born director Babak Najafi, making his English-language feature debut, are only concerned with moving the film from one action setpiece to the next.
The result is a flurry of explosions, gunfire, car crashes, and other carnage which could have been tied together with any story thread, but instead wastes what could have an intriguing concept.
Like the first film, the effects here are thoroughly second-rate, images of London landmarks exploding and helicopters crashing in flames far-too-obviously crafted within a computer. Effects work for the film was shipped out to Czech company UPP.
Because we may not know how to react to the events onscreen, for yet another movie the filmmakers have hired Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, and others to play characters confined to a single set – a Washington, D.C. war room – and watch the London events unfold on giant monitors.
They don’t add anything of value to the plot – what can they do? – but project what seems to be genuine horror and other real emotion to what they are witnessing, in scenes that seem to take up a quarter of the running time.
If only the filmmakers were able to provoke such reaction from their audience.