Perhaps the biggest testament to the quality of Olympus Has Fallen is the fact that it got a sequel, while the bigger, more star powered White House Down did not. Personally, I think what set the two apart was Olympus hailed back to an era where over-the-top action movies were taken seriously, where as White House Down tried to be a mis-matched buddy version of a Die Hard movie. Olympus was tightly paced, had stellar action sequences that were gritty and brutal but also gleefully over-the-top, and while for the most part a serious film, it knew exactly when to stop for a well-timed, tough-guy action movie one-liner. London Has Fallen follow that formula for success, but as is often the problem with action sequels, it’s also compelled to go bigger, which causes the delicate balance that the first movie achieved to teeter precariously.
Olympus Has Fallen benefited from the fact that the action was largely confined to one location; the White House. This added a tension to the proceedings because of the confined space. Moving things to the entire city of London, some of that tension dissipates because one would think it would be fairly simple to slip away from a group of terrorists. However, that proves not to be the case, as with every turn our heroes make, the bad guys are there. A bit unrealistic? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be a very exciting action movie if the bad guys and good guys never collided. In fact, the overall expansion in scope stretches any suspension of disbelief the first movie was able to maintain to the breaking point, but if one is willing to just go with it, there is plenty of fun to be had (just try not to think too hard).
While the “This Place has Fallen” series obviously draws a lot of comparison to Die Hard, this time around it added another element, but it’s one that I’m not quite sure I enjoyed as much. In the first movie, Butler’s Mike Banning was an extremely skilled, efficient, and at times ruthless, agent determined to do his job; protect the president. This time, however, he channels a bit of Martin Riggs’ unbalanced craziness. There times where Banning didn’t just seem proficient at his job, but rather somewhat psychotic as well; which, at least for me, made him a bit less likable and harder to root for. I like the character better as the ruthlessly efficient and skilled protector of the President; it was fun to have a character who was really just that much better and more competent than his adversaries, which made his character somewhat unique. Really no need for him to crazy as well.
Now in some of the reviews I’ve read, there have been some concerns about the lack of political correctness in this film. Can’t say I found that surprising, as I was watching I figured that would be a source of some criticism. However, and I may be in the minority here, I actually found that lack of PC-ness to be rather refreshing. Far too often movies try to make the bad guys more sympathetic by providing backgrounds that reveal their motivations aren’t necessarily evil, just different due to cultural and societal differences that we may not understand. In short, there no bad guys, just people with different motivations and ideologies that unfortunately clash due to a lack of understanding an ignorance. Well, there’s none of that here. The bad guys are just that bad guys, and the film unapologetically states in no uncertain terms, “DON’T MESS WITH AMERICA!” In today’s relativistic, globalized, non-black-and-white world that may not be a popular sentiment, but it was refreshing to see a movie unabashedly proclaim it.
Just to pull on that thread a bit more, we’ve almost reached a point in our culture where it’s impossible to have any sort of opinion at all because no matter what your opinion is, it’s bound to offend someone, and that’s just not acceptable in a relativistic society where everyone needs to be right. Unfortunately, I think that attitude has leaked in to the Church as well. We’re hesitant to talk about hell, or sin, or that people need a Savior; you know, just the fundamentals of what the gospel is about. We avoid terms like evangelism, gospel, redemption, and anything else that sounds too “religious.” Now, I’m not saying we need to go out and be “jerks for Christ,” but I am saying perhaps we need to be a little bolder, and yes, a little less politically sensitive. After all, these are eternal souls at stake, not just the life of the President. Banning goes to an almost insane level to keep the President safe; how far are we willing to go to keep someone from an eternity hell? How determined are we to get the Good News out to a world in need?
As for London Has Fallen, its action is as bold as its machismo. No, it doesn’t always quite makes sense. Yes, a lot things seem to conveniently happen “just because.” No, there’s no way any ordinary man could take the kind of beating Banning takes in this movie (unless their name is John McClain). But yes, London Has Fallen is still good fun for anyone looking for an old-fashion, rollicking action movie that isn’t afraid to go big and have fun doing it.
It’s not the most plausible of films, but then, that’s not why we’re going to see it. What it does well, it does so in Spades. Beware, though, there is some pretty rough language throughout, and some pretty grisly violence to boot. Plus, there’s plenty of dumb, painfully obvious “twists”, as well as a few awkward moments of “character development.” Not as tight or slick as its predecessor, but still a worthy action flick.