London Has Fallen Review
During the first year of this blog, I wrote a review for "Olympus Has Fallen." It was the first two films about what would happen if terrorists infiltrated the White House and attempted to kill the president. While I enjoyed some energy of the film, it couldn't have been clearer that "Olympus Has Fallen" came out of the "Die Hard" lab with some silly and shameless jingoism tagged on. I am not saying fun can't be had in the theater, but just going through the motions always comes off boring. Its a movie that's as politically wrongheaded as they come, but I don't need a movie to spell out well pointed politics, I get enough of that from daily life.
"Olympus Has Fallen" was fun for what it was, but I have only seen it once. I don't have any plans whatsoever to ever see it again. I got everything I could from it through that first sitting. It never seemed like "Olympus Has Fallen" was built to be franchise. But if I have learned anything from the past few weeks about Hollywood its never say never. This year, we get "London Has Fallen." Which is basically the same movie as "Olympus Has Fallen," except it takes place in England, the terrorists aren't North Korean, and the personal stakes are much lower. Oh, and this sequel is much more offensive and a lot less fun.
In "Olympus Has Fallen," Gerald Butler plays Mike Banning a secret service agent who got thrown off President Asher's (Aaron Eckhart) detail after a fateful accident. He volunteers himself into helping the President once the North Korean terrorists start infiltrating the White House. The sense of duty and need to redeem himself may have been familiar character tropes, but at least there was some sense of identity to the character Butler was playing. In "London Has Fallen," President Asher goes to the funeral of the Prime Minister of England. Banning is back in the secret service after the events of the first film and goes with the President, since this was a freak moment, there is no time to plan if anything should go wrong in London. And of course, that means things go very wrong. As all the world leaders gather in London for the funeral, terrorists attack the event. Banning and Asher are on the run as Banning tries to protect him.
So this time there is no real character development, its just a big, elaborate cat-and-mouse game. Sure, there is a brief moment where Asher and Banning talk about fatherhood, but it never amounts to anything. This is a short film and it presses hard to hit all the needed checkpoints before blasting to the end. There is absolutely no time to really get to know the characters and see what makes them tick. Banning has a President to keep alive and terrorists to kill, so what does the audience need besides the basics? It certainly doesn't help that the first film and now this movie play things a little too real. What makes the Bond series such a lasting franchise is that it is set up to be a very fake world, this world is so set in the real when it would be suited better if things were a little more cartoony.
What's shocking is how thrilling everything is, which means its not very thrilling at all. Most sequels may tread water, but they will at least try to be a bigger version of the predecessor. "London Has Fallen" is small in scale. I think just as much happened in the first film as it did in the sequel, maybe more. The terrorist attack on England is supposed to be worse than the White House attack, but it never shows it to be. This is relatively small in scale, and I can't understand why. I guess the movie wants to be too much like the first film. I am pretty sure some of the lines Butler says in this movie, he said in the first movie.
But the biggest problem I have with "London Has Fallen" isn't that its a shameless "Die Hard" clone, or that it lacks logic and development or that its way too short and everything feels underwhelming. Its how mildly offensive it is. The bad guys here are clearly Muslim, or at least Banning thinks they are. Religion is never really explored here, but Banning says some pretty racist jargon as he beats one of the terrorists to a pulp. Is this scene supposed to make me cheer? Is it supposed to make me feel more American? I think all it does is allow cynical people to keep thinking that all Muslims are terrorists, which is clearly wrong. I am pretty sure Donald Trump and all of his supporters will run to theater in droves to see this.
Gerald Butler was once hailed as an upcoming movie star, but he's never really hit that stride yet. Sure, everyone knows him but he's never really hit a movie star status. His movies are never really that good either. After both the movies in this "Has Fallen" franchise, I think there are certain limitations on what Gerald Butler can do, and he makes his performance feel like something a hundred other actors could do. With a cast that includes Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster, Radha Mitchell, Melissa Leo and Jackie Earle Haley, nobody does anything very memorable, its all anything, any actor could successfully do.
Hollywood, stop trying to make this franchise. Stop pumping out "Has Fallen" movies. This wasn't built to last. This last outting was even more uneventful than the first.
FINAL GRADE: D-