Monday, October 24, 2016

London Has Fallen

Three years ago, 2013 had a strange blockbuster season where two movies with nearly the same plot had been released within three months of each other.  Both contained a story where terrorists take over the White House and threaten to kill the President of the United States, both had someone fighting against all odds to save said president, and both movies were significant popcorn flicks.  The first one of that year, was the Gerard Butler-starrer, Olympus Has Fallen, and I was mildly surprised at how good of a movie it had been.  I can’t remember if it had been reviewed here at Cinema Bits—I’m a little lazy right now and don’t feel like checking the archives—but I do remember that I’d enjoyed that movie quite a bit.  The movie that followed a few months later was White House Down, starring Jamie Foxx as the President and Channing Tatum as an aspiring secret service agent.  As I’d said, both were very entertaining films, but if I had to pick, I’d say Olympus Has Fallen was the better of the two.

Although these movies fared well on their releases, I hadn’t trekked out to the local theater to see them and didn’t give it a second thought one way or the other at that time.  I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed myself, but I usually reserve my movie-watching trips to see horror, sci-fi, or comic book films.  Even though I consider myself a movie critic, I really don’t have the time nor the duckets to see every single movie that comes out each year.  I pick and choose, maybe seeing one a month (if I’m lucky), and just go from there.
Anyway…Olympus Has Fallen obviously had somewhat of a following and garnered enough interest to have a sequel made, London Has Fallen, which had been released earlier this year to a quieter fanfare.  I’ve got to admit, when I’d first seen the television promos for this flick, I kind of rolled my eyes and thought it was a total cash-grab and didn’t even contemplate the idea of forking down money to see it in the theater.  Heck, I didn’t even think to myself that I’d see it when it was released to DVD.  I’d really believed that the first film was a fluke and that it was just an exciting popcorn movie that you could turn off your brain to watch.


Well…did we get the same thing in the sequel?  Let’s find out.

In London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), leading the security for President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), is suddenly enveloped in an outbreak to assassinate all the attending world leaders.  Fighting to protect President Asher during the citywide attacks, Manning does all he can to get the president out of the city alive.

So, I guess this is where the franchise is going (if it actually goes anywhere from here), having the characters of Mike Banning and President Asher get into fracases in different parts of the world.  I’d particularly enjoyed seeing the assault at the White House during the last flick, so they figured they could up the ante by having a city under siege in another country.  Though the last movie had to have the audience suspend disbelief, this movie really needs to have the viewers turn off their brains.  All through this film, if one was to be within earshot of me, you’d be hearing comments like “Come on!” or “Yeah right!” or just snickering at some of the situations we see our heroes get into throughout this story.

In a few words, and without spoiling the movie for you, the attacks were way too calculated and would had to have been planned years in advance.  The attack featured the enemy infiltrating the police and military, having snipers and watchmen at all corners of the city.  Seeing that the plot had most leaders of the world congregating in this city, you’d think each would’ve brought tons of security, making it impossible for the movie’s event to happen.  But…like I’d said, you have to turn off your brain for 90 minutes and just have fun with what’s presented here.

Now, I know that Gerard Butler had become a big star after his role in 300, but I really can’t see the appeal everyone seems to see within him.  Though I’d liked him in the vengeful story in Law Abiding Citizen, he really doesn’t seem to bring much to any other film I’ve seen him in.  London Has Fallen, especially, seems to have a very toned down Butler, seeming like he’s just phoning in his performance.  I know this is only the second movie in this franchise (Can you really call a movie and its sequel a franchise?), but this formula already seems very tired.  Be that as it may, and don’t get me wrong, there are some exciting scenes within this flick that will cause a little adrenalin rush inside the viewer.

Aaron Eckhart, as well, is just going through the motions, being the protected leader at first, then grabbing a gun to fight alongside his security lead.  Other wasted stars in this movie are Morgan Freeman as the Vice President, Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife watching the turmoil on TV at home, and Angela Bassett as the president’s aide.  All good actors who are just background characters in this film without anything to do besides act scared or sitting around while the chaos is televised to them.

One thing I had noticed about the prologue and subsequent plot is that I can see both sides of the story—meaning, I can side with the antagonists as well as the protagonists.  In the opening, we see that there is a known terrorist at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), and intel has finally tracked him down at a wedding reception.  A drone is sent to drop a bomb to kill him, but of course killing everyone in sight as well.  My first thought during this scene is that it was kind of messed up to kill all those innocent people just to get this guy.  But then I thought that it was his fault in the first place, that he committed acts of terror and put those innocent people in danger in the first place just by his previous actions alone.  And—like I’d mentioned—you have to turn off your brain, because everybody died at that wedding reception…except for the bad guys who want to inflict some payback.  Either way, it’s really a touchy subject and I’m surprised the filmmakers decided to delve that far into it.  Especially seeing the ending…the message is pretty clear that America needs to seek revenge as well, no matter the cost.

Director Babak Najafi looks to have an interesting career so far, but it’s kind of odd that the studio decided to have him helm the sequel to the hit, Olympus Has Fallen.  The history of films he’s directed start off with quite a few foreign titles with London being his first major film, so it seems it was a little risky to hire this guy.  Knowing that Antoine Fuqua was the director of the first movie, I’m wondering why the studio didn’t get him back in the director’s chair for the sequel.  Maybe he was busy in preproduction to his upcoming picture, The Magnificent Seven…?

Well, what’s my final “bit” on London Has Fallen?

In two words: skip it.  I think I’ve said my peace with this film in the words above, obviously the studio thinking this might’ve been a cash cow, but the end result just looks like they made this in a rush.  Hmmm, maybe they thought there was going to be a sequel to White House Down and wanted to beat them to the punch.  But maybe that other movie knew better than to make a sequel to a movie that should’ve just stayed as a one-off.  Though this movie is only slightly disappointing, with only a few scenes to enjoy, I have to state that I don’t recommend it.

That’s it for now…thanks for reading and I’ll be back with another review of an oldie or a newie…

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