Criterion’s April titles include Coppola’s Rumble Fish and Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club https://t.co/1PmfiylRaB
Olympus Has Fallen
Release Date(s)2013 (August 13, 2013)
Studio(s)Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Possible Spoilers Ahead
Olympus Has Fallen is the latest movie from Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Replacement Killers) and stars Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, a former Secret Service agent for the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart). When a terrorist group storms the White House, killing all agents and taking the President hostage, it’s up to Banning to save the President and take back control of the White House. The movie also stars Morgan Freeman, Angela Basset, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Ashley Judd and Dylan McDermott.
The movie, at least from my perspective, is an attempt to recapture the feel of an 80’s action movie, specifically Die Hard, but without as much authenticity. It’s a noble effort, for sure, but there are a few too many things gone awry with the movie to classify it as something that can go alongside something like First Blood or Die Hard comfortably. I’ll start with the less-obvious aspect about the movie first, which is the score. While it’s perfectly-executed, it doesn’t seem to match the movie that we’re watching. It’s bombastic, over-the-top and lacks any kind of personality. And yes, an action movie’s score doesn’t have to be a masterpiece or anything, but it does need to carry along the overall emotions of the movie from scene to scene, highlighting different characters, moments and situations appropriately. This is where it fails to hit its mark.
The next thing, which is the obvious and most talked about aspect of the movie, which is the abundant use of CGI and how obvious it is. Not every effect, mind you, but a most of them. Smoke, fire, blood, gunfire, explosions, and even the movie’s opening disaster in which a car skids on an icy road; almost all of it contains some CGI. The argument that I keep making is that audiences are taken out of the moment by obvious CGI, whether they’re thinking about it or not, and it defeats the purpose if you’re going for a certain style, and in the case of Olympus Has Fallen, I think it was attempting to do that (I had the same problem with Machete). The counter-argument I usually hear is that CGI has become the cheapest and most-effective way to execute movies of this sort, and that those critics who pick on it just have no tolerance for it. Which is true, because I can’t tolerate CGI very much. Call me old-fashioned if you want to. I can let it slide, depending on what the overall goal of the movie at hand seemed to be, but in the context of a movie trying to replicate the style of an 80’s movie, I can’t agree with its use. So in this instance, it just plain wasn’t necessary. Sure, some touch-up work here and there could have been applied, but it doesn’t have to be so obvious. And it doesn’t help that the movie’s contrast makes it stand out even more than it already does. But I digress.
There are some positives to the movie though. For one, they certainly don’t make action movies like this anymore (not even the Die Hard sequels). The movie’s enemy is clearly an outside threat, whose motivation we don’t quite understand, not to mention not being able to relate to him on any level. It’s not politically correct, and it doesn’t have to be, which is great. The only problem with this is that a lot of insiders helped him carry out his plans, so whatever. There’s also some pretty decent and well-filmed action on display. The camera isn’t shaking like crazy, hiding most of it from view, and the actors do seem to take an impact from it. It feels real, that is, until CGI blood starts spurting out. But the movie doesn’t pull any punches. Hell, they even beat up an older lady, and make no apologies for it. This is the kind of stuff that action movies of the past seemed to have plenty of. It was a different time with a different political climate, and movies like these were made every day. Nowadays, you’re lucky when watching a modern action movie if any of the characters get seriously injured or if it’s all filmed in a way where you can actually tell what’s going on. I won’t mention names, but most of you will know what I’m talking about.
The only other negative thing to say about the movie is that it doesn’t have much of a payoff. It’s set up well enough, but it’s over pretty quickly. Other than that, Olympus Has Fallen is a fun movie, or rather a better than average action movie. If they had just chosen to go all the way with the style rather than half way, I would have liked it a little more. It is what it is, and most people will enjoy it. It certainly isn’t its clone movie White House Down, which is a good thing, but the details and the execution of it should have been a little more grounded.
As for the movie’s Blu-ray transfer, it’s very good, but not without a few problems. The movie was shot on film, but sometimes things look a little too smooth and a little too perfect. There’s a light layer of grain throughout, but it never looks consistent. Colors are decent, although skin tones waver between pale and over-saturated at times. Blacks aren’t as deep as they could be, which is a shame because most of the movie takes place in dark environments. I noticed some crush and a bit of noise here and there, but not in abundance. As previously mentioned, the contrast is a bit too high, making the CGI used in the movie stand out more than it should. So it’s not perfect, but very watchable. Whatever the movie lacks visually, it should make up for aurally. The movie’s English 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is as immersive as you could hope for. Everything is very clear, especially the dialogue, and all of the movie’s sound is well-spaced out between speakers. Score (however unnecessary it may be) benefits greatly, and it never intrudes on the dialogue or the sound effects. I didn’t notice a whole lot ambient sounds, but there’s plenty of envelopment, as well as activity as sounds swoop from speaker to speaker. It’s a very well-mixed track with a lot of life to it and should give your home theater system a proper work-out. Also included is an English Audio Descriptive Service track for those with sight problems, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH and Spanish for those with hearing problems.
This Blu-ray’s supplements are pretty sparse and not as informative or as all-encompassing as one would hope, but there’s a decent assortment. There’s a set of bloopers; five brief featurettes: The Epic Ensemble, Under Surveillance: The Making of Olympus Has Fallen, Deconstructing the Black Hawk Sequence, Ground Combat: Fighting the Terrorists and Creating the Action: Special Effects & Design; a set of previews, which also open the disc; and two paper inserts with an Ultraviolet code and a Sony Rewards Program code. The DVD that’s been included features no extras except for the previews, but it does feature an Dolby Digital soundtrack instead of DTS.
Despite the movie’s problems, I would say that Olympus Has Fallen is worth a rental. It’s a dumb, fun action movie with the right kind of entertainment in mind, even if it doesn’t live up to it as much as it should. As for the movie’s Blu-ray release, it’s also worth a rental. The movie’s soundtrack is the best thing about it, hands down, so if you’re expecting a stellar release of a slightly better than mediocre movie, you might want to think twice.
- Tim Salmons