If there’s one good thing to come out of the London Has Fallen debacle it might be that many will seek out the film that birthed this one. In my original of Olympus Has Fallen I called it “the real deal, a head down, go-for-it action movie that’s entertaining without making you feel stupid”.
How far we’ve fallen with the Fallen franchise.
While Olympus tried to out-hard Die Hard, the trip to England feels more like a straight-to-video action snooze. The film’s a testament to how hard it is to do big action in a smart way, as when one just throws things at the wall just to see what sticks it comes across as pedantic and ridiculous rather than visceral and entertaining.
The ingredients are still there – Butler, Eckhart, Basset, Freeman et al. – yet the brew is nowhere near as tasty. Look, I’m as shocked as the rest of you that Antoine Fuqua managed to make a minor masterpiece with Olympus, and had high hopes for Swedish director Babak Najafi to inject some Scandanavian sensibilities into the mix, perhaps with a more rich characterization of the baddies.
Alack, we’ve got two dimensional arms dealers going up against incompetent British police and armed forces, all with a highly predictable “twist” at the core of the rotten fruit.
In fairness to Najafi, he signed on a mere six weeks before production began, but that doesn’t excuse the half-baked script and risible story line. It’s a desperate attempt to inject some “grit” in the R-rated action genre, yet the dirty words (aka, “fuck”) are peppered about with as much subtlety as the stock aerial footage of London.
Where Olympus felt like a bunch of superstar performers injecting their A-level gravitas into a B-film romp, here it just comes across as a bit sad. Morgan Freeman walks the halls in a maudlin mimicry of a Sorkinian White House, while Eckhart and Butler’s buddy-cop routine just feels strained. Melissa Leo and Robert Forster are wasted.
Yes, things blow up, explosions abound and there are chases aplenty. Yet the film is paradoxically too over-the-top and not grandiose enough. Olympus scaled the height that gives the film its name, London feels mediocre in a way both frustrating and disheartening.
The film was delayed almost a year to avoid echoing real life terror attacks, meaning the filmmakers had all the time they needed to tweak and make it as good as it possibly could be. I’m hoping they didn’t neuter it during that process, it looks like they didn’t have a lot to work with right from the get-go. It’s hardly revelatory to suggest that a half-baked sequel is often greenlit before they have a story to match, but here it feels even more frustrating given the thrilling madness of the original film that entertained while subverting current conventions for action flicks.
Alas, London has Fallen brings us back to Earth with a solid thud. What started out as a big, bombastic, deliciously ridiculous action flick has in its second form become banal and boring. In a clear case of quit-while-you’re-ahead, you can safely skip this iteration and instead dig up the previous film, having fun scaling Olympus while forgetting about that dull trip to the U.K.