In his astonishing sixth time around the block, John McClane (Gerard Butler), action movie garbage man, must save the president (Aaron Eckhart) from a Korean terrorist (Rick Yune) who wants to force America to allow the Korean War to resume.
McClane is retroactively painted as a former secret service member who allowed the first lady (Ashley Judd) to die in an accident and was kicked off the force. Part of his motivation is guilt over this incident, but they don’t really do very much with that storyline so whatever.
In Olympus has Fallen, the Die Hard series returns to a simpler chapter. Instead of saving the entire East Coast, McClane is again only responsible for one building with a hostage situation. But, because that building is the White House and the hostage situation threatens the reignite the Korean War, it seems bigger.
The action stays small, though. Outside of an early sequence in which the terrorist team all-too-easily captures Washington D.C., the action is limited to small arms fire with a handful of explosives. The film keeps a nice mix of fire fights and martial arts, and further, it keeps the fire fights interesting and manages to minimize Asian martial arts stereotypes.
It is unclear why Butler replaced Bruce Willis as McClane. He’s a good candidate, but there wasn’t any reason for Willis to step down. Shooting for Olympus has Fallen overlapped with its predecessor, A Good Day to Die Hard, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have delayed production and allowed Willis to maintain his role. Butler does a good enough job, but couldn’t he shave his head or something? For continuity, I mean?
The biggest problem with Olympus has Fallen is the context it places itself in. Die Hard has a sterling history going back to the 1988 classic of being able to convert action scripts into profitable-if-cheesy movies that have Bruce Willis’ name attached. If your story idea has a lot of explosions but isn’t getting traction, call the folks at Die Hard! They’ll squeeze it out!
But now, with Die Hard: Olympus has Fallen (and A Good Day to Die Hard), producers seem to be using Die Hard as a go-to option. Unlike the previous movies in the series, both are original scripts that were always intended to be Die Hard movies.
Why? Who would take a perfectly good recycling factory and jam new material into it? They’re doing it so fast now that, as mentioned earlier, the production schedules overlapped.
If Die Hard continues down this road of using scripts written from scratch, it’s bad news for crummy screenwriters everywhere.
On its own, Die Hard: Olympus has Fallen is an OK movie, but there are just too many Die Hards now. The day of the completely disposable action movie is long gone.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. He is unbelievably tired of hearing about how good those boys were at football. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back next week for a reviews of The Host and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.