For some reason Hollywood has decided to reenact the War of 1812 in a more modern context. Two movies this year showcase the take over or near total destruction of the White House. The first Olympus has Fallen, arrived earlier this year and the new offering is White House Down (WHD).
I really enjoyed Olympus and based on the trailers I didn’t have high hopes for WHD. I went to see it this past Sunday and boy was I surprised; it was a lot of fun. Slightly too long, but fun. Now, to put this in contact, WHD is directed by Roland Emmerich, the same man who directed Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012. If you’ve seen any of this movies, you know what you’re in for. Over the top explosions, lots of action, a plot that doesn’t quite hold together, and lots of humour. WHD certainly deliverers on those promises. After 2012 Roland said he was done with making movies that completely destroyed the world – 2012 saw him kill off pretty much the entire human race. So, I guess all that’s left is well known symbols and what’s more symbolic of American power than the White House. With the exception of some brief shots aboard Air Force One, all of the action is pretty much focussed on the White House, which considering Roland is used to blowing up entire cities or melting the entire planet, this film must have been a challenge. With that in mind there is at least one too many explosions in such a small space.
I was dubious of being able to accept Jamie Foxx as the President, but he seemed to pull it off quite well. Channing Tatum, who is being lauded has an action hero that can actually act, does a very good job as the Capital Policeman and Secret Service reject who is fighting both for his country and his precocious but highly intelligent daughter.
This is a slight spoiler, but the different between Olympus and WHD is that the threat in Olympus is external whereas the threat in WHD is internal, essentially a palace coup. It shouldn’t take too long to figure out how the real baddy is.
When I first saw the trailer for Olympus I immediately thought it was Air Force One (Harrison Ford) but on the ground. And that’s basically what it is, except the President isn’t the hero in these films in the same was Harrison was.
One thing that WHD does better than Olympus is deal with the issue of succession and the question of when is the President no longer the President. This became a major plot point in Air Force One when the cabinet sought to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Harrison Ford from the office so he couldn’t be forced to make any deals under duress. In the end it proves unnecessary.
This is never really discussed on Olympus, which is too bad. WHD however deals a lot with succession as one might expect when the Capital Building and White House are burning. Securing the president, Vice President and Speaker of the House is vital as the top three offices in the US line of succession. This concept plays an important role in the film and it made the film all the more interesting (though it falls apart a little at the end).
The very end of them movie is somewhat of a groaner and could have been avoided, but Hollywood like sunny endings – I just don’t think they needed to make it as sunny as they did.