In 1988, video game developer Data East released Bad Dudes. In it, two jean wearing combatants, Blade & Striker, purge sewers, city streets, and forests bare fisted to rescue America’s Commander in Chief from a rogue band of ninjas. Bad Dudes is therefore more credible than Olympus Has Fallen.
Technically and strategically inept, Olympus hosts Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), gruffly dispatching ubiquitous Korean adversaries as they lock down President Bejnamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) in an underground nuclear shelter. Olympus mounts a trifecta of unwieldy American fears, from homeland security punctures, nuclear devastation, and landmark destruction. Mercifully, America’s immigration allowed a brutish Scotsman to save us from international conflict.
Flags burn and visual effects sag as Butler punishes those responsible for ransacking the White House’s north lawn. Supposedly impenetrable homeland security stands motionless as notably fearsome antagonists with intimidating face masks fire guns into stupidly easy targets. Gratuitous violence may as well contain red, white, and blue stripes with every thrown punch or trails from fired bullets; ridiculousness warnings would not be raised anymore than they already have.
Morgan Freeman stands stoutly as an imposing acting President, barking orders into Banning’s satellite phone headset and appeasing foreign ambassadors as they grow weary of America’s inability to act. No one will blame them. Banning is forced to become a one man freakshow, unleashing a solo blitzkrieg and staining an inordinate amount of carpeting with spilled blood. Steam cleaning bills alone are certain to raise taxes.
America, even post 9-11, often carries a veil of militaristic invulnerability. Our eye-rolling entertainment does not help with flawed thinking. North Korean defectors (of all things) squeeze a humungous gunship into White House airspace – conveniently timed to buckle in character development – unleashing a torrent of ammunition, akin to a severe thunderstorm’s rain output. Population is herded into hospital safe havens as Olympus, along with its depicted attackers, bolt themselves into comfortable positions.
Computer hackers stare blankly into screens, plundering cyberspace for pathetically insecure defensive launch codes. Pressure builds to be released by Banning’s neck cracking or headshot delivery, allowing audiences to overdose on said violence before being forced into what Olympus perceives as legitimacy.
Room exists for “what if” scenario depiction, no matter how ludicrous the proposed set-up may be. Once instituted, there is a demand for authentic perspective, and Banning’s gun show is burdened with menial realism compensation. Banning is Die Hard’s smirking John McClane, sans smirking. Played on straight pathways, Olympus is tipping into self-parody. Having an open mouthed Butler charge the camera in slow motion, wearing an American flag while reciting the National Anthem would have, at least, added some color.
Olympus Has Fallen meets its match visually with a grimey, processed film stock which struggles to replicate a filmic base. Battling digital tinkering, including sharpening, Olympus carries a damning digital haze, pulling harshly on a semi-low bitrate AVC encode, odd for a disc brought to life by Sony.
Fidelity is inherent, if injected into close-ups with fickle stability. A dash of precision Morgan Freeman profile is soured with dour medium photography taking an additional hit from crumbling compression. Grit pours over single shots and disappears for the next, creating a jumpy scenario where video quality is incapable of settling down into routine. Special effect blunders (and there are many) only bloat complications.
Further upheaval is brushed on with dire black levels, so washed with pale grays as to wholly eliminate any sensible depth. Like much associated with Olympus’ 2.35:1 frame, they begin with hearty application, and produce deepened shadow detail into clear, true levels of black. How they depreciate into a frumpy third act appearance is baffling to watch.
Olympus has enough merit to run through casual viewing. Most will bypass spikes in grain, questionable encoding routines, and wonder only why images fades severely during a dramatic rush to narrative conclusion. Color timing is gingerly coated onto flesh tones with bursts of orange and otherwise absent. Those partaking in more visually observant viewing will certainly be taken aback by by a film which seems shot on early generation digital equipment. On a sliding scale of new releases, Olympus trails near the bottom.
Rousing audio mastering salvages an anemic presentation from the depths, rocketing to life (literally, in this case) with RPGs and stupendous gunfire movement. With immediacy, before invasion singes into credibility, weather conditions send a car teetering onto the edge of a bridge, groaning metal creating tense interior shots. Light winds complete this slightly exaggerated surround highlight.
Afforded blazing guns (aerial, outside the White House, or inside), Sony’s DTS-HD mix works overtime to brighten this spacious mix. Directionality is sublime, and absurd or not, audio brings civilian perspective to bombardment from above. Swirling helicopters pass through a mightily broad soundstage during a nighttime raid, intermixed with gunfire and missile launches. It is absolute perfectionism.
Combine mixing generosity with tremendous LFE and Olympus has merit amongst summer movie going elite. Damaged and crumbling, the Washington Monument collapses in levels, each outstanding thud a reason to celebrate. Explosions sound calamitous, and crashing vehicles are awe-inspiring.
A blooper reel seems all too appropriate attached to this farce, and unfortunately only lasts two minutes. Epic Ensemble begins a barrage of featurettes of limited ambition outside of promotional use, this seven minute dud tied into casting. Under Surveillance is padded with film footage for a sluggish making-of presentation. Deconstruction of a key special effects sequence is a glimmer of legitimate information, and Ground Combat details training regimes. Creating the Action showcases blending between special effects and sequence design. Trailers top Sony’s disc.