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Olympus Has Fallen is a disgraceful exercise in desensitization.

Intransigence Day

They're falling at Olympus
They’re falling at Olympus

In Olympus Has Fallen the White House is taken over by a group of North Korean terrorists hell-bent on creating a united Korea. Watching the siege unfold, it becomes apparent there was a colossal breakdown in intelligence within the U.S. government. Hmmm. That also describes this movie. It’s a colossal breakdown in intelligence.

Not since General Zod stormed the White House have things looked so grim for the United States of America. Well, wait a minute. There was that time when space aliens laid waste to D.C. Hmmm. Actually, that’s happened a few times now, come to think of it.

Anyway, sometimes it sucks to be POTUS.

The movie begins with what is clearly intended to be a character-establishing, sympathy-generating tragedy within the First Family. Like most everything else in this movie, it’s rather implausible. And, like most everything in this movie, it doesn’t achieve its goal.

In the questionable hands of director Antoine Fuqua (King Arthur), things quickly devolve into an exercise in violence; blood splatters all over the place as numerous people are shot in the head point blank while the terrorists run ram-shod over the Mall and the White House.

Zero Dark Murky

In the wake of the recent even-keeled and thoughtful movies Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, there’s something incredibly dispiriting about Olympus Has Fallen. Its politics are for the purely ignorant; it’s uninformed popcorn entertainment in the guise of topical action flick, all-out violence under the shield of faux war time grit. While good ol’ John McClane did nothing to help cool off the current tensions with Moscow in A Good Day to Die Hard, it seems McClane would be a downright peacenik in comparison to Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning.

Banning’s got baggage. He was at the scene during the opening tragedy. Relieved from his Secret Service POTUS duties and relegated to a desk job in the Treasury Dept., he’s got an itchy trigger finger and an attitude perfectly inappropriate for a higher calling. Butler might as well trade in the suit and earpiece for the helmet and sandals he wore in 300 when it comes time for him to save the day. Yippee-ki-yay, pilgrim.

Lincoln figures heavily into the action, at one point quite literally. His portrait, along with other greats like Kennedy, is spotted adorning the White House walls. In another scene, a Lincoln bust is used to crack open the skull of one of the bad guys. That’s emancipation right there, baby.

The devastation of the D.C. Mall, including the scalping of the Washington Memorial, plays out with all the realism and plausibility of a Godzilla movie. Koreans manage to hijack U.S. Air Force aircraft and double agents infiltrate the North Korean delegation, assassinating the premier and taking the president hostage.

As could be expected in a movie like this, the U.S. flag is thrown off the White House roof, fluttering down to the ground in digital glory and hoping to create a sense of epic pathos. Again, the movie doesn’t achieve its goal.

Air Force None

Some movies are amazing and awe-inspiring because of the mastery of filmmaking that is put on display. Spielberg does it frequently, in particular with movies like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Other movies are amazing and awe-inspiring for an altogether different set of reasons; they are a head-scratching wonder as sensibility is confounded by the notion that such top-shelf talent as Butler, Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises), Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Angela Bassett (Nothing But the Truth), Ashley Judd (A Time to Kill), Rick Yune (Die Another Day) and Dylan McDermott (In the Line of Fire) actually found some reason to participate in such monumental tripe.

Amid the star power, sloppiness abounds. Particularly grating are the TV news banners during all the wall-to-wall news coverage that would reasonably be expected during such a scenario. Pay close attention and spot the channel that repeatedly spells White House as “Whitehouse.” And that channel also pumps out the headline “Terrorist Attack the Whitehouse.”

Yeah. Most journalists these days don’t know how to spell. Some can’t even put a sentence together without a good editor to add in a minimal level of coherence. Lord knows the old-school notion of objectivity was thrown out the window with the ubiquity of Internet access.

But that’s not to say Olympus Has Fallen is sharp enough to pawn off those irritating mistakes as “attention to detail.”

The movie is stupid junk.