By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 25, 2013 at 11:40AM
Once in a while, a movie comes along that is too entertainingly weird to let pass without comment. When that happens, The Huffington Post's Mike Ryan and I jump on GChat and then post the needlessly detailed, necessarily joke-filled results for your amusement. This time, we're discussing "Olympus Has Fallen" (Current Criticwire average: C) -- a.k.a. "'Die Hard' in the White House" -- starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, and some exceedingly questionable special effects. When terrorists take over the White House and kidnap the President, it's up to Butler's disgraced Secret Service agent to rescue his old boss and restore America's faith in its ability to destroy the countries it disagrees with.
Here's our conversation (and, as always in these sorts of Crosstalks, beware of SPOILERS below).
Matt Singer: So Mike, which movie presents a harsher depiction of North Koreans: "Olympus Has Fallen" or "Team America: World Police?"
Mike Ryan: That's tough. Because "Team America" is openly doing that on purpose, right?
Singer: As a joke.
Ryan: Right. It's interesting that North Korea is the go-to movie villain now.
Ryan: It's a small part of the new G.I. Joe movie, too. I think movies are just so happy to have a bad guy country again.
Singer: They really are.
Ryan: Even countries like Iran or Syria are too complicated to just label them "bad."
Singer: Too complicated, and too potentially lucrative to the international box office. Which is probably even more important. We can't upset anyone who might actually pay to see these movies.
Ryan: Well, sadly, they can't see it. So, yeah, they're the perfect villain. And its leader does really hate us.
Singer: Hey, if someone made a movie where you were accused of trying to destroy the entire world, you'd probably be a little miffed. Wait, what the hell am I doing? Defending North Korea? I love that this movie is so stridently anti-North Korea that it basically made me feel sorry for North Korea.
Ryan: Well, it's a North Korean terrorist organization. So, it's not even a state-sponsored attack, right?
Singer: I think the movie does include a line about how North Korea claims it has nothing to do with the attack. But the North Koreans are so uniformly untrustworthy in the film, I was surprised someone in that War Room didn't yell "We can't truth the North Koreans!"
Ryan: Well, that goes without saying. You saw what they did in "Red Dawn."
Singer: Good point. How often do you think President Obama boxes with his Secret Service agents? As President Asher (Eckhart) does with Agent Mike Banning (Butler) in this film.
Ryan: I would assume Obama boxes with Biden, actually.
Ryan: I mean, pals box. You and I are sparring tomorrow morning, right?
Singer: Correct. But we don't have the fate of the free world to worry about. I'm a little concerned about a concussed President.
Ryan: I was wondering, that does seem dangerous.
Ryan: One misplaced punch... by a guy trained to kill with his bare hands.
Singer: Shouldn't the Secret Service be the guys telling the President to stop boxing? "Sir, your mental faculties are sort of important in your job. Maybe we should do some other, less insanely dangerous physical activity? Like skydiving or snowmobiling."
Ryan: Right. The headgear prevents cuts, not concussions.
Singer: On a related topic, isn't it kind of B.S. that the President, despite his boxing training, doesn't get to punch out any North Korean terrorists, possibly while shouting "Get off my plane and/or White House!"
Ryan: See, I was thinking the same thing. When Mike is being strangled, here comes President Boxer to save the day!
Singer: Yes! What good are all those boxing lessons?
Ryan: To show they are close friends. Because friends box. Like us. But, no. President Boxer just laid there and bled.
Singer: Well, this raises an interesting issue. "Olympus Has Fallen" is shamelessly, almost crazily patriotic. There are Frank Capra World War II movies that are more subtle about their pro-American stance than "Olympus Has Fallen." On the other hand, doesn't the movie make the President look kinda like a wuss? He never successfully uses his boxing powers. And he's constantly giving in to the terrorists' demands!
Terrorist: "Give me the code!"
President: "No! America doesn't negotiate with terrorists!"
<TERRORIST PUNCHES MELISSA LEO IN THE FACE>
President: "Okay, fine, here is the code that will kill the whole world!"
Ryan: Well ... "They'll never get his code." Which, they did. By guessing? He didn't give it to them. But they figured it out.
Singer: "In hindsight, I should not have made my password to the nuclear launch codes POTUS123. Next time, I'll definitely mix up the upper and lower cases."
Ryan: Perhaps his password was the name of a boxer. That's how they figured it out, because he loved boxing. "Gerry Cooney."
Singer: How much better would the movie have been if Gerard Butler's character had been named John Olympus?
Ryan: I like Jack Olympus.
Singer: "Olympus has fallen! I repeat Olympus has fallen!" and then they cut to Butler tripping over his shoelaces. I think that would have helped. Also, maybe I'm crazy, but I thought this movie looked insanely cheap. Did you feel like it was done on the cheap?
Ryan: I would assume. Yes. But I'm reading the budget was $70 million.
Singer: Wow. $70 million does not buy you much these days. But I guess if you have to recreate the entire White House in Louisiana where they shot this thing, that's not cheap to do.
Ryan: I mean, look, I'm flabbergasted that I feel this way, but I kinda liked it.
Singer: Make your case for "Olympus Has Fallen," Mike Ryan.
Ryan: If this were "Die Hard 5," we'd all be thrilled. There's my case. "A Good Day To Die Hard" proved how bad these type of movies can be.
Singer: True. And "Olympus Has Fallen" confirmed it.
Ryan: Oh, puh-leeze. I appreciate the fact that it took a "less is more" approach.
Singer: I agree that this concept could make a good "Die Hard 5." I just think this execution of this faux-"Die Hard 5" is only barely more satisfactory as "Die Hard 5" than the actual "Die Hard 5." Mike, I will give you three crisp $1 bills if you can explain to me what happens when Gerard Butler goes on the roof of the White House to disarm that super high-tech gun. How does he wind up back inside the White House? What happened?
Ryan: He fell through the floor, right? The helicopter was crashing on him.
Singer: He's hanging off somewhere...
Ryan: He let go of what he was hanging on to, then crashed two stories below.
Singer: Then he crashes through a roof? But if he's hanging off the edge of the roof shouldn't he fall to, like, the ground?
Ryan: He's hanging on to a hatch at the top. Not off the side. I think an attic of some sort.
Singer: He's on the roof!
Ryan: It's not the roof! He falls through an open hatch.
Singer: There's that gun on the roof, the Hydra Death Ray, that he's up there to destroy. The roof!
Ryan: No! He breaks through the floor below that, which looked like attic plywood, or something.
Singer: The White House's attic. Where they keep, like, Grover Cleveland's Playboys?
Ryan: Yes. And Nixon's Hustlers. And the tree.
Singer: Observation: both the actual "Die Hard 5" and this fake, aspirational "Die Hard 5" both include scenes where the heroes jump off roofs to avoid crashing helicopters.
Ryan: I don't believe anyone jumped off a roof in "Olympus is Fallen." At least not off to the side, like in "Die Hard 5."
Singer: The helicopter's rotor comes towards him and he falls. There's like a shot following Gerard Butler as he falls through some kind of ceiling!
Ryan: The attic.
Singer: But attics are on the tops of buildings! All right, clearly we're not going to settle this, so let's table the roof/attic conversation before we get too sidetracked. I have to say, I feel like it's kind of hypocritical that this insanely pro-American movie's hero is played by a dude from Scotland. We're trying to prove America's supremacy here! Shouldn't we use some homegrown talent?
Ryan: "Olympus Has Fallen" should star Don America?
Singer: Well, c'mon. It's a movie about the badassness of America. And how America can triumph over anything. And the guy who plays the hero who proves America can triumph over anything is not even American. That's false advertising. It's like if you made a commercial for a Dyson vacuum, and you showed how great Dyson vacuums were, and then we found out it was actually a Dirt Devil that Dyson had disguised with their logo you'd be pissed off!
Ryan: How big is the American Flag pin on your lapel right now?
Singer: You are not offended at all by Gerard Butler's Americaface performance?
Ryan: Matt, America is a melting pot. If a Scotsman wants to save America, a Scotsman should save America.
Singer: I think Americans need to get upset about this. This is why Olympus has fallen, Mike. Because our standards have fallen.
Ryan: Which is what the movie is trying to say.
Singer: Ah I see. So when Captain Jack Olympus falls in the attic that's all a metaphor? Is that what you're saying?
Ryan: He's not falling in an attic. He's falling through our patriotism. And it didn't hold him, did it?
Singer: Okay, I take it back. This movie is a masterpiece.
Ryan: And it's nice to see Morgan Freeman as a president again.
Singer: Yeah he's so good. He was my favorite part, playing President(ish) Trumbull.
Ryan: I would love to see a supercut of real life news anchors saying the terrible things that happen in these movies. Lawrence O'Donnell: "The White House is literally half gone!"
Singer: The journalists in this movie come off almost as poorly as the President. They jump to conclusions very quickly. When the President "dies" in a helicopter crash that everyone in the audience knows he wasn't aboard, the journalists instantly report that the President is dead. "Well, game over folks! We now join 'Mad Money' already in progress."
Ryan: Now, that scene is my biggest problem with the movie. It makes no sense, right? At least, I was very confused by it.
Singer: It made slightly more sense than the attic scene. But yes, it's awfully confusing.
Ryan: I mean, why didn't someone just stop them?
Singer: Because they were all wearing masks and they didn't know who to shoot? And they didn't want to shoot the President? Please note the question marks in all these sentences. I cannot stress those question marks enough.
Ryan: OK, that's my best guess, too. I think the one assumption this movie makes that I think is wrong is the lengths our government would go through to save the president's life in this situation. The U.S. would never leave the DMZ because the President was being held hostage.
Singer: I think that's right. The movie does not make this a hard decision. It's pretty clear a lot more lives are at stake by saving the President. I feel like Morgan Freeman is far too smart to do what he does as his character.
Ryan: Right. Then again, he's probably preoccupied by the asteroid.
Ryan: "Sure, we'll leave the DMZ. Who cares? We are all dead soon anyway."
Singer: Morgan Freeman never gets to enjoy a nice, relaxing movie presidency.
Ryan: I want to see that movie. Like "The American President," only with Freeman.
Singer: "Saturdays at Camp David" starring Morgan Freeman. Or "Hyde Park on Hudson" with Morgan Freeman and he gets to canoodle with Laura Linney in a field. He certainly deserves some R&R after all the disasters he's saved us from.
Ryan: I agree. I can only hope that in the next movie exactly like this one, "White House Down," the president is named President Jack White House.
Singer: And the Secret Service agent who has to rescue him is named Sgt. Richard Down. And the title actually has a comma.
Ryan: "White House, Down."
Ryan: They are a team.
Singer: Cops on the edge (of the White House attic).
Ryan: And the edge of our nation's soul.
Singer: God, I can't wait.