"Olympus" Unforgivably Forgettable

Olympus Has Fallen -- Dir. Antoine Fuqua (FilmDistrict) -- 0.5 Stars

The worst criticism for a piece of art to receive is to be deemed forgettable. Good art provokes reaction from its audience and can allow us to see and experience the world in new ways. Bad art accomplishes much of the same, if for entirely different reasons. In both good and bad art, the audience engages with the work and is changed, even if only very slightly. Art challenges us.

Forgettable art does none of this. It has no impact on its audience. They see it, or read it, or hear it, and then they walk away as if they had never encountered it at all.

I open with this distinction because, without a doubt, "Olympus Has Fallen" is the most forgettable film in quite some time. It has come and it will go and it will have changed nothing.

You should stop reading now. Much like the film itself, this review is going to continue on, filling space and time and being of absolutely no import. There is nothing to write about a film that does not deserve, in any way, to be remembered.

In "Olympus Has Fallen," the White House (code name: Olympus) is attacked by North Koreans, and it's up to one man to rescue the president: a Secret Service agent played by Gerard Butler, an actor who wants to be both an action star and a romantic-comedian and has ended up as neither. Butler’s character has a slightly strained relationship with the President (Aaron Eckhart) because at the beginning of the film, Butler let the First Lady fall off a bridge. Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House, who becomes acting President during the crisis. All of these characters have names, but I don't remember them. Frankly, there is no reason to.

The North Koreans have an elaborate scheme. They are going to make all of America’s nukes explode at once, turning the country into a horrifying apocalyptic hellscape. There is no tension here, though, since the film's CGI Washington Monument and chintzy imitation White House make it clear that the film’s budget cannot also provide the visual effects for a horrifying nuclear hellscape. There are YouTube videos as convincing as the stuff in "Olympus Has Fallen."

There are actors in the film, but there is no attempt at acting. It is more akin to sleepwalking. Gerard Butler relies on the annoying gimmick of smirking after every line. Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman lazily spend the entire film sitting down, speaking words but saying nothing. Actually, nobody says much of anything, the brief exception being Melissa Leo as a Cabinet member who is dragged down the hallway whilst yelling the Pledge of Allegiance: the seconds-long sequence is just moronic enough to provoke a tiny snicker and earn the film its half-star.

There is absolutely no more drama to be mined from attacking the President or the White House. Roland Emmerich famously obliterated the building in "Independence Day" and by the time he dropped an aircraft carrier on it in "2012," the television series "24" had made it an annual tradition to imperil the Commander in Chief. The video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has already let players virtually shoot their way through the Oval Office. That's in addition to similar assaults on the highest office in the nation in "Mars Attacks!," "X2," "Superman 2," and "Air Force One." Nicolas Cage kidnapped the president in the sequel to "National Treasure." Slated for release in June of this year, "White House Down" will swap out Gerard Butler for the much more preferable Channing Tatum. That film's director? Also Roland Emmerich.