(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series that pits two oddly similar movies that came out at the same time against one another. This time, two films portraying terrorist attacks on the most renowned mansion in America are political!
The United States is going through a difficult moment, and depending on your level of political awareness, you either perceive that the nation is slowly perishing at the hands of those in authority who are ignorant and greedy, or you don’t. Regardless of how you look at it, it’s not a good image, and as is frequently the case, many of us seek to the movies for a more straightforward and condensed interpretation of the problems in the real world—in this case, the evil forces invading America.
In light of this, we’re reviewing two films from 2013 that had extremely similar plots and had their theatrical releases just three months apart. In the movies Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, terrorist forces invade and seize control of the White House itself, changing cinema forever.
In Olympus Has Fallen, terrorists attack and penetrate the White House, and the only person who can stop them is a discredited Secret Service agent. In the movie White House Down, terrorists invade and attack the White House, and the only person who can stop them is a would-be Secret Service agent.
Advantage: Given that both films’ plots are essentially identical, there is no clear winner.
In his career as a director, Antoine Fuqua has had highs (Training Day) and lows (Bait), but Olympus Has Fallen shows a definite appreciation for action, energy, and character that is also present in other films from his discography. The screenplays can often be lacking, but Fuqua has a talent for creating and directing action set pieces in films like The Equalizer and The Magnificent Seven. However, this particular script’s premise and lines are absurd. The writing team of Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikta, who later gave the world The Expendables 3 and London Has Fallen, makes its feature film debut with this film. However, the script finds humour in and around the action rhythms, no matter how absurd it becomes.
White House Down has a few significantly more well-known people working on it, including writer James Vanderbilt and director Roland Emmeric. Being the director of blockbusters like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, Emmerich is obviously no stranger to high-action spectacles. Emmerich portrays some of his best character work since The Patriot in this escapade, which is undoubtedly a little more grounded but still equally silly. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, brings some serious baggage to the project as the author of Zodiac, but he is also credited with co-writing The Rundown, which demonstrated a penchant for fusing silly humour with action scenes. Here, both sets of abilities come in quite handy.
Advantage: Although both Fuqua and Emmerich had prior successes to their names, the latter was the safer bet due to his disaster epics. When the rival authors are taken into account, White House Down wins the category.
While the character’s name is a touch on the nose, Gerard Butler assumes the lead role as Agent Stabby McHeadshot in the movie Olympia. He gives the part a sloppy but commanding seriousness. In addition to Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Radha Mitchell, and Ashley Judd, he is joined by Aaron Eckhart as the President. The majority of them only respond to the action as talking heads, although a few of them occasionally take swings.
The protagonist of White House Down resembles John McClane more than Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, and Channing Tatum is a perfect match for the action-packed role and unlimited sense of humour.
As the President, Jamie Foxx garners more chuckles, and the two spend a significant portion of the movie hanging out and joking around while under fire. Like in Olympus, a talented cast of supporting actors includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Michael Murphy, Jimmi Simpson, and James Woods, who also stars.
Benefit: Check out these castings. Undoubtedly another tie!
Fuqua’s movie has a terrible Rotten Tomatoes score of 48%, with reviews criticising it for its brutality, simplicity, and poor effects. That final one is beyond debate, but the first two shouldn’t be viewed as a given. According to eFilmCritic, there is “a lot of video of Gerard Butler sneaking down shadowy corridors and taking out terrorists,” but how is that a bad thing? With a still-poor 51%, Emmerich’s action flick just barely edges it out. Most of its critics point out the humour as a problem as well as, once more, some terrible effects work. According to ReelViews, “It follows the Emmerich template: a spectacle-tinged, compelling setup; a stupid, unsatisfying middle; and a cheese-topped denouement that veers so close to self-parody that one is tempted to call it funny.” While there’s no denying the cheese, I’ll go beyond simple temptation and actually call it funny.
The Washington DC Area Film Critics Association nominated both of these movies for “Best Portrayal of Washington, D.C.” even though they aren’t really awards season contenders. The Butler by Lee Daniels defeated them both.
Budget and Box Office
Advantage: This one is a tie because neither movie received positive reviews from most critics.
The cost of producing Olympus was “just” $70 million before marketing. It went on to gross $161 million worldwide, which, while not a huge profit, was enough to support two more movies: the 2016 release London Has Fallen and the upcoming Angel Has Fallen. That’s accurate. A new instalment of the Stabby McHeadshot story is coming. White House Down cost more than double Olympus’ budget, coming in at $150 million before marketing, while making about $205 million more globally. That forced it into the negative.
Advantage:Olympus Has Fallen generated some revenue, albeit a modest amount.
Both films are equally wonderful to me for various reasons.