I have a fun history with Olympus Has Fallen.
That's the movie that London Has Fallen is a sequel to. The original is one of two 2013 movies about a Secret Service agent protecting the President from a terrorist attack on the White House (the other being White House Down. You're forgiven if don't remember the same movie being released twice three summers ago.)
If you listen to Sitting In The Cinema's podcast or know me personally, you might know Dan and Blake: the former my partner in cinephilia and the latter a journalist who writes some pieces for the site. We live together and see a lot of movies together. Three years ago was the first time we all saw a movie together, and it was Olympus Has Fallen.
Blake, who at that time couldn't have told the difference between Room and The Room, thought it was decent. Dan and I laughed throughout the entire movie because it was one of the worst we'd ever seen.
I sincerely mean that. Olympus Has Fallen was abysmal. Unfortunately, the only thing keeping London Has Fallen from sinking to the depths of its predecessor is a bigger budget.
One of the worst (but most enjoyable) aspects of Olympus Has Fallen was that much of it made absolutely no sense. Everything from the terrorists' motives to what the White House looked like was nonsensical. Both the direction and the script were aimless. Minutes into London Has Fallen, it's clear that this sequel won't fare much better.
The President (Aaron Eckhart, sticking with the franchise for some reason) jogs alongside Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler... well, yeah). When Mike pulls ahead, the President slows down next to the Secret Service van trailing them. "Just run him over for me, will ya?", he jokes.
"Believe me sir, we've tried."
Honoring its predecessor in the most embarrassing of ways, London Is Fallen banks on the viewer not catching on that nothing adds up to a sensible story. In Olympus Has Fallen, the villain's entire explanation for betraying the President was shouting "globalization and f**king Wall Street!" Here, the following expositional events lead to the action:
-The British Prime Minister dies of mysterious circumstances.
-It's so puzzling that British news announces how strange his untimely death was.
-So, naturally, the British government invites almost EVERY. MAJOR. WORLD. LEADER. to his funeral...
-...which is held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. I've been there. It's tiny and very public.
-Numerous world leaders gather at a funeral for a mysteriously dead political leader in a small, completely open place while British news announces its location and generally makes a big deal about it to all possible threats.
-Everyone expects terrorists not to strike the gold mine of opportunity.
This is one of those films in which rationally thinking about what's unfolding ruins the scrapped together façade through and through. Anybody seen The Mummy Returns? Remember when the Brendan Fraser outruns the sunrise? There's a smattering of equally dumb moments throughout London Has Fallen.
Ah, what else... Mike Banning and The President are essentially the same exact character except one brutally murders more people. No characters are developed as people, so it's hard to care whether they live or die. The dialogue is so stilted that I remember most of the lines due to their unintended comedic impression.
Concerning societal offensiveness: the film never reaches the level of Islamophobia as, say, 13 Hours, but it does rely on the "Arabs are easy villains, not people" crutch enough to prompt insult. The ending- without giving anything away- is not only morally uncomfortable, but it betrays its own themes. London Has Fallen at times seems to condemn indiscriminate drone killings, but the last few minutes suggest "nah, to hell with that. Blindly murder away." Disgusting and confusing.
But it's an action movie! What about the action?
Fair point. Here lies the one advantage London Has Fallen has over its prequel: money. The special effects in Olympus Has Fallen were reminiscent of that one iPhone app where you can shoot pixelated rockets at things. The sequel ups the game with locations and effects that at least don't distract. Most set pieces are uninventive in photography direction (think shot reverse shot, but with cars and guns instead of faces) except for the penultimate showdown, which is styled like a single take of shootout frenzy. It's enrapturing, and it's by far the movie's high point.
Though the scene does start with Banning declaring "things are about to get sporty". By that time, you'll be numb to the idiocy anyway.