Ever since “Die Hard” came out in 1988, it’s become an icon of cinema, inspiring tons of knock offs. It’s even inspired the Hollywood pitch adage “It’s ‘Die Hard’ on a _____ (fill in where this version takes place’)”
‘Speed’ was ‘Die Hard on a Bus’. ‘Speed 2’ was ‘Die Hard on a Boat’.
‘Executive Decision’, ‘Passenger 57’, and ‘Air Force One’ were all ‘Die Hard on a Plane’.
And so on.
My girlfriend and I have started a tradition of going to the movies on Friday mornings. It’s fun, and the tickets costs half price! Today, thanks to the fact that “someone on Facebook said it wasn’t that bad”, we saw “Olympus Has Fallen”.
The fundamental elements of “Die Hard” that keep being generally reproduced are these:
- Take a Tough but Relatable Everyman (usually a Cop)
- Place him in a Crazy Situation Where Terrorists are Taking Over Some Structure
- Add Stupid, Arrogant and/or Impotent Authorities like Feds or Cops that Can’t Get the Job Done
- So Our Guy Has to be the Only One Capable Enough To Kill the Terrorists and Save the Day
It’s such a great structure if done right. But too many the many knock offs simply cut and paste these elements and miss out on what made the original “Die Hard” so great.
So let’s talk about “Olympus Has Fallen”, which is being touted as “Die Hard in the White House”.
In it, Gerard Butler plays a tough but relatable Secret Service agent who is relived of his duty early in the movie. Then, a bunch of North Korean terrorists take over the White House and kill pretty much everyone except Gerard Butler, who somehow hears the ruckus from across town and runs inside to start clipping bad guys one by one. Of course, in the zero hour, all of the military figures, police, and Secret Service in the movie are completely incompetent and our hero is the only one who knows what kind of man the terrorist leader is and how to fuck him up.
It definitely tried to reproduce those elements mentioned above. There’s even a scene where Gerard Butler somehow gets into the terrorists communications, therefore allowing him to taunt the terrorist leader through a walkie talkie…
…just like that scene in “Die Hard”.
Unlike the brilliant and enjoyable dialog between the diabolical Hans and John MacClane, the interchange in “Olympus Has Fallen” ends with “Let’s Play a Game of Fuck Off. You Go First.”
I dunno, it doesn’t quite have the charm of “Yipee Kay Ai Ay Mother Fucker.”
And there’s a scene where our hero warns a bunch of military pros not to attack the roof of the White House because the terrorists have some crazy new weapon. So you end up seeing all these tough as nails know it all government guys getting slaughtered in a helicopter…
…just like that scene in “Die Hard”.
Except in “Die Hard”, there’s cinematic justice and humor in the helicopter crash. First off, FBI Agents Jones and Jones (one black and one white, no relation), are unlikeable because they are arrogant and plan on shooting up the roof and losing 40% of the hostages in the process. Their dicks who don’t mind if innocent people die. So when they blow up, it’s kind of funny, especially the line “Looks like you’re gonna need some more FBI guys.”
In this movie, a bunch of seemingly good military guys gets shot to shit in front of our faces. This is after we’ve seen gunfire in the streets of DC and several hostages getting assassinated.
It’s bloody, and it’s nasty, and it doesn’t make it any better of a movie. In fact, what makes “Die Hard” so great is the strategic and low scale nature of the violence. Alan Rickman is so menacing as “Hans” because he is classy and smart, and sinister. A true villain. He only kills one person, Takagi… but the precision he and his cohorts use in their violence makes them a lot more fun to watch.
In fact, the plot is so large in scale, with so many explosions and deaths that it makes “Die Hard” look like an Indie Movie shot on a shoestring budget. Part of the appeal of “Die Hard” is its believably; it unfolds so naturally in one floor of a big building in LA that you suspend your disbelief and root really hard. And MacClane really gets hurt, and he is outnumbered, and completely unprepared for this.
Wheras Butler is kind of like Superman, ex-Special Forces… it’s like watching Liam Nesson in “Taken” except its the President instead of his daughter… kind of.
“Olympus Has Fallen” isn’t without it’s fun moments and nail biting scenes. But it’s too big, loud, bloody, and stupid. And the smaller and smarter movie of the two still reigns supreme.
That’s great news! It means that even with a smaller budget, you can still outshine a major Hollywood movie with smart writing. To learn more about shooting your first feature and starting your directing career without film school, check out our upcoming webinar by going to filmschoolsolution.com.