“And it doesn’t matter what you give ’em. You’ll give it cause you don’t know any better.”
Sometimes as a writer, something very dangerous happens.
Sometimes, you begin with your compass set in a certain direction, goal in mind and as you trudge along and pick up speed, you create something far more polarizing than your primary subject.
An outstanding find, it’s become clear a better and more apt route has opened up and the primary expedition you have set out on is no longer the best option. A wise writer would abandon his original excursion and follow this new promising venture because if you leave that path behind you untraveled, you may come to regret it. The one you began is of your own making; you can return to it at any time. This new one, there’s no knowing if it will appear again or disappear like Alice in Wonderland.
Angel Has Fallen fell into a saving grace, then stepped out of it and continued along.
To be frank, Angel has a deflating storyboard, one so brazenly out there Willie Mays can’t track it down. To ignore the blessing from above only feels like that much more of an insult. If you’ve watched the first two installments, you know central hub Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) has saved the president from terrorists twice and the U.S. of A from complete nuclear fallout in Olympus Has Fallen.
In their infinite wisdom, the writers for this chapter decide framing Banning for a presidential assassination attempt is a feasible feat. This, of course, is in poor taste.
While betrayals are usually unseen, unpredictable and by those we least expect, Banning’s loyalty at this point is beyond reproach. When you risk your life to save your country to the extremes Banning has, the possibility of treason simply doesn’t exist. Put a camel through the eye of a needle, why don’t you?
A scheme as thin as this seems far too easy to break, DNA evidence be damned. With no clear motive, the believability index is at DEFCON 1 and so from the get-go, audience buy-in is kaput. Investigators and the media are so quick to jump on the wagon, it’s laughable.
Everything that follows loses much of its potential narrative weight because the premise is so ridiculous. Sure, we get to watch Banning lethally bully grown men for another two hours but unlike the previous two installments, which harbor nationalism teetering on xenophobia, this installment doesn’t have the emotional uproar or battle cry in its luggage. Theatrical vindication doesn’t carry the same punch.
Then the writers plop into Lucky’s pot of gold with Nick Nolte’s Clay Banning, a traumatized Vietnam war veteran who abandoned his own family because he was so afraid of himself and what he might do. Already leagues more interesting than anything we’ve seen on screen.
After Nolte delivers the film’s best dialogue, he proceeds to essentially carpet bomb an entire special teams unit in the woods surrounding his cabin like he’s still in ‘nam. The jabbering between Nolte and Butler here reminds of buddy cop camaraderie and the sequence all in all is so unexpected it’s hard not to cackle as men fly through the sky.
Following more Nolte deliverance, he’s forced off set for more “Banning plays the fugitive” nonsense.
When your supporting character reads your best dialogue, demonstrates your best personality and unearths your best scene, you do not take that character out of the movie. At minimum, you take him out entirely so as not to tease your child with chocolate before giving him sauerkraut. If not, keep him in as much as possible. Preferably, you stop what you’re writing, save it in drafts and write a movie about that guy. To bypass all of these options to tease an objectively better premise? Big yikes.
This feels like a softball pitch the crew just watched for strike three. I really just don’t get it. Banning isn’t an engaging character, first off. Wasn’t in the first two entries either. “Secret Service guy kills terrorists” is the whole Has Fallen brand and there truly isn’t much more to it than that. If Banning would have died in any of these, “Aw, shucks” is probably the emotional response.
I feel this is an ongoing problem with the writing of military characters. Instead of focusing on who these people are, we just focus on what they’re capable of, what they can do, like tools we own. Lackluster films almost dehumanize our military members to “shoot gun, take bullet for partner” status and even an action product like this is capable of more.
Once Nolte leaves serve, I’m fully out of the ballpark, headed for the exit. You just benched Mike Trout.
You do not bench Mike Trout.
The final third is fine, benign and straightforward but by that point, the audience pulled the fire alarm for an excuse to leave the room.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Conjuring 2, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Dumb and Dumber, Pokemon Detective Pikachu, The Matrix Reloaded)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, XXX, The Silence, The Fast and the Furious, Brooklyn’s Finest)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Transporter 3, Doom, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Power Rangers)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s: full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and hopelessness. (Bulletproof Monk, High-Rise, Most Likely to Die, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Crow: City of Angels)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it than you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Extendables, The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast)
My score for Angel Has Fallen: 57.
Failed by blueprint design and decision making, Angel Has Fallen is hopefully the last installation in an obnoxiously average franchise (Editor: A fourth edition is in development). My Olympus Has Fallen score has aged very poorly, London Has Fallen was a demonstration of why directors matter (I’ll get to that review eventually) and Angel is the stuttering drunkard trying to form a sentence.