‘London Has Fallen’ doesn’t fall down completely

By Corey Stein

(Jack English/Focus Features/TNS)
(Jack English/Focus Features/TNS)

One would hope that a sequel brings another successful yet different storyline while still developing its likeable characters and moving the plot forward. “London Has Fallen,” the follow-up to 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” unfortunately has many misfires and is another routine action flick lacking substance and originality. If you are an adrenaline junkie and don’t look too much into the realism of a film, this film is for you.

Clearly, director Babak Najafi chose London as the film’s location because it makes for a beautiful backdrop to blow stuff up in. As with many sequels, “London Has Fallen” chooses to up the ante, and there lies the movie’s main issue. There’s a “been there, done that” feeling to every large set piece onscreen. I have seen this kind of large-scale destruction in countless other action movies and it simply isn’t effective here.

It’s hard to care about the destruction when everyone knows it’s coming. As London crumbled to the ground, I expected it to look impressive, but the CGI is abysmal. Explosions look like something out of a second-rate video game, not a movie with a $60 million budget. I cringed at how bad the explosions looked rather than at how many innocent people were killed.

There are car chases, plenty of corridor shootouts and at one point the action takes to the air in a helicopter. Most of these held my interest and were satisfying. However, the movie’s final act takes place at night and was hard to follow due to unfortunately poor lighting.

One sequence in particular appeared to be filmed in one long continuous take, with Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning as the central focus. The sequence was fast-paced and smooth but disappointing. The action felt too scripted to be enjoyable and Najafi did a poor job of disguising the cuts. Whenever smoke billowed in front of the screen it was obvious the cut was made there to start a new take. I applaud the director for attempting the idea but it could have been better executed.

“London Has Fallen” has no continuity with “Olympus Has Fallen” other than the returning cast members. I understand that there is a new director and he had his own vision but it would have been nice to see Najafi bring up the events that happened in the film’s predecessor – there’s no discussion of President Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) dead wife, the White House is miraculously rebuilt and everything seems great. If the director chose to incorporate these aspects into the movie, there would have been stronger character development and depth, which would have added substance to the bland script.

I loved each character in the first movie, so to see the same team back again is a plus. President Asher is in London along with other world leaders to attend the prime minister’s funeral, where a terrorist named Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) sets a plan in motion to kill them all. Banning shoots, stabs and punches his way to keep the president safe. Morgan Freeman is back to play Vice President Trumbull and the underused Angela Bassett plays secret service director Lynne Jacobs.

The film’s plot is linear, offering no twists while being extremely predictable. Throughout the movie, I never once developed empathy for these characters or concern for their wellbeing.

The main draw in the movie, along with the action, is to watch Gerard Butler kick butt. He manages to never get hit himself while landing shots left and right, making him a seemingly unstoppable killing machine, and consequently not believable. However, while the lack of believability detracts from the movie, the enjoyable rapport between Banning and Asher is great. They occasionally will throw out one-liners and for the most part their jokes land.

“London Has Fallen” does just enough to stay upright. With a narrative devoid of surprises, the movie only satisfied on a superficial level. Too many scenes just feel like rote rehashing from other movies. It’s disappointing that Najafi doesn’t take more risks to create a storyline that is engaging and fresh.

That said, the movie’s likeable characters and mindless action save it from completely falling apart like the fictional London it presents.

Corey Stein can be reached at [email protected]