Moviemaking: Olympus Has Certainly Fallen

Moviemaking: Olympus Has Certainly Fallen – by Royce Brown


Olympus Has Certainly Fallen: A look at contemporary assembly line movie production

by Royce Brown

The Trial: It was an evening perusing the Red Box selection and we gave this one a try (Olympus Has Fallen). I remembered a brief ad campaign and release that didn’t seem to attract much attention, though I was curious if perhaps there was more to it than met the eye, and although I can’t say there was, I certainly can’t complain about being manipulated or deceived. Here we have a movie that delivers everything it promises and nothing less, though nothing more. While the film was exciting and suspenseful, and the acting was what it needed to be, it made no pretense at trying to be original, and almost suggested that it didn’t need to.

The Realization: A major part of this industry is simply helping certain genres maintain a presence in our culture so that we can call on them when we need them. “Keeping the genre wheels turning” as it were. The fight scenes were action-y enough, but not the best we’ve ever seen. The main character’s plight, (a former secret service agent, living with regret at having failed to save the first lady a year before) was enough for a drama, but not the most compelling inner turmoil we’ve ever seen on a character’s shoulders.

The Verdict: Essentially a remake of “Die Hard,” this movie had all the earmarks (and clich├ęs) of your typical terrorist-hostage situation-lone cowboy-hero movie. Right down to the mass of bombs about to go off at the end with the giant stopwatch on the screen in front of the hero as he has to be talked through the disarming process at the keyboard. Spoiler…ish Definitely a movie created in a board meeting.

I came up with a visual metaphor for this production process: The movie sits on a table in the center of a room. The executives all have their backs to the table and are pulling items off the surrounding shelves to add to the pile, “Audiences like this…they respond to this…they applaud this…they buy tickets for this…” But at no point do they turn around and take an actual look at what they are creating. They are trying to stay current, but are forgetting to exercise TASTE.

It is a common expression of criticism that if you are trying to create a new dessert, and all you do is mix a grand assortment of other desserts that people like, the end result will not taste very good.

Hollywood does need a business model for sure. I understand the need for genre films with a little of what people expect, because the difference between art and business is that one demands profits while the other is about trial and error. But how constricted should a filmmaker be when he has the audacity to propose an original concept?

I wonder sometimes if people simply avoid taking more chances because it is not fashionable. When I turn on my TV I see twenty versions of the same show playing on various stations. I can almost feel the beats in the dialogue coming, and within minutes of meeting a character, already know what his/her function is going to be. Not to mention the acting, stiff as cardboard, based on the ability to get close and whisper dramatically, shoot back and forth snappy banter with little or no emotional beats being hit, and give geeky, overly-worded one liners that might be clever and cute, but not poetic or impactful. Interesting how what is trendy becomes the new standard for excellence, and all programs end up being evaluated based on how much they mimic what is currently most popular.

The Question: Is there anyone out there still making original outstanding movies that don’t look like an episode of “CSI” or “Breaking Bad?” Is anyone still trying to figure out what makes this art form tick and how it achieves the effect on the human soul that it does?

Most of us would say that there has to be SOMEbody out there who meets this criteria, and I would concur, but the numbers of those obsessed with it are probably less than we’d like to admit. The main reason: There’s virtually no reason for anyone to be concerned with innovation like that.

Hear me out: Making a movie that is not just a good movie, but a fulfilling experience as a human being is something that does not guarantee wider profits, it doesn’t even necessarily mean you will receive more critical acclaim. The film you’ve killed yourself over in an attempt to communicate something about the relationship between human be-ing and art mak-ing may fall under the radar for any number of reasons, or simply not catch on with the current trend, and is therefore not practical when you could simply tell a story in a way that people are used to seeing and paying money for. Not asking them to let any new insight into their hearts and minds, or take a different type of look at themselves as people, perhaps being afraid of what they might see.

When you look at Paris in the late nineteenth century. Claude Monet, Pierre August Renoir and their associates started painting in a way that would eventually be called “Impressionism” by art historians. What I find most compelling about this movement is that there was no reason for anyone to start painting this way. (And yet there was every reason for someone to paint this way.) Offering a different approach to the problem of art making and human be-ing. Thereby showing us a new aspect of ourselves we would not have discovered otherwise, our culture feels refreshed, and new horizons now await.

It is a value I find myself holding to that people always have a hunger to be refreshed, no matter the medium, genre, or era. When somebody makes a movie like Star Wars, a movie that had no practical reason to be made according to market trends, the result is unbeatable. A new aspect of our humanity, with regards to likes, dislikes, tastes and possibilities of imagination is revealed to us and we no longer are made to feel like livestock being fed movies made on an assembly line. It makes us feel “A New Hope” for future artistic endeavors and lets us know that the well hasn’t yet run dry. This is why the most innovative souls in history have always considered the work to be it’s own reward.



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