It’s always surprising when a truly awful film performs well at the box-office, but that’s exactly what happened with 2017’s London Has Fallen. Despite overwhelmingly poor reviews, the sequel to 2013’s marginally better Olympus Has Fallen made over four times its production budget in ticket sales.
Naturally, a sequel in the now originally named ‘Fallen’ film series was greenlit soon after with the majority of the cast returning for the third instalment. But is the finished product, Angel Has Fallen as bad as its predecessor? Or is this the turning point?
Authorities take Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) into custody for the failed assassination attempt of U.S. President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). After escaping from his captors, Banning must evade the FBI and his own agency to find the real threat to the president. Desperate to uncover the truth, he soon turns to unlikely allies to help clear his name and save the country from imminent danger.
First thing’s first. This is better than London Has Fallen in every conceivable area. Where that film was packed full of grainy stock footage, poor CGI and laughable dialogue, Angel Has Fallen at least attempts to create a reasonably coherent film, even if the end result is completely forgettable.
The script for one attempts to focus on the mental and physical strain Gerard Butler’s job has taken on both aspects of his health. We join the film with Butler working his way through an assault course of sorts, so far so Gerard. However, as the film progresses the audience realises that Agent Banning is suffering from a lot of demons, impacting his clarity and causing him to lose focus.
To be fair, Butler does his best with the material he’s given, but three films in, even he is starting to look a little bored. The rest of the cast don’t fare any better. Morgan Freeman dons his tried and tested President persona, but the 82-year-old legend struggles with the physical demands of the role – and the all too obvious body doubles are a jarring mismatch with a film that is occasionally nicely choreographed and edited.
Only a film series as mediocre as ‘Fallen’ could make Angel Has Fallen feel like a success
The highlight comes about half way through the film as we are introduced to a dishevelled Nick Nolte playing Clay Banning, Mike’s foul-mouthed father, living off grid in rural Virginia. The casting is a little odd at first but the pair share good on-screen chemistry with each other and are much better than any relationship we saw in the film’s two predecessors. One of the action sequences the two of them have together is absurd but genuinely funny.
While the script has improved somewhat (there’s no unnecessary racism to be had), there are still huge flaws here. A third-act twist is one of the most ridiculously predictable twists in movie history, made all the more insulting by the fact that there are no red herrings in the story whatsoever. Come on guys, at least give us something else to think about! Instead of an “oooo” when the twist is revealed, the collective response from the audience was practically an eye-roll.
Elsewhere, the film’s finale, which feels like it goes on for far too long, is pure cinematic nonsense of the highest degree but does utilise this instalment’s bigger budget reasonably well. There are instances of poor CGI and very very obvious green screen dotted throughout, but nothing as bad as the laughably rubbish explosions and CG helicopters that riddled London Has Fallen.
Overall, only a film series as mediocre as ‘Fallen’ could make Angel Has Fallen feel like a success but the increased focus on the human elements of the lead characters rather than the outright racism featured in the previous films is a welcome change, and while the action scenes are filmed with a little too much shaky cam for my liking, they’re decently watchable if lacking in any real originality.
The problem we have is that this film will undoubtedly be yet another success if the sold-out screening I attended is anything to go by. Inevitably, this will then pave the way for more similarly themed movies. However, these films aren’t created for those of us who love cinema or to show off the craft of film-making, they’re made for people who want to check their phones every now and then or have a chat to the person next to them. And to be frank, that’s a cinematic world I’d rather not be a part of.