That's right, movie fans, it's time once again to play everyone's favorite game ... “What if Two Production Companies Decided to Make the Same Movie?”
Without further ado, let's introduce the year's first entry: “Olympus Has Fallen.”
The IMDb (Internet Movie Database, for those of you just joining us) synopsis of “Olympus” reads as follows: “Disgraced former presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the president from his kidnappers.”
Sounds like “Die Hard” in the White House.
“Olympus” stars Gerard Butler as Banning. If you've seen the previews, you might have some idea why he's disgraced. If not, I won't spoil it for you. Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight”) plays the president, and Morgan Freeman plays the speaker of the House of Representatives. The generally wonderful Angela Bassett is the Secret Service director. As such, she gets to utter the line (in regard to Butler's character) “He's ex-Special Forces!” My, I can feel the chills already!
The only other things I know for sure about this film is that Antoine Fuqua (”Training Day”) is the director, it features large aircraft armed with heavy weapons and that something really bad apparently happens to the Washington Monument.
Oh, yeah, and it's rated “R.” Good enough for me!
But if you happen to miss this film, or if you see it and don't care for it, don't worry! In just a few short months, you can check out this year's second entry in the game, “White House Down."
Here's its IMDb description: “A Secret Service agent is tasked with saving the life of the U.S. president after the White House is overtaken by a paramilitary group.”
This film is scheduled for a June 28 release and features Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”) as Secret Service Agent John Cale, Jamie Foxx, (“Django Unchained”) as the president and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Dark Knight”) and James Woods as additional Secret Service agents. Roland Emmerich directed this one. He, of course, blew up the White House when he directed “Independence Day.”
Which of these two very similar-sounding films will triumph at the box office? Who knows?
My money would be on “White House Down.” Channing Tatum is riding a wave of box-office success right now, as is Jamie Foxx. Emmerich directed one of my all-time favorite films, “Independence Day,” as well as “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.” Unfortunately, he also directed “10,000 B.C.”
“Olympus” star Gerard Butler, on the other hand, hasn't exactly been setting box-offices on fire lately, and I didn't care much for Fuqua's “Training Day.” But “Olympus” does have Morgan Freeman, and, more importantly, it will be first out of the gate. If the strong cast delivers and if audiences like it, then “White House Down” may well end up being perceived as little more than a copycat film.
This dueling-movie situation, like everything that comes out of Hollywood, has happened before, of course. Just last year we had “Mirror, Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” two very different takes on the question of “who's the fairest of them all.” More famous (since no one I know actually saw “Mirror, Mirror,”) were 1998's “Armageddon,” (Bruce Willis and friends try to stop a giant asteroid from destroying the Earth!) and “Deep Impact” (President Morgan Freeman and grizzled astronaut Robert Duvall try to stop a huge comet from destroying the Earth, while Tea Leoni worries about it.)
And in late 1993, there was “Tombstone,” in which Kurt Russell took over for a disagreeable Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp, and with the help of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, made a vastly more entertaining film than Costner's (“I'll just go and make my own Wyatt Earp movie!”) three-hour-long snooze-fest “Wyatt Earp,” which was released early in 1994.
The beauty of it is that filmgoers generally win in these situations. Either both movies are good, (in which case we can enjoy them both) or one is obviously superior to the other, in which case we can really enjoy one and make fun of the other.
And, after all, that can be a pretty good time at the movies, too.