In a skewed way, I would argue that the “Gerard Butler’s Mike Bannon saves America” franchise always belonged at Lionsgate. It’s the kind of schlocky and unapologetically grindhouse action material that has come to define Millennium Films over the last few years. So it is fitting that Angel Has Fallen would be a Lionsgate movie (at least domestically) and that its trailer would be ready to go alongside the opening night of John Wick: Chapter 3.
The first film, Olympus Has Fallen, was a surprise hit for Film District in early 2013, opening with $30 million and legging it to $98 million domestic and $171 million worldwide on a $70 million budget. Yes, Roland Emmerich’s other “Die Hard in the White House” flick from that year, White House Down, made more worldwide ($205 million), but its $150 million price tag rendered it something of an underappreciated disaster for Sony and friends.
If Olympus Has Fallen (which saw rogue North Korean baddies just killing the hell out of Washington DC in a plot to nuke the entire country from within) was a kind of Fox News version of this story, and White House Down (which saw a black president targeted by rich corporatist villains and hawkish politicians who hire racist/bigoted mercenaries to take over the White House) was the MSNBC version of the story, it’s sadly fitting that it was Olympus Has Fallen that spawned a “Die Hard in a…” trilogy. It’s actually the first Die Hard knockoff to turn a trilogy, for what that’s worth.
That said, Antione Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen combined its almost self-satirical yellow peril with gruesome R-rated violence and jaw-dropping carnage. It was very much a guilty pleasure, especially at a time when mainstream R-rated multiplex fare was just starting to make a comeback. Conversely, three years later, ironically opening alongside Zootopia, Focus Features’ London Has Fallen was both more explicitly racist (toward its Middle Eastern baddies) and not nearly as enjoyable of a movie (save for a few strong action beats).
So, now, here we are with Angel Has Fallen, which promises to offer a few kinks into the formula. First, Morgan Freeman’s character is now the President of the United States, meaning Aaron Eckhart is no longer in the picture. Second, the core thrust of the story is not unlike Taken 3, where our protective hero is now framed for an attack against the very folks he was supposed to protect, leaving him little choice but to go on the lamb and concurrently clear his name and save the day. Oh, and he’ll be teaming with his dad (Nick Nolte) to do it.