Any experienced filmmaker will tell you that movies share similarities… However some come uncomfortably close. Such is the case with Olympus Has Fallen.
Successful films adhere to proven story telling conventions that have been used for centuries. Did you know that 99.9% of films begin with a hero who has their world turned upside down in the first 15 minutes? Did you know that primary “B story” characters are typically introduced in most films about 20-30 minutes in? It’s true…consider the story structure of Jurassic Park, Legally Blonde and Star Wars. Different stories, but similar structures.
Story telling conventions are like theory in music. You must master the rules before bending them.
When my wife and I watched Olympus Has Fallen, we both noticed the Die Hard similarities.
When my wife and I watched Olympus Has Fallen recently (we didn’t see it in the theater), we both noticed the Die Hard similarities. Just because many stories are the same, it’s not always immediately apparent. Let’s look at some basic points in each film:
We see officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) board a plane and fly to Los Angeles. We soon learn that he’s gone to visit his wife, but that their relationship is on the rocks. John arrives at Nakatomi Plaza only to see she’s changed her last name in the directory. There’s a rift in a relationship, and our hero wants to fix the rift. If the character has been designed correctly, we want them to as well.
This film opens with secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) failing to save the President’s (Aaron Eckhart) wife. Now Banning is ostracized from the high level unit he loves, and there is a huge rift between him and…the President. Even though it isn’t his wife, the career is his life, and now he’s lost it. Our hero wants to fix this problem and Olympus Has Fallen tries really hard with some on-the-noise tricks to get us to want that too.
Next in both films, our hero hears gun shots as terrorists take over both the White House or Nakatomi Plaza. And of course our hero is left alone in the building with the bad guys. Each hero is equipped with a radio to communicate with the good guys outside. The bad guys set out to hunt our hero, while also mercilessly killing some high level hostages in search of information.
Then the good guys make obvious mistakes. Granted, Olympus Has Fallen does this a tad more gracefully, but it’s primarily due to the difference in humor back in the 80’s when Die Hard was shot. Both films involve attempts by the good guys outside to break in and/or attack. These of course fail completely.
In both films one of the bad guys meets our hero and acts like a good guy. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) meets John McClain and acts like a hostage. Forbes (Dylan McDermott) meets Mike Banning and acts like he’s on his side. The audience has that same “No! Don’t trust him!” response.
Next, the “dumb” good guys on the outside both try and rescue hostages with helicopters. Albeit in Olympus Has Fallen it was requested by the terrorists, but it’s still the same event. In both films the helicopter of course goes down in flames.
In the final moments of Act 3 it’s the protagonist and the antagonist duking it out. Once our hero is victorious, he obtains his rightful place as husband or protector of the President.
There are probably many more points that could be reviewed, but I’m going from memory. Is this slamming Olympus Has Fallen or Die Hard? No way…enjoyed them both. But even with the years apart, story similarities were very close. I can’t blame anyone for copying Die Hard (if they did). Die Hard is a great film that was successful in just about every way.