A short while ago, I finally caught up with Olympus Has Fallen
, an enjoyably reactionary action film in which North Korean baddies commandeer the White House and take the President hostage. In its opening act, the film boasts a takeover scene which is thrilling, well-staged -- and utterly hilarious.
Well, hilarious to me
. Earlier that day, I happened to catch much of Pulgasari
(1985), the only North Korean movie widely seen in the west. It's a feudal-era monster movie in which a giant bipedal lizard-cow thingie helps farmers revolt against an evil overlord. (The story derives from an old Korean legend
.) Honest to Godzilla, this movie reeks
. I doubt that even the Rifftrax crew could sit through the whole thing without reaching for beer, gin or LSD.
Here's the kicker: The North Koreans had no ability to make a production of this sort. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped a South Korean film-maker
named Shin Sang-ok and forced him to make Pulgasari
And that's why I found OHF so amusing. The North Koreans can't even make a dumb rubber-suit monster movie without stealing "talent" from another country. Are we supposed to believe that these people would have the ability to pull off the stunt seen in Olympus Has Fallen
? I know we're not supposed to underestimate an adversary, but...come on
American screenwriters need a credible "villain nation." They haven't had one since the end of the Cold War. (Non-American screenwriters don't have this problem, of course: If they need a villain nation, they look to us.)
Olympus Has Fallen
moves at a good clip and looks terrific -- yet in some respects, it's almost as laughable as Pulgasari
: The bad guy's big scheme makes no sense to anyone who knows the first thing about how ICBMs work. Destroying the rocket does not
set off the nuclear warhead. As noted a few posts down, those Jupiter missiles in Turkey -- the ones quietly removed by JFK after the missile crisis -- could have been taken out by a rifle fired by a well-placed sniper. Although the result would have been a satisfyingly cinematic boom
, the warhead would not have gone off. (Even so, nobody wants to to test the matter by perching a nuke atop an exploding rocket.)
The American turncoat in OHF claims that his motive for aiding the attack on the White House is "globalization." Message to audience: Anyone who doesn't like free trade agreements must be working for the commies
. But wait -- isn't China (at least nominally) communist? And isn't China the great enabler of North Korea? And isn't China the greatest beneficiary of globalization?
Well, one can't expect an American action film to display much common sense. Alas, one can
expect such movies to be the stuff that right-wing dreams are made of.