There were two identical “Die Hard in the White House” thrillers in cinemas this year. In both of them, terrorists took over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, only for the President and his muscle-bound sidekick to send them packing.
And if that weren’t evidence enough that Hollywood isn’t exactly overburdened with original ideas, it was announced last week that one of those films, Olympus Has Fallen, is being given a sequel entitled London Has Fallen. Yes, the Pres (Aaron Eckhart) and his trusty security chief (Gerard Butler) will be visiting our nation’s capital at the very same moment as another band of terrorists, and it’ll be up to the Yanks to kick some ass.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, but when I read the announcement, I found myself shuddering at the thought of all the exploding buildings and screaming tourists that the film was bound to include. My home city, it seems, has become Hollywood’s target of choice. A few days ago, I sat through Thor: The Dark World, which culminates in an alien invasion of Greenwich, in south-east London. A few days before that, I caught some of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer on television, and groaned as a canyon opened up in the Thames, right next to the London Eye. And I’m still grumpy about GI Joe: Retaliation, released last March. This head-hurtingly stupid blockbuster gets going when the baddies drop a metal rod on Westminster from an orbiting satellite, and the shock-wave flattens the whole of Zone One. The mass destruction isn’t mentioned again for the rest of the film.
Presumably, this trend has something to do with Britain and America’s special relationship: US audiences are familiar enough with London to recognise it whenever it’s obliterated – but not so familiar that the obliteration might upset them. Whatever the reason, I can’t help feeling that it’s some other metropolis’s turn to be demolished in the name of family entertainment.
Or, who knows, Hollywood could even take a break from demolishing real-life population centres, full stop. After all, none of the films above has any purpose except to sell popcorn and plastic toys to children and undemanding teenagers. It’s not as if they have a profound statement to make about global security. At a time when terror threats to the world’s cities show no sign of going away, perhaps the movie business could think of another way to divert its viewers – preferably one that doesn’t involve annihilating us all.