Remember in 2011 when we all got irked at Hollywood for releasing two nearly identical movies in the same year? In fact those two movies (No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits) even had the same IMDb description for a while until someone noticed and it went viral. And that’s not even close to the first time this has happened. Hollywood has pulled this on us many times specifically in 1996 (Twister/Tornado), 1998 (Armageddon/Deep Impact), 2006 (The Illusionist/The Prestige), and its happening again this year.
Let’s go back to February this year: the Oscars have just wrapped up, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are on Jimmy Kimmel’s live after show to promote their upcoming movie, White House Down. The movie’s premise: a terrorist attack on the White House leaves an unlikely but capable “civilian” in charge of protecting and saving the President of the United States. Now wait a minute, isn’t this movie coming out in a few weeks? Nope. That’s Olympus Has Fallen, a film about an unlikely but capable civilian who helps to save the president after a terrorist attack. Only that one is the one with Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman. Wait, so Hollywood is releasing two of basically the same movie in the same year…again?! Yes, and not only that, the two titles are two ways of saying the exact same thing.
Olympus Has Fallen was released on March 22nd of this year (this guy’s birthday), towards the end of the worst movie season of the year: The Post Oscar-Pre Summer Season, which generally runs from January to mid-the end of April, depending on when the first summer blockbuster is released. It is the lowest grossing time of the year as average to below average movies are generally released during this time because they cannot compete at the box office in the more crowded and quality seasons (Oscar and Summer). Think about the movies that were released from January-April this year. The highest grossing was Identity Thief. This is not all to hate on Olympus Has Fallen, which actually did pretty well grossing close to $100 million domestically, it is just a fact. No Strings Attached was released on January 21st and Friends with Benefits was released on July 22nd. Guess which one was better?
Sure, its difficult to say with complete conviction that White House Down will be automatically better than Olympus Has Fallen just because it is being released in June, but the signs are all there. When Friends with Benefits trailers started popping up more than a few people quickly dismissed it as the “other” movie where friends try to have casual sex resulting in inevitable complications. But a deeper look at the two films would tell you different. Right off the bat for a romantic comedy which combination would you rather see? Ashton Kutcher, who mostly just does commercials for cameras and Natalie Portman who usually does dramatic roles OR Justin Timberlake who is generally hilarious and Mila Kunis who does mostly comedic roles? I’ll take the latter anytime. Whose movie would you rather see Ivan Reitman, whose last comedic hit was legitimately Kindergarten Cop OR Will Gluck fresh off of directing Easy A? See what I’m getting at. Add better supporting cast and a slightly larger budget to the comparison and Friends with Benefits is a much more appealing movie, before you even see either and thus became the more successful of the two.
White House Down stars Channing Tatum, who is one of the biggest stars in the world right now and Jamie Foxx coming off of Django Unchained is a better one two punch of front line stars than Gerard Butler, who is still living off of 300 and Aaron Eckhart, who I generally don’t believe in unless he’s Harvey Dent (had to). Does anyone have more experience destroying the home of the President than White House Down director Roland Emmerich? Antonie Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen’s director) certainly does not, especially considering his only above average film, Training Day, came out in 2001. White House Down also has a much bigger budget and a marginally better supporting cast.
The situation is nearly identical to what happened with No Strings Attached/Friends with Benefits. White House Down is destined to be the better and higher grossing film, barring the Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted implosion of the film industry happening much sooner than they anticipated. We have seen this situation before from Hollywood and we’ll see it again. It’s on us to decipher which of the two movies will be the one worth seeing.