Every so often, two seemingly identical films from different studios and creative teams arrive at the exact same time, prompting mass confusion, hysteria and internet articles obsessively comparing the two of them. 'Olympus Has Fallen' may have been the first "Die Hard' in the White House' movie of 2013, but it won't be the last: 'White House Down' hits in a few months and for all intents and purposes, it looks like the same movie.
Because we don't like the idea of mass confusion at the multiplex (which will undoubtedly lead to riots and much man-on-popcorn violence), we've gone to the trouble investigating what separates these two films. So here you go: here's your handy-dandy guide to telling 'White House Down' apart from 'Olympus Has Fallen.' You're welcome, Planet Earth.
Although the concepts of 'Olympus Has Fallen' and 'White House Down' appear identical at first glance, there are actually plenty of differences between the two. You see, 'Olympus Has Fallen' is about a massive terrorist strike on Washington, DC that leaves great swaths of the city in shambles and the President a prisoner in his own home/office. On the other hand, 'White House Down' is about a massive terrorist strike on Washington, DC that leaves great swaths of the city in shambles and the President a prisoner in his own home/office. Oh. Wait. Oh, no. To be fair, the villains of 'Olympus Has Fallen' are North Korean led terrorists and the bad guys of 'White House Down' appear to be a rogue paramilitary organization attempting a military coup of some kind. Yeah! Total apples and oranges!
Channing Tatum vs. Gerard Butler
Okay! Here's where we can start making some real headway! 'White House Down' stars the charismatic, funny and well-liked Channing Tatum. 'Olympus Has Fallen' stars the...uh...Gerard Butler. Tatum's character is a Washington, DC police officer whose application for the Secret Service got turned down. Though, he still gets the chance to prove himself when everything goes down while he's on the White House tour with his daughter. Butler's character is a Secret Service agent who let the President's wife die on his watch but gets a chance to redeem himself when he's sent in to rescue the Commander in Chief. Both are classic but different action scenarios: the John McClane-esque "wrong place at the wrong time" hero and the highly trained lone badass on a mission of redemption.
President Foxx vs. President Eckhart
'Olympus Has Fallen' casts Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher, your typical tough, square-jawed leader. 'White House Down' casts Jamie Foxx as President Benjamin Sawyer, who, as we've been told in the press, IS NOT BASED ON BARACK OBAMA SO STOP ASKING. Unlike the real world, the Land of Fiction has seen many a black president (David Palmer from '24'! President Beck from 'Deep Impact'!) so the race of 'White House Down's' president isn't too surprising. But it's totally not Barack Obama, guys. IT'S NOT.
Richard Jenkins vs. Morgan Freeman
Should the President fail in his duties, the line of succession dictates that the Vice President should take up the reins of the nation. But since the Vice President is always the one who dies first to prove how serious the bad guys are in White House siege movies, we usually get to see a lot of the third heartbeat away from the presidency: the Speaker of the House. Here, 'Olympus Has Fallen' and 'White House Down' both follow a similar instinct -- if you're going to cast a rugged movie star as the President, you should grab someone with gravitas for the Speaker of the House. 'Olympus Has Fallen' goes straight for the kill by bringing in the great Morgan Freeman (who has played presidents and gods), but don't discount 'White House Down's casting of the amazing Richard Jenkins. So, Speaker of the House who's spent time in 'Shawshank' and working with Batman = 'Olympus Has Fallen' and Speaker of the House who's been 'Killing Them Softly' and dealing with 'Jack Reacher' = 'White House Down.' Moving on!
Roland Emmerich vs. Antoine Fuqua
Fox/Sony Pictures Classics
And this is where things will start getting really interesting. Despite their similar concepts, both films are the work of filmmakers with completely different styles and tastes. With 'Olympus Has Fallen,' you've got Antoine Fuqua, a director with a history of making grounded, gritty and at least somewhat realistic dramatic action films like 'Training Day' and 'American Gangster.' With 'White House Down,' you've got Roland Emmerich, a director who has built a career out of blowing up American landmarks in films like 'Independence Day' and '2012.' Looking at the styles of these two gentlemen makes the thought of any kind of confusion between these two films feel moot: one will be the simpler, more direct story that attempts to lend dramatic weight to the situation and the other one will be OMG EXPLOSIONS THIS LOOKS EXPENSIVE PASS THE POPCORN, but in a good way (hopefully).
You've Got a Professional Armed Bodyguard In Me
No action hero can do it alone, so both 'White House Down' and 'Olympus Has Fallen' feature eclectic supporting casts, particularly when it comes to casting other Secret Service agents. Although Angela Bassett has Gerard Butler's back, it looks like 'White House Down' is going to have the more interesting/bizarre support for Channing Tatum: Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Matt Craven and Jake Weber all play agents.
The Budgets and the Ratings
For pickier audiences, there will be another distinct way to tell 'White House Down' from 'Olympus Has Fallen.' One will look like it was released by Millenium Films and FilmDistrict and the other will look like it was released by Sony. In other words: one will look like it was made on a budget and the other had a set with catering that cost more one a daily basis than some people make in a year. However, this budget difference will also dictate the MPAA ratings. The cheaper 'Olympus Has Fallen' can get away with its R-rating, but the expensive 'White House Down' is going to have to settle for a PG-13, making it the domestic terrorism action flick suitable for the whole family!
The Lone Hero or the Heroic Duo?
There's one detail in the trailer for 'White House Down' that immediately sets it apart from 'Olympus Has Fallen.' We not only see Channing Tatum's John Cale battling terrorists on his lonesome, we see him battling terrorists along Jamie Foxx's President Sawyer, which gives us hope that this is the 'Air Force One'/'Lethal Weapon' mashup that only ever existed in our wildest dreams. 'Olympus Has Fallen' is all about Gerard Butler being the one guy who can get the job done, but if 'White House Down' is a secret "buddy cop" movie where one of the cops is actually the President of the United States, then we might as well stop making movies because we'll never top that.
Overall Sense of Pretension
Let's put it this way: 'White House Down' is the one with the trailer that dramatically cuts to black every few seconds with a few more words of an Abraham Lincoln quote. 'Olympus Has Fallen' is just happy to be here and 'White House Down' is the one screaming "I am a big summer action movie and you will pay attention to me right now!" And then it starts holding its breath but no one is paying attention to it because its release is still months away and hey, let's go see 'Olympus Has Fallen'!
Oh, Let's Face It: They're the Same Movie
At the end of the day, you've really just got to look at the titles. You've got 'White House Down,' which speaks for itself, and you've got 'Olympus Has Fallen,' which is a code phrase for, uh, White House down. Both may have their own special coats of paint, but at the end of the day, they're the 'Armageddon' and 'Deep Impact' of 2013. But which one is 'Armageddon' and which one is 'Deep Impact'? We'll find out in a few months.
'Olympus Has Fallen' is currently in theaters and 'White House Down' arrives on June 28. They will be bookended by countless direct-to-DVD knockoffs.