No one quite suits the title of Master of Disaster quite like Roland Emmerich, the director behind such bombastically apocalyptic visions as “Independence Day,” “Godzilla,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.” Emmerich has gleefully destroyed major monuments, turning the White House into kindling and New York City into a giant frozen puddle. In his latest oversized spectacle “White House Down,” starring Channing Tatum as a put-upon would-be Secret Service agent and Jamie Foxx as the endangered Commander-in-Chief, Emmerich returns to the location of his most iconic detonation, this time exploring the bonds between father and daughter while also blowing up a lot of stuff and having many people get shot in gloriously violent ways. Earlier today we got a peek at the trailer (which you can watch below) as well as a glimpse of about ten minutes of additional footage. While the movie doesn’t come out until June 28th, we’re pretty sure that it’s going to be one of the summer’s most satisfying blockbusters.
Jamie Foxx and Roland Emmerich were on hand in our theater to dish about why they decided to tackle “White House Down.” For Emmerich, he was drawn to the “great script.” “It was an incredibly personal story,” Emmerich began. “Plus it’s not about terrorists from the outside, which doesn’t seem believable. This underlying threat is that America gets brought down from the people inside. It makes it more of a coup d’etat thriller.” Tatum, who was live via satellite in London, said that, “While I’m not a particularly political person, it seems like the country is so divided. I felt really good about the premise of the film.” Foxx was quick to clarify that, while he’s not specifically playing President Obama, “There are certain times I do Obama-type things.”
From there they showed the trailer that is now online – it starts off with a kind of faux news report about how an attack has been committed on the White House. We see glimpses of the big budget destruction stuff – the White House on fire, a rocket zooming towards Air Force One, low lying helicopters firing bullets at the White House. If you’re wondering how it compares to this past weekend’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” well, it looks a whole lot better. Emmerich knows how to build dread, and his shots almost always have a luxurious sheen that “Olympus Has Fallen,” with its muddy visuals and lazy script, could have desperately used. You don’t get a whole lot of the plot in the trailer, besides the fact that Tatum teams up with the President and that his daughter is in jeopardy, but there is enough fireworks-y razzmatazz, interspersed with a nifty Lincoln quote about the fall of America coming from the inside, that it doesn’t really matter.
After the trailer ran (received with much enthusiasm), Emmerich said that he had also cut about ten minutes of footage of the film together. He asked that we apologize for the iffy visual effects since not everything had been completed (and, that said, there were only a couple of sequences that looked unfinished, plus some minor blue-screen issues). Foxx piped in that the most fun for him was “watching the whole process.” He recounted a moment when Tatum was nervous about how a scene would look where he rushes into an elevator shaft firing a gun. When they played the footage back, he of course, looked amazing. Foxx did an impression of Tatum firing his gun in show motion that was absolutely hilarious. “You’re the shit,” he would tell Tatum, “And he’s the shit,” talking about Emmerich, “and I’m pretty good.”
The ten minutes of footage nicely set up the plot of “White House Down,” which is based on a script by James Vanderbilt, who wrote John McTiernan‘s underrated military thriller “Basic” and David Fincher’s masterpiece “Zodiac,” introducing us first to Tatum, who plays a DC policeman, and his young daughter (Joey King), who loves the President. He surprises her with a pair of visitors tickets, since he’s going to interview about a Secret Service position. Once he gets to the White House, he checks his gun, and goes in for an interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s character, a Secret Service agent who lists down the reasons why, according to his peers, Tatum shouldn’t have the job including, “no follow through.”
After he gets done, he doesn’t have the heart to tell his daughter how horribly the interview went, and instead they go on the tour (something that, in real life, has been incredibly limited since the 9/11 attacks). The tour guide notes that, “the White House is actually comprised of three buildings,” including, in a joke that wasn’t as annoyingly wink-wink as it might appear, “the building that got blown up in ‘Independence Day.'” It’s during the tour that the attack begins, and Tatum’s daughter is separated from him (she’s held hostage with the rest of the tour group). In short order we see that Tatum, through “Die Hard“-y circumstances and (we’re assuming) a fair amount of coincidence, saves the President’s life and they go on the run together.
In the middle section of the footage there’s an emphasis on the kind of buddy comedy aspect of the movie – how Tatum is clearly an everyman very much in over his head (as opposed to “Olympus Has Fallen,” in which Gerard Butler is a super-soldier killing machine) and that the President also has some humbleness in him. There’s a great little scene where they are in the President’s bedroom and he takes off his stuffy work shoes and, after some deliberation, decides to put on his Air Jordans. There’s also a little scene where Tatum is getting beat up by a bad guy and the President gets ahold of a machine gun. “Shoot him!” Tatum yells as the President puts on his glasses. Eventually the President does shoot the bad guy, which gives off a little bit of an “Air Force One” vibe (not a bad thing).
The second half of the footage is basically an extended version of the crazy stuff from the trailer, including an extended bit of what appears to be a car chase on the front lawn of the White House, and someone gravely intoning, “In order to avoid World War III, we’re going to have to level the White House.” (We also get a glimpse of Jason Clarke, as one of the movie’s slippery bad guys.) Even without finished visual effects, it was an adrenaline-pumping few minutes and goes a long way in reminding you of the artistry involved in perfectly choreographed mayhem like this. While “White House Down” might not be the movie everyone is immediately jazzed about this summer (there’s no one in spandex flying around or shooting laser beams, it’s true), it could end up being one of the most entertaining escapist treats of the entire season.
“White House Down” opens June 28th. Buckle up.