He's blown it up in "Independence Day" and crushed it with an aircraft carrier in "2012," but this week, Roland Emmerich rolls out his most concerted assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue yet with "White House Down."
The film stars Channing Tatum as John Cale, a recently-rejected Secret Service applicant who's on a consolation tour of the White House with his daughter when a group of disgruntled domestic terrorists invade. With the grounds locked down and the cavalry helpless, it's up to Cale to save the President (Jamie Foxx), his daughter, and the day -- but not the White House, which he tears up almost as much as the bad guys.
So just what is it that the blockbuster director has against the presidential digs anyway? I broke down the destruction in "White House Down" in order to find out.
Emmerich takes his time.
For all the famous buildings the serial landmark killer has destroyed in his career, it's obvious he still has some unfinished business in Washington. Clocking in at 131 minutes, the director methodically works his way through the White House, leaving no nook or cranny undamaged, ripping up the South Lawn, blowing up the underground tunnels, and staging shootouts in the President's private residence. Despite the runtime, the film never drags, but this time around, it's clearly not enough for Emmerich to simply destroy the building. He wants to watch it suffer first.
Nothing is safe -- not even the décor.
It could be that Emmerich just wants to redecorate, because he saves most of the carnage for the White House's interior design. A piano explodes, a Ming vase is shattered, even a portrait of George Washington gets capped. In fact, the only art the director seems to actually like is a painting commemorating the White House being burnt down during the War of 1812. Then again, maybe he just thinks mixing all those different decades and styles is tacky.
The grounds get a makeover.
Every self-respecting action movie has to have a high-speed car chase, and since the White House has a basketball court, tennis court and swimming pool, but no racetrack, Emmerich improvises by holding his chase scene on the famous South Lawn. Also, after he's done with his landscaping makeover, the White House no longer has a basketball court, tennis court or swimming pool. It does, however, have a few downed helicopters, which could really spice up the next White House Easter Egg hunt.
Emmerich doesn't stop at the Oval Office.
It's not clear whether the director hate-watched "The West Wing" for research, but Emmerich's bullet-riddled behind-the-scenes tour isn't limited to just the Oval Office or the famous facade he blew up in "Independence Day" (something the movie has fun pointing out). Instead, Cale and President Sawyer also fight their way through the building's lesser-known territory, which besides providing "White House Down" some much appreciated variety for its big action set pieces, also gives Emmerich a chance to blow up even more publicly funded real estate.
It's nothing personal.
As President Sawyer, Jamie Foxx makes for a pretty good Commander-in-Chief. He's sincere, humble, loves his job, and his most controversial political move is trying to ensure peace in the Middle East. He also gets to kick the most ass out of any movie president since Harrison Ford, even if his catchphrases could use a little work. It's often said people should respect the office of the President, if not the man himself. Emmerich flips that sentiment around here -- then blows that office to bits. So even though the director's retreading old ground with "White House Down," he's also clearly still having a lot of fun, and it's important to do what you love.
"White House Down" opens in theatres on June 28.