Watching landmarks being blown up used to be thrilling. But can we enjoy films like Bastille Day, Made in France and London Has Fallen in the same way after the Paris and Brussels attacks?
In London Has Fallen, the Italian prime minister is on the roof of one of Westminster Abbeys towers, canoodling with a woman 30 years his junior. This Berlucsconian cliche is ostensibly in town, along with other world leaders, for the funeral of his British counterpart.
And then a terrorist bomb explodes and the tower collapses, taking with it the Italian and his under-developed romantic interest. The destruction of the Abbeys superb Gothic facade should be tremendously upsetting. As should the plumes of smoke rising from the Palace of Westminster, the bombed-out wreck of London Bridge, and the gunfight on the steps of St Pauls that jeopardises Christopher Wrens peerless west front. As Babak Najafis film cuts to an aerial shot of the capital in the aftermath of co-ordinated terrorist strikes, the upset of seeing the city that so many live in and love flattened should be overwhelming.
This, after all, is 2016, when western capitals are on high alert and a terror attack on London is reportedly imminent. In such circumstances, it should be easy to unsettle the locals by showing them what it would be like to see their city attacked. But instead of being troubled, I found myself laughing when I saw Najafis big-budget sequel to Olympus Has Fallen. Not just at the Berlusconi clone getting his comeuppance, but at the the low production values if you are going to blow up my city, Mr Najafi, couldnt you spend some of your $60m budget on making it look convincing?
Worse, the London to which Najafi lays waste seems curiously depopulated, as if the terrorists had previously detonated one of those neutron bombs that kills humans and leaves buildings intact, before returning to finish off the job and detonating the built environment. It is as if London only matters as a backdrop to the main narrative namely whether or not special agent Gerard Butler can manage to extract US President Aaron Eckhart.
Those of us who live in the worlds great cities have had to get used to seeing our landmarks destroyed. Its the price we have to pay for having such photogenic monuments. On screen, London has been attacked by a 65ft tall sea monster (Gorgo, 1961), Martians (Mars Attacks! 1996), water (The Flood, 2007), nuclear missile (GI Joe: Retaliation, 2013), airborne pig (the Dr Who episode called Aliens of London, 2005), and anarchist vigilantes to the soundtrack of Tchaikovskys 1812 overture (V for Vendetta, 2005).