Is It Too Soon After 9/11 For Movies Like 'White House Down'?

It was a summer blockbuster no-brainer. A plot about blowing up the White House, two A-list stars, and disaster movie veteran director Roland Emmerich. Throw in some explosions and watch money roll in.

Except it didn't.

White House Down made a third of its expected profits for its opening weekend. Audiences gave the movie an A- CinemaScore after watching the film, but the film still came in fourth at the box office this weekend with $26 million. It could've been because movie had some tough competition for its opening weekend, and Sony executives also claim that Olympus Has Fallen, which was released in March with a similar plot, stole some of White House Down's thunder.

While that may be true, Olympus Has Fallen didn't really do that well. The movie, which also had boasted respectable star power with Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman, and a blow-up-the-White-House plot, ended up making $30.5 million at the box office. That number was more than expected for an R-rated action flick, but not exactly exceptional as far as box office opening weekends go.

So if it wasn't second movie syndrome, what was it? Rob Lowe might have the answer (and that's something I'd never thought I'd write):

Is it too soon for a save-the-White-House action flick after 9/11?

Sure, these movies have their hearts in the right place (and that place is America the greatest country in the world, home of the free and the brave, apple pie, etc.). But after seeing the nation's safety threatened and national monuments destroyed by terrorists in real life, couldn't the film version still make some cringe?

After all, audiences go to see these big blockbuster, save-the-nation action flicks for escapism. So when films like Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down portray events similar to those thousands of people have already lived through, it kind of misses the point. At worst, it offends these people by making a big-budget caricature out of the real events. At best, it's a cousin to a Lifetime movie — a blurry, distorted copy of something audiences have already seen in real life.

Some events are just too tragic for us to make sense of, and it takes a well-thought-out approach to capture acts of violence like these in entertainment — that's the reason school shooting episodes on television have never worked well. And it's clear that these films that depict terrorists blowing up national monuments haven't really thought out much of anything. Maybe one day, we'll have enough distance from the events of 9/11 that these movies can be a mindless escape again, but right now, they still might hit a little too close to home.

Image: Sony Pictures