Critics Loathe Patriotism in ‘Olympus’

Monday, 25 Mar 2013 11:13 AM

By James Hirsen

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The newly released “Olympus Has Fallen” is an action movie, which, like so many others that have come out of Hollywood in the past few years, is a mixed bag artistically.
However, the film seems to have abnormally irritated a number of critics, not so much because of some of its inherent flaws, but rather because it includes a display of patriotism and additionally dares to contain a story line about a Western nation that is dealing with the real-world challenges of terrorism.
Metropolitan movie critics have been known to sing the praises of less than stellar film fare and have routinely given a pass to explicitly violent R-rated cinema. Somehow, though, “Olympus Has Fallen” has managed to raise the ire of many of them, and the grousing on the street is about the love of country that is exhibited by several of the onscreen characters and what is frequently characterized as questionable interrogation techniques.
David Edelstein of New York Magazine chose to politicize the content of “Olympus,” calling the movie “straight-ahead red-meat right-wing xenophobic exploitation.”
Sean Means of the Salt Lake Tribune used a famous television and radio personality to underscore his critique of the movie, writing, “If Glenn Beck directed a live-action remake of Team America: World Police, you might approach the level of ridiculous violence and brainless flag-waving in ‘Olympus Has Fallen.’”
Ian Buckwalter of NPR focused on the source material of the film, asking where “the jingoistic fear-mongering, the maudlin nationalistic paeans to God and country” come from. He answered his own question with “straight out of ‘Red Dawn.’”
Buckwalter’s “Red Dawn” mention brings up a commonality that “Olympus” has with the 2012 “Red Dawn” remake. In both films, the invading bad guys hail from North Korea.
A sizable number of moviegoers have no doubt noticed that recently there has been reluctance on the part of Hollywood to depict terrorists as being of Middle Eastern persuasion, due to a heightened cultural sensitivity that has developed.
Communist Chinese villains have likewise gone to the wayside, since the entertainment industry relies heavily on the overseas Chinese market.
In fact, in last year’s version of “Red Dawn,” the Red Chinese villains that were originally in the movie were subsequently digitally removed.
Buckwalter was apparently disturbed by what he described as some “unpleasantly uncomfortable moments,” particularly some in which the “torture of captured enemies” was met with moviegoers’ cheering and laughter, adding, “both of which it [the film] rather nauseatingly received from the audience I watched with.” 
He expressed concern over “what a movie's gleeful attitudes toward torture, or its simplification or demonization of our enemies, might say about us.”
The movie’s lead character (played by Gerard Butler) is a Jack Bauer-like hero (“24” television series), who is willing to “enhance” the interrogation of terrorists in order to obtain life-saving information.
Critics Greg Evans and Craig Seligman, co-writing for Bloomberg, sarcastically asked, “Does anything say ‘patriotism’ like a lovely marble bust of Abraham Lincoln, smashed over the head of a wounded terrorist?”
The Bloomberg duo answered their own inquiry in the following manner: “Certainly nothing in ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’” opining that it was “an ugly, bloody rampage of jingoism, carnage and hand-me-down action-movie clichés.”
The plot of “Olympus Has Fallen” is for the most part divulged in the movie’s trailer.
The White House (code name “Olympus”) is captured by a group of terrorists who take the president of the United States (played by Aaron Eckhart) hostage.
A former Secret Service agent who had been part of the president's detail (Butler’s character) gets a chance to redeem his tarnished reputation as he manages to place himself inside the terrorist-occupied White House. His mission is to thwart the terrorist leader’s heinous plans and ultimately save the nation.
Countless critics have slammed the movie for being too similar to “Die Hard.” 
Claudia Puig of USA Today and Scott Foundas of the Village Voice both labeled the movie as “Die Hard’ in the White House.”
A.O. Scott of the New York Times dubbed “Olympus” “the worst ‘Die Hard’ movie this year.”
The aforementioned Buckwalter wrote that “at times the debt the film owes to ‘Die Hard’ is so huge that it goes uncomfortably beyond homage and into wholesale theft.”
In an age of sequels, prequels, and reboots, much of the bellyaching over content similarities seems trivial.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.


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