Olympus Has Fallen is one of the most blatant pieces of right-wing propaganda to emerge in recent Hollywood cinema. The US president, with the help of Secret Service member Mike Banning, asserts his rugged individualism against a horde of invading North Koreans. Given that the film’s blustering about freedom in the face of the evilOther is ethically and aesthetically puerile, what about the film appeals to the viewer? Is the political configuration of the film indeed reducible to the dimension of message over medium? Drawing on Herbert Marcuse’s The Aesthetic Dimension, this article suggests that the putative “message” of Olympus Has Fallen is in fact undercut by the nature of its engagement with the viewer at the level of the spectacle. The article, furthermore, hypothesizes a distinction between modes of spectacle in action cinema—“cinematic-spectacle” and “action-spectacle”—through comparative analysis of the screen-spectator relationship in Olympus Has Fallen and Avatar.

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