November 26, 2012
Red Dawn: The commies invade again?
When the 1984 version of "Red Dawn" pops up on cable television, you can't help but stop on the channel and watch Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen fight the Russians. Back at the height of Cold War tensions, Red Dawn hit the paranoia of Americans and mixed it with 80s action film magic. It wasn't winning any academy awards, but the concept and the way they pulled it off made it highly entertaining and perhaps the most Republican film ever made.
(Here you can buy the original Red Dawn)
So now in 2012, with the Cold War over, America being the country invading other nations and occupying them, they decide its time for a remake. Why? It's Hollywood and they have no original ideas. That's exactly the issue with this film. In 1984, it was at least plausible that the Russians would get pissed at us, gather up a few allies and decide to invade the United States. It tapped into some real world fears and the film has just a tinge or realism and desperation to it that keeps you on edge for the whole running time.
In the remake, the enemy is North Korea. They changed it from the Chinese to North Korea because they wanted to be able to market this film in China and make a ton of money. So instead of the United States' largest trading partner who would gain nothing by invading, a third world country with an antique military and a starving population takes us over with the help of a new "superweapon" that doesn't make up for the fact that North Korea probably doesn't have an Air Force or a Navy capable of crossing the Pacific.
The premise is just so ridiculous, during serious plot points of the film, the audience finds itself laughing more than taking the brass tacks of the invasion seriously. I howled when I heard the main character played by Chris Hemsworth (you know, Thor) say "They didn't come all this way for just Seattle and Spokane."
Another small qualm, after growing up near Spokane - the supposed setting of Red Dawn, the place looks nothing like Spokane. It was shot in Michigan and I can forgive the principle photography differences or real streets and buildings but the overall CGI shots look nothing like the Lilac City and the filmmakers make the city look much, much bigger than its supposed to be. I kind of wanted to see some more homages to my home city. All the filmmakers had to do was log onto Wikipedia and they'd realize no Western Washington rain forests (where the high school kids hide out) are anywhere near Spokane.
Now the plot is much more abbreviated and much campier than the original. High school kids survive invasion of city, and regroup to fight North Koreans since apparently every American has a store of automatic weapons lying about. 'Murica. It's still an entertaining action film, it just can't be taken too seriously. What is very weird about the remake is that it feels a lot more shallower than the original. The movie doesn't have any gore to speak of. There's only the death of a few of the high school characters and they're glossed over. In the original they made of point of saying "hey look, kids are DYING."
For some reason, the war part is more glorified in the remake. That's right, in 2012 we have a Hollywood movie that glorifies violence and killing people without a conscious in a remake of a 1980s action movie. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Case in point, the 1984 version ends with the names of all the kids that died in the war and something of a prologue by the main character. It's a pretty sorrow ending.
In 2012, the main character is rallying more people to fight the North Koreans with a heroic speech about, you guessed it, Murica!
Maybe that's where we're at right now as a country.
There's a few caveats thrown in for fans of the original, so keep your eyes peeled. Hemsworth does a great job as Jed, the leader of the high school kids. Josh Peck plays his younger brother and looks high all the time, it's really, really annoying.
I'd say watch this one when it comes out on Netflix. Popcorn fun, but a brain-dead remake with no real message or substance to it. It was a remake that didn't need to be remade.
1 OUT OF 5 STARS
(Seriously just go and buy the original Red Dawn)