Dawn of an Old Era, by Sarah Brinks
Red Dawn is a remake of a 1984 film of the same title and story. The original was a real ‘who’s who’ cast of great 1980’s stars including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and Jennifer Grey. Feeding on the fear in the 1980’s of wide spread Communism and the Soviets Red Dawn was about the Russian invading the U.S. The remake of Red Dawn is also a ‘who’s who’ cast of young actors including Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, Hunger Games teen heartthrob Josh Hutcherson, and almost Wonder Woman Adrianne Palicki.
These actors may look a little fresh faced in Red Dawn; that is because the film was shot three years ago. Red Dawn was a victim of MGM’s bankruptcy saga and the release was pushed back until they could find a distributor for it. There has also been some bad press around the decision made to change the ethnicity of the invaders. Originally China was the big baddy of the film, but in post-production they changed it to be the North Koreans. The producer of the film was pretty honest and said that they think the film struggled to find a distributor because people did not want to offend a world super power, especially one that America owes trillions of dollars to. I can’t really blame them for their hesitancy but the change is obvious while you watch the film, and it is also offensive that the studio assumes that you can just exchange one Asian nationality for another and people won’t notice. At least an actor of Korean descent, Will Yun Lee, plays the main Korean bad guy in the film. C. Thomas Howell said in an interview with USA Today said that he thought an enemy like Al-Qaeda would be more fitting for the remake. I don’t think it would be believable that they would have the manpower or firepower to actually invade the U.S. but as far as actual modern xenophobia is concerned it would be a more believable enemy then the North Koreans.
The plot of 2012’s Red Dawn is identical to the 1984 Red Dawn, from what I can remember. A group of high school kids take off for the hills when the North Koreans attack their hometown of Spokane, Washington. Jed Eckert (Hemsworth) leads the kids as they decide to fight back. He is a marine back home from fighting in Iraq, the older brother of the high school quarterback, and the oldest son of the Sherriff. He teaches the kids hand-to-hand combat, how to shoot guns, military maneuvers, and field medicine. The group calls themselves the Wolverines after their high school mascot. They begin to attack the Koreans using guerilla warfare. The sequence when they learn to be guerillas is a couple minutes long, then you see them over and over again out smart and out shoot the trained Korean Army. I would have loved to have seen them make some mistakes and have luck play a bigger part in their success, as it stands they just happen to be awesome little soldiers even though just a little while ago they were going to math class and hoping to get to second base with their girlfriends.
There have been some interesting recent remakes and either technology or the change in times has prompted a reboot or remake. Some examples of remakes of merit are 3:10 to Yuma, Dawn of the Dead, The Departed, and True Grit. The most important thing about these remakes is that they have something to add to the conversation. Red Dawn adds nothing to the conversation or even really says anything different from the original. The remake doesn’t even really acknowledge that it is set in the present with the exception of an occasional cell phone or piece of technology. Living in a post-9/11 society we are all too aware of how our enemies can attack us. The bizarre image of hundreds of soldiers parachuting into a city in modern times is so reminiscent of visuals from World War II that is jarring to viewer.
There was a recent Australian film based on a novel of the same title called Tomorrow When the War Began, which was essentially an Australian remake of Red Dawn. An unnamed Asian army invades Australia and a group of kids who were camping in the bush during the invasion arm themselves and fight back. While also not making a real statement about world politics you do get to know the kids and understand their feelings and interpersonal relationships. You also get to see them make mistakes and improvise their way through most of their attacks. Red Dawn doesn’t seem to even consider that you would want to know more then the very surface of the characters and their motivations. To be fair I was the only girl in the theater so I get that I am not the target audience, but there is nothing wrong with using dialogue and exposition to help the audience get to know the characters they are routing for.
This is the directorial debut for Dan Bradley who appears to have been a stunt coordinator for the majority of his career. Bradley doesn’t really do anything wrong with Red Dawn, he just doesn’t do anything interesting with it either. The PG-13 rating also held the film back a little from being as down and dirty as it could have been. If the camera hadn’t cut away any time any real violence took place the desperation of the situation would have been much more palpable. The film’s sense of humor is very uneven. Hutcherson stumbles into a Subway sandwich shop and has a brilliant moment when he refers to the subway employee as a “sandwich artist” and orders him fill a bag with bread but not waste his time with flat breads. There are some other funny lines in the film but most of the “funny lines” are pathetic one-liners that are more likely to make you groan then laugh. Overall the cast does their best with the generic characters and dialogue they are given. There are some stand outs, most notably Chris Hemsworth, Will Yun Lee, and Adrianne Palicki.
It is sad to think that in the little over a hundred years that motion pictures have been around we seem to have run out of ideas for films. I don’t really believe that is true but if you look at the movies released over the last several years you would think it was true. I hope that the tidal wave of remakes helps us all appreciate truly original and ambitions films when they come along. You do not need to go see this movie if you have seen the original, you also do not need to go see this movie if you haven’t. There are so many better and more interesting movies in the theaters right now that are more worth your time and hard earned money.