It’s crap . . . and insulting!
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
2012, 93 Minutes, Directed by: Dan Bradley
Red Dawn is of course a remake of the 1984 movie of the same name, which starred the likes of Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell (one of the older kids in E.T.) and Lea Thompson. That movie was about America being invaded by Soviet forces and a resistance group consisting of some typical American teens calling themselves the “Wolverines.” It was directed by John Milius, who was quite the gun nut and took this sort of thing rather seriously. (Milius also co-wrote Apocalypse Now and directed the original Conan the Barbarian movie replete with all its Nietzsche / gym teacher quotes about what doesn’t kill you, only making you stronger.) Made at the height of Reaganism, the original Red Dawn did tap into some sort of Cold War zeitgeist at the time even though it was a thoroughly misguided one. After all, the already tottering Soviet Union would come to a fall before the decade was over . . .
Fast-forward to 2010 and some bright spark at the financially troubled MGM studio decides that the time is ripe for a Red Dawn remake (ever wonder why they were in financial dire straits?). Only problem is that the Soviet Union is no longer around to invade the good ole U.S. of A., so they settle on the new invaders being from China. However, as the studio runs into financial problems, the movie’s release date is postponed until 2012. In the interim, another bright spark at MGM realizes that, gosh, quite a lot of folks in China actually buy movie tickets, it being an emerging superpower and all. Thus, it might not be such a good idea to depict a sizeable potential audience as the bad guys here.
So they quietly change the invading army from being Chinese to being from North Korea using some digital trickery to replace flags, epaulets on uniforms and so forth. It was a safe bet to pick on North Korea since they aren’t exactly a movie ticket-buying nation. Yup, now America was being invaded by a country that doesn’t even have electricity . . .
The idea of America being successfully invaded by North Korea is of course a patently ridiculous one. The United States is the world’s most dominant military power by far. In 2011, they spent $711 billion on its military, which is more than the next 13 nations COMBINED! Yes, read that sentence again. (Incidentally North Korea isn’t even on the list of 13 countries. The second biggest spender ironically is China.) We don’t even want to get into the idea that a handful of spoiled, computer game-addled teens can successfully resist a professional trained army here.
But they are led and trained by a marine fresh from Iraq (played by a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), I can hear you protest. Yes, and this is where the insulting bit about Red Dawn comes in. I could almost imagine the following exchange in the new Red Dawn movie:
“Jeesh, Chris. Where did you learn all this guerilla insurgency techniques you are teaching us?”
“These are the same techniques they used against us in Iraq when we invaded their country.”
“Ah . . .”
This is the insulting aspect of this Red Dawn remake. Not only does it lack any of its own convictions unlike the ‘Eighties original (if you believe that China is the next big threat to world peace, then say so), but it has been overtaken by real-life events. The movie’s sheer chutzpah is hard to stomach.
Non-Americans would shout at their screens: “Don’t like it so much now that someone else is invading you, mmmmh?” It will also irk some people’s sensibilities how some North Korean propaganda posters in the film equate Occupy Wall Street slogans with North Korean authoritarianism.
But the worst thing about Red Dawn isn’t how it boasts a premise that not even the most rabid right-winger will take seriously (is there anyone out there seriously expecting North Korea to invade America?), but that it is a dull and repetitive movie with uninteresting characters. If you want to see a Western country invaded by the Yellow Peril (TM) then you’d be better off checking out Tomorrow, When the War Began in which Aussie teens resist an unnamed Asian invading army.
You’ll be rooting for the evil Chinese, er, sorry, North Korean invaders.