In 1984’s Red Dawn, director John Milius attempted to rouse American patriotism by showing the United States invaded by a vast coalition of Soviet, Cuban and Marxist Nicaraguan forces.
Milius’s concern was real at the time. Written and directed at a climactic point in the Cold War between the West and the Communist bloc, Milius’ film offered viewers a horrifying future in which the Soviets pushed the freedom-loving United States down the dark hole of an Orwellian nightmare. In the new 2012 remake of Milius’ schlock classic, the common denominator in Red Dawn is still ‘Red’, even if the bad guys here are a little gray and artificial.
The story is similar to the original. A group of teenaged, small-town heroes find their lives interrupted by forces greater than themselves. The location is Spokane, Washington. The Eckert brothers, Jed and Matt (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck), awake to see the sky darkened by endless waves of transport planes, disgorging a gazillion North Korean paratroopers onto their quiet, All-American town.
One thing leads to another, and the brothers, joined by a merry band of adolescents, flee into the outlying forests and sanctuary. It now falls on the teens to conduct a guerrilla campaign against the enemy. In what amounts to a week of training — all armies take note — Jed welds the group into a hardened commando squad which they christen ‘Wolvernes’ — after their defunct football team. And the rest as they say, is history.
Although the world today is threatened by terrorits, not armies, ailing MGM studios which bankrolled the remake as a money-making hurrah, opted to use China as a villain. But confronted by the reality of offending China (a lucrative market), they hastily turned the invaders into North Koreans. Besides, China has already taken over, one handbag and shoe at a time.
The producers must have hoped the change would go unnoticed. Asians and cardboard villains are largely interchangeable, especially to an audience of adolescents keen on seeing video game heroics. And there is a lot of rootin’ shooting’ here for World War III.
It is difficult to see who else would want to see this film. Intelligent adults will treat it with eye-rolling contempt. Certainly, Mr Milius may go watch it. C Thomas Howell, who was in the 1984 original, has already panned the film as “stupid,” but has stated his intention to watch it anyway.
The ultimate viewer, however, may be the North Korean supremo, Kim Jong-un. North Korea may not get much respect from the rest of the world, but at least Hollywood has paid tribute by portraying the country as a global power.
The original Red Dawn had an A-list cast and a promising concept despite its poor scripting. This remake has neither. Best skipped.