All right, so, now that the remake of Red Dawn has been released, I feel like it’s time to offer up what everyone’s been wanting. Pretty much all the traffic to our blog over the past week has been people wanting to know some spoilers about the remake and how it compares to the original. So, we’re perfectly happy to oblige now that people have had the chance to see it for themselves.
If you don’t want to know pretty much the whole plot, all the deaths, and all the differences between the two movies STOP HERE. DO NOT READ IT.
If you’re just looking for a review, you can find my review of the movie HERE.
If you have no intention to see the movie or what to spoil yourself silly, read on.
There are spoilers here, guys.
All right, let’s get down to it.
THE BAD GUYS
The most obvious departure from the original movie is the invaders – the ‘bad guys.’ The commie scum that dare invade our borders. In Red Dawn (1984) the invaders were the Russians and also their South American, fascist allies. It was the Cold War. If anyone was going to invade it would be them and though perhaps it was a bit unrealistic at the time, Russia and it’s allies were the only force in the world that really had any sort of chance at invading. They had a decent military and they were locked in an arms race with us. It may have been about a decade before the end of the Cold War but it was still probably a little bit terrifying.
In Red Dawn (2012) the invaders are far less scary and far less likely. The fact of the matter is that the United States is no longer embroiled in any sort of conflict on par with the Cold War. Terrorism is our biggest threat; individuals and non-governmental groups have defined conflict instead of states. So there’s not really a unified force out there that could stage an invasion. The closest we have to a war with a superpower is vague, misplaced fears of a strong, antagonistic China. Which is really a totally unsubstantiated fear. But at least if the invaders were Chinese it might make some sense. Actually, originally, the invaders were meant to be Chinese but after someone in Hollywood got scared of offending the Chinese upon release (and they were offended when they found out they were the invaders) they decided to switch everyting up digitally, re-record lines, and make it North Korea. They aren’t the only ones to do so – the Homefront video game did the same. But the lack of an actual viable attacker does distract a bit from the film.
Openings try to set the stage for a film and are consequently much more important than most people probably consider. The original Red Dawn opened on an average school day. Several of the kids who would later become the resistance fighters are in class when paratroopers start suddenly falling from the sky. It’s strange; everyone thinks it’s a training session gone wrong or something. Until, you know, they start shouting in Spanish and Russian and gunning down students and teachers alike. Jed comes back to the school and the kids all hop into the back of his truck before going to Roberts’ parents, taking supplies, and heading off for the hills.
In the remake, it’s very clear what is happening. It’s not just paratroopers. It’s bombs, fighter jets, and tanks already on the ground. Somehow, while everyone was a sleep, North Korea invaded and no one noticed. Jed, who isn’t just your small town former football star older brother but instead a Marine on leave, gets his brother and takes off for the family cabin after their father tells them to run. Along the way they pick up a few other kids – namely Robert and Danny. Except unlike kids hopping in the back of a truck at school to get away from an invading force they are in their neighborhoods. Outside their own homes. They abandon their families on their lawns. Roberts family possibly even dies for it. We learn a little later when some other friends show up at the cabin that they were gunned down. I mean, it’s not hard to put two and two together. Your kid takes off in front of North Korean soldiers in a truck that previously ran down some other North Korean soldiers? Someone has to pay. Someone has to serve as an example to others.
Jed and Matt Eckart are the main characters in Red Dawn – in both the original and the remake. But they are very different sets of characters in each. In Red Dawn (1984), Jed and Matt have a good relationship. They are your average brothers. The sort of boys next door you expect in a Midwestern small town. They were raised by their father; they know how to hunt and fish and survive in the hills. Or they at least know how to camp and they can guess the rest. Through out the movie their bond is the real bond that keeps the group together. And at the end it’s the brothers who go together to that final show down where Matt is mortally injured and Jed carries him away. It’s moving, it’s touching. It’s long and drawn out and even the general they went to kill refrains from shooting Jed as he watches him carry his dying brother away.
In Red Dawn (2012) the boys kind of hate each other. After their mom died Jed took off to join the Marines and Matt was left alone to stew in his anger at his brother’s abandonment. Jed goes hardcore military, Matt becomes a stereotypical high school jock football player – selfish and douchey. He’s not a team player, he only cares about himself (and his girlfriend). When they take off for the cabin in the woods (seriously, that’s all I could think of when they went there) he doesn’t want to listen to his brother. And as the resistance develops and Jed starts training everyone Matt has to be a little selfish douche. It gets so bad that his selfishness actually gets Greg – their sorta-verison of Aardvark – killed when he takes off to rescue his little girlfriend. And when Jed gets mad he takes off for a few days to sulk.
Like, seriously. Matt in general is just a total departure from the original character. And Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck look nothing alike. They’re a terrible set of brothers. It was just an awkward relationship the whole time. The only real moment when you feel for them are when their father is shot in front of them outside of the cabin. They are betrayed by a blond haired kid who leads the Koreans right to them and the brothers watch from the tall grass while the Korean leader shoots their dad in the head after he tells them to fight back. There’s no moving moment while there dad talks to them through the fence and urges them to avenge him. He straight up tells them, “Go become guerilla fighters, damn it!” Just not in those words.
And I guess you still feel for them when they recreate the deer hunting scene from the original movie in its entirity. In Red Dawn (2012) they take Robert out for his first kill and make him drink the blood of the deer. So, that scene is still in there. Though, I can’t quite remember if it was Robert or Danny they did that to in Red Dawn (1984). I don’t know, you can always check on Netflix.
Right, so, let’s do a quick roll call. In the original Red Dawn you had Jed and Matt Eckhart, Erica and Toni Mason, Robert, Danny, Daryl, Aardvark, and later Col. Tanner. You have the set of brothers, the set of sisters (or cousins?), Robert, the mayor’s son, and the only character with any ethnic origin whose not trying to kill them. There’s not really a whole lot of romance here; just one of the girls’ little attempt to woo Col. Tanner after he falls out of the sky. And everyone basically dies. Tanner and Aardvark die trying to kill a tank, Robert kills Daryl when they find out he was forced to swallow a tracking device, Toni and Robert then die in an ambush, and at the end at least Matt dies. I suppose we assume Jed does, too. Danny and Erica are the only survivors. They walk to freedom and Erica narrates the movie briefly, explaining the rock on which they write the names of their dead.
In the remake, there is no rock. That’s probably the worst part of the movie. There are a lot of the same characters, though – at least namewise. You have Jed and Matt, Erica and Toni, Robert, Danny, and Daryl. But you also have Greg and his sister who replace Aardvark. And you have Peter, who ultimately leads the Koreans to them and becomes a sympathizer. You also have two more soldiers – all of them marines – who come along with Tanner. Instead of being shot down over enemy territory like Tanner was originally they come to Spokane specifically to fight with the Wolverines. Then find out they are a bunch of kids. Doing a quick rundown, Erica and Toni do not join up with the group the same way in this movie. Toni joins them when they flee the city but Erica is captured and later rescued by Matt when he takes off to his own thing. Thus, Greg dies. Greg’s sister comes in to her own as a team medic only to be blown to pieces moments later when she and Danny are killed by a North Korean shell. Who really cares? After their little success they retreat and bam. Headshot. Jed takes one for the team. One of Tanner’s men dies, too, but afterwards he and the other one take off for home with some super crucial key to winning the war or something. Toni, Erica, Matt, and Robert live on to fight another day.
A big departure from the original was Daryl’s character. In the remake he was still the son of the mayor and the mayor was still collaborating with the enemy. However, in the original Daryl was homesick and went home while none of the others were aware. He was caught and forced to shallow a tracking beckon which leads the Russians right to them. As I mentioned before, Robert – hardened by their experiences – executes Daryl along side the Russian. In the remake, Danny was tagged by a tracking beacon in his abdomen unknowingly. During their final assault on the North Korean HQ he was caught, quickly shot with the tagging device, and then released. He thought he had gotten away until they rain down hell on their little hideaway and people die. Well, Jed dies. They realize they are being followed and everyone is trying to figure out how to get it out when Daryl takes Robert’s gun and a bag of supplies and takes off to lead them on a merry little chase through the woods. Presumably the catch him and then shoot him when they realize he figured out they were tracking him. We never find out but that’s most likely what happened, let’s be real.
Calumet, Colorado is the setting of Red Dawn (1984). It’s a small, fictional town in Colorado. When the Russians and their allies invade apparently they land an invasion force large enough to invade even small towns like this one. The boys that come together to form the resistance run quickly; they get in Jed’s truck at home and take off for the hills immediately. They talk about just camping out up there but ultimately begin to fight back. They use primarily guerrilla tactics and the first time they ever kill is by ambushing some Russian officers in the woods. They tend to attack briefly and with little coordination and, when they do attack, they go for military targets. They don’t go after the leaders. The Wolverines of Calumet liberate prison camps and destroy weapons caches. Their goal is devastating the enemy through loss of supplies, morale, and foot soldiers.
The Wolverines of Spokane are a little mini-military tactical unit. Jed Eckart makes sure of that. They don’t go for just the easy targets – though they do blow up check points and liberate prison buses, etc. Their missions are much more directed and have much more of a focus on taking out the higher ups. They are urban fighters to the core, pulling their queues from the politically motivated terrorists that are so prevalent in our modern understanding of combat. Their first major attack is meant to be an assassination of all the key North Korean leaders, sympathizers, and their allies at some news junket or something. I don’t know, they’re all on a raised platform. It’s very ceremonial. Everyone is quite pleased with themselves. (The Wolverines actually fail anyway because Matt goes off on his own to save his girlfriend and get Greg killed but not before Daryl and his dad get to meet eyes and have a moment – one that shows you Daryl is pretty much ready to take his dad out.) The second – and last that we see – is an infiltration of the actual headquarters to capture some coded communication device whose acquisition will help turn the tides of the war. Shockingly, they actually pull that one off and avenge their father by killing the regional North Korean leader. Victory! Technically I guess Jed and Matt tried that at the end of the original but, you know, that didn’t go anywhere for them at all.
One scene that is in both is the trap-door ambush. In the original, one of the girls takes off running across a field with a few Russian soldiers chasing after her. Then the others pop up out of the ground and mow them down. They used the same trap in the remake but instead of being in an open field they were in an empty lot in the middle of the city. How no one saw them digging those four to six foot deep holes in the ground I have no idea. Especially since they were pretty close to a checkpoint but hey. Who cares, right? Another similar scene comes when they blow up a small little enemy office. It’s just the same that in it happens; though in the remake it takes on a bit more importance because Peter – the kid that betrays them – is outside and recognizes them just moments before he gets blown up.
Right, so, I’ve basically mentioned a bit before that the original ends with everyone dead. Well, everyone but Danny and Erica who walk off into the sunset – or, you know, the Free America Zone. The movie ends and the last scene is the rock where they wrote the names of their dead. Erica narrates and says that it has become a national monument. But no one really goes there. The Wolverines – mostly children – fought and died for Calumet. It’s a nice story to tell but it didn’t change anything. They didn’t win the war. They merely embodied the sort of American spirit that later did win the war. Ultimately, the only effect they had was on themselves and their town.
The remake, though, takes a completely different turn. Instead of just being a group of kids who fought and died and were forgotten, the Wolverines ARE the resistance. Throughout the movie they are the only ones fighting back. They have been heard of outside of Spokane and presumably all over the state. Tanner and his people were from a Marine base in California and came up there specifically to join the Wolverines. When Jed dies and the Marines leave, Matt Eckart starts a much wide resistance with the assistance of the girls and Robert. They gather around them dozens of individuals who will go on to fight with them. The scene leaves things open for a sequel – which, I assume will never happen – so we don’t know if they are successful. But presumably they are and they become something much more than their namesakes in the original ever were. Even if they all died they would go on to be known as THE resistance during the war; they aren’t just kids who fought back and got themselves killed.
And there you have it. This isn’t every spoiler in the movie; I forgot some of the things that happened. So if you have any other questions just leave us a message and I’ll do my best to remember for you!
Personally, I love the original. I think it’s military fantasy at it’s best. It’s corny, yes, but it’s the sort of thing that every American kid probably dreams of at some point in their life. There is a romance to defending your hometown from invaders no matter how likely it is that you’re hometown will ever actually be invaded. I liked that the original Wolverines were just normal high school kids fighting in the hills and that at the end of the day their efforts didn’t really mean much. They didn’t turn the tide of the war. They earned a monument and meant everything in their small town. But ultimately they were the real sort of of heroes – not the ones who got all the glory and honor but real people who did what was right.
Don’t get me wrong, the kids in the remake certainly have the right idea. But their story was inflated in importance and it is far less believable that in a city as large as Spokane that no one else tried to fight back. Kids or not, successful or not, if I were those adults at the end there is no way in hell I’m ever going to go following Josh Peck into battle. It’s Josh Peck. C’mon. Now, Josh Hutcherson? Well. He’s far too adorable for me to think that competent in battle but I’d be way more likely to follow him and watch his ass (literally) than I would with Josh Peck.
But yeah. Questions, comments, etc? Let me know!