I don’t know how many fans of the original Red Dawn (1984) there are reading this so if you haven’t seen it before believe me when I tell you that there are few more epic movies from the 1980s than this anti-communist action movie. Then go to Netflix and it watch immediately. You will not regret it. I promise, by the end you’ll be screaming Wolverines and scrawling the names of your dead on the biggest boulder around that you can find. Okay, so, maybe I am overselling it. Blaine sure would agree with me, though.
For those who don’t know, the original Red Dawn was a movie that fronted a hypothetical Russian invasion on middle America. The movie opened with paratroopers landing on a small town high school football field before gunning down teachers and students who ran or tried to get in their way. The heroes were high school students whose families were killed, who suffered at the hands of foreign invaders, and ultimately took matters into their own hands. Taking their name from the local high school mascot, the Wolverines waged a guerrilla war on the invaders of their small town until outgunned and outnumbered the majority of them fell and their story faded into the annals of history.
Growing up on an Army base as an overly patriotic child I absolutely loved Red Dawn. Even now I love it. It’s corny and cheesy and full of the patriotic romanticism. It’s campy. It’s got Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. Honestly, it’s just ridiculous fun. So when I heard that they were going to remake the movie I was actually quite excited. But my initial excitement was quickly dampened by skepticism. Not the least of which was based on the fact that the Cold War is, you know, over.
Initially, the invaders in the remake were supposed to be Chinese but out of fear of upsetting the Chinese market for the film they decided to change the invader to North Korea. Of course, they made this decision after they finished filming. Which meant going through and digitally editing out every Chinese flag and insignia and replacing it when a North Korean emblem. It also meant dubbing over old dialogue and changing every line spoken in a foreign language. Then, when they finally managed to do that, the production company MGM went bankrupt and the movie – which was finished in 2010 was shelved until it was picked up by a different distributor.
It’s no surprise, though, that they movie has finally been released. Look at the headliners: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, and Jeffery Dean Morgan. Now that the Avengers has topped the charts and the Hunger Games has done so well capturing the attention of the teenage demographic, this movie is a perfect way to play off the success of those other franchises.
But even as unrealistic as North Korea succeeding at anything military related may be and despite the serious amount of time between filming and the release of the movie I still really wanted to see this. If only to have the opportunity to shout Wolverine one more time.
By random good fortune, last night, I was lucky enough to be one of the last few people admitted to a pre-screening of the Red Dawn (2012) remake.
So, how was it?
Not as bad as I think some people were expecting.
For all intents and purposes, it’s a completely different movie. This is not a shot by shot remake of the original. In fact, other than the characters having the same names and the high school mascot being a wolverine – and two other http://humanrightsfilmnetwork.org/xenical very distinct scenes – there are not a whole lot of similarities. The writers certainly gave nods to certain events and character exits but they generally take things in a completely different manner.
So don’t worry that knowing how things ended in the original will spoil the remake for you. Plenty of surprises lay ayead. Characters meet different fates and new characters make their own mark on the story.
In the remake, Jed and Matt Eckart are brothers estranged after their mother’s death some years before. Their angst ridden reunion is abruptly cut short by the arrival of a North Korean invasion force. The boys – along with a number of friends and new acquaintances – hole up in their family’s cabin outside of Spokane initially but take up arms after they watch their father be killed by the leader of the Korean invasion force. Jed, a Marine on leave in the remake, trains his brother and the others to shoot and tries to form a cohesive fighting unit. But, of course, teenage angst and egotism gets in the way.
While the original movie took place in a small town and the mountains of Colorado the majority of the remake takes place largely in the city. The Wolverines of Spokane fight on a much more modern, urban battleground and take the fight to the Koreans in a way the kids in the original never could. They are not just a group of kids playing guerrillas in the middle of no where this time around. Instead they are the resistance, acknowledged and revered even outside of their native Spokane for taking a stand, fighting back, and causing chaos.
This makes for some excellent action scenes and it puts a lot more pressure and expectation on the primarily young cast and characters. They aren’t just lobbing grenades in tanks and then running back to the woods to play football and tease each other. The kids in the remake are a real fighting force. But don’t worry, there are also plenty of moments where you worry about the kids making it out alive and other heartwarming moments full of budding relationships, friendship, etc. Plus there are some pretty hilarious moments including one involving Josh Hutcherson’s character Robert and bread which is much funnier in light of his recent claim to fame as Peeta in the Hunger Games.
All in all, I don’t think I can say that the movie was true to the original source material. But that’s okay. Red Dawn (2012) is it’s own movie with it’s own ending. Once you look past the fact that it’s North Korea invading and that it’s not the original or even trying to be the original, it’s really not that bad. Nothing special, of course. But worth a watch.
In particular I think that fans of the Homefront video game – which was actually written by the guy who wrote the original Red Dawn – will enjoy it. There are a lot of similarities and the movie and game could easily take place in the same world. Heck, the introductions to the game and movie could have been interchangeable. Had the movie been released on time perhaps they could have done something more to tie them in together.
Anyway, the final verdict: definitely see it but maybe catch it on Redbox when it’s out or maybe at a matinee showing. Unless you really want to see Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson on the big screen and can’t wait another year for Thor 2 and Catching Fire.
Final Grade: B-
STAY TUNED! On November 24th I’ll post a spoiler filled side-by-side comparison of the two movies!