Red Dawn (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Red Dawn (2012)

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There's my jingoistic erection poppingAndrew DISLIKE BannerSetting aside the logistics of the scenario, there is one thing about Red Dawn that impressed me.

A ragtag group of teenagers have become the de facto guerrilla force against the invading North Koreans.  Late in the film an even grizzlier set of commandos and marines hear whispers of these courageous Wolverines and come sniffing around for assistance.  Teens and veterans meet and the young lads finally get their first taste of what happened that let the North Koreans invade so effectively.  It involves tactical warheads, EMPs, and genius troop deployment.

None of the kids react.  Like the rest of this sanitized warmongering world they are numb to the fact that the entire eastern seaboard is gone.  Instead they all clutch their rifles, utter a quick ooooh-rah or two, then go straight back to killing Koreans.

The sins of this film are plentiful, but by God you have got to admire the stone-cold tenacity of these children.

I know Hemsworth has his fans, but the overdone symbolism does more theatrical lifting than he does. Sub-note, mopey should not have entered anyone's thought process watching Red Dawn.

I know Hemsworth has his fans, but the overdone symbolism does more theatrical lifting than he does. Sub-note, mopey should not have entered anyone's thought process watching Red Dawn.

Moving on from the one highlight, Red Dawn is somehow devoid of the nuance that gave it's predecessor some lasting charm.  That the first film is a similarly boring action film consisting of Cold War fears through the eyes of Anytown, USA this is also impressive, but in a bad way.  For all its faults, the original film was very much an interesting product of its time against an adversary that could have plausibly posed a threat, released at the height of the grossly intolerant Reagan era.

The remake trades the naked propaganda and fatalism of the '80s for an approach more akin to wargaming fantasy.  Instead of kids sitting around in school soon to be littered with dead bodies, they are in the aftermath of a hard-fought football game where our heroes, the Wolverines, scored victory.  Already the framing is very different, now engaging in a society willing to take its hits versus a past America feigning innocence on the world stage.  But the rest of the beats are roughly the same as visiting military prodigy Jed Eckert (the always boring and stoic Chris Hemsworth) rousing his friends and family as a guerrilla strike force against the North Koreans.

For a mass-invasion of the country with the largest military in the world the film is surprisingly bloodless.  There's little connection to what our heroes are doing as they thwart the invaders and the explosive results.  Many shots show the Wolverines shooting at something and fire being returned in kind, but aside from one execution early in the film action and result are rarely in the same frame.  Even the execution scene, for all its dramatic bluster, yields a curiously unstained corpse despite the gun to skull proximity range.  Despite the looming threat it seems there will be little consequence, and considering that for all its societal bluster its an action film, that's a significant hurdle the film can't clear.

PIctured: the final images of a dying man playing the worst Red Alert mod in existence.

Pictured: the final images of a dying man playing the worst Red Alert mod in existence.

I understand that a film like the original Red Dawn, especially with its school shooting opening scenes, is almost impossible to make now.  But that still doesn't excuse the haphazard nature of the jumpy plotting.  This is partly due to sheer technical incompetence as shown in the reel-to-reel action scenes, and also because of a philosophical break from the material the remake was supposed to be based on.

The remake was supposed to hit the multiplex in 2011 and had featured the Chinese as the bad guys.  Unfortunately the marketing gurus at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer didn't realize that foreign box office receipts are huge in China and decided to convert the villains to the North Koreans instead.  This strikes me as a disastrous frame of mind for any modern person who gets any enjoyment from film to have.  First, there's the insulting notion that the Chinese and North Koreans are interchangeable in physical appearance and militaristic demeanor.  Then the troubling practice of making an evil other out of any foreign country (notable factoid - the Chinese are worried about North Korea in the same way many average U.S. citizens are).  It's no wonder this remake spoke to some of our worst racist impulses as a nation.

Above all, the remake commits the most basic of movie sins.  After all, it suggests that a massive invasion fleet managed to scramble support from Russia, steamroll Europe, cross the Atlantic without being noticed, then launch a full-scale assault on the United States.  On the basis of pure spectacle, that is the film that they should have made.  It may not have been any less stupidly jingoistic, but at least it could have been interesting.

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Red Dawn - TailRed Dawn (2012)

Directed by Dan Bradley.
Screenplay written by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Posted by Andrew

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