Today: March 4, 2024

By Edward Boff – The original Red Dawn directed by John Milius in 1984 isn’t exactly

By Edward Boff

The original Red Dawn directed by
John Milius in 1984 isn’t exactly
an ‘80s cult classic more just a
case of “oh yeah, that was a thing that happened” for most ‘80s film
fans. It was alright, but very
much a product of its time, with full on “AMERICA! F*** YEAH!” jingoism against the
communist threat offered by the Cold War.
As such, remaking it in this age is a pretty strange premise since there
isn’t that same political mindset at work today (or at least to such an overt
degree) and, while there are interesting things that could be done with the
premise, this new Red Dawn doesn’t
really live up to any of those.

High school football team the Wolverines are having a pretty rough
season, which is really wearing on lead player Matt (Josh Peck). But that
soon pales into insignificance as America is invaded, and they end up on the
run. Now, with training from
Matt’s marine brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth),
the Wolverines must become a freedom fighting force to survive.

This film was actually made several years ago (which you can easily tell
by how young Chris Hemsworth looks here), but delayed for a good period of time
for a variety of reasons, not least was the bankruptcy of studio MGM. One other reason was for a pretty major
piece of re-editing to be done; originally the enemy in this film was China,
but at some point it was noticed what a large potential market it was, so
decided not to offend them in this way.
Instead, the new enemy, made possible by redubbing and CGI-ing over all
the badges, posters and such is North Korea (but it’s still really obvious who
it was supposed to be). Anyone who
follows world news and politics should be extremely aware how improbable this
is; in the film, one character actually says “North Korea, but that’s
impossible” and he’s absolutely right. The film’s plot and backstory does have to tie itself in
knots to explain not only how North Korea did this but did it so easily
offscreen and it’s not helped by the sense that a lot of scenes were probably
cut out.

The problems with the premise and backstory though really pale against
how pretty dull most of this is.
None of the characters are particularly nuanced and their character arcs
aren’t that interesting or easy to get emotionally involved in. This isn’t helped by the cast who
mostly just mumble their way through the whole thing; Chris Hemsworth and Jeffrey
Dean Morgan
are alright but they don’t get any particularly meaty material
to work with. The script is just a
plodding progression of clichés and retreads of scenes from the original,
brought to life on screen in “shake the camera around so they can’t see
how poor the action direction is”-vision.

The annoying thing about this film is that there actually is a way the
story could have been made really interesting and had real relevance
today. In an age when America’s
military is still in occupation in many nations such us Iraq and Afghanistan,
having a story where America is on the receiving end of such treatments can
lead to an interesting commentary on it.
There are several moments when the film does actually come close to
this, employing terms like insurgents to describe the Wolverines and having
prisoners in Guantanamo-esque jumpsuits.
Unfortunately, to properly do that would require the film to actually
address the moral quandaries of guerrilla warfare and humanising the invading
forces. Since the film is more
concerned with recreating the “AMERICA! HOO-RAH!!!” mentality of the original and having the
Chine- sorry, North Koreans as cannon fodder it’s ok for our heroes to kill,
the interesting issues the film could address are firmly left on the sidelines.

Dull characters, not great action (hampered by obvious cuts to get a
PG-13 rating), and a pace that makes this feel a lot longer than its 93 minutes
make Red Dawn a real drag to try and watch. The fact also that the film has basically been already
beaten to the punch by films Tomorrow
When the War Began
and video game Homefront
means that there’s honestly little reason to rush out to see this one. Better
to hunt down the original; it was no real classic, but at least the action
direction was better than this.

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