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Review: Red Dawn – Invasion redux is threat to your intelligence

Posted by on November 21, 2012 – 12:08 am

© 2012 – Lionsgate
I’m down with a fantasy war flick as much as the next person, but I really don’t understand who the target audience is for the new Red Dawn remake of the 1984 Reagan era film that explored the cold war scenario of, “What if the Russians invaded the United States?” The cold war is long over and this film has already been made once – not to mention the fact that our country is currently involved in a real war that many people forget is still going on.

With our current culture of constant terrorist threat, political turmoil in the middle-east and the Afghanistan war that has been going on since 2001, are we so desperate for entertainment that we’re okay with an ultra-bland attempt at revisiting a fictitious invasion of the United States – especially one that glamorizes teenagers taking up arms in our defense? If this is something you need then my advice is to watch the evening news – but sadly the coverage of our armed forces’ very real sacrifices is barely even observed there.

So with the new Red Dawn, what we have is the U.S. being invaded by the North Koreans; the electrical power goes out after the big football game and the next morning the invasion force is parachuting out the sky, taking prisoners and indiscriminately killing people in the streets of Spokane, Washington.

A group of scruffy teenagers, together with Iraq War veteran Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), manages to dodge the communists and head into the woods where they recoup and start retaliating against the invaders using urban guerrilla warfare tactics – and cell phones that they are somehow still able to charge.

Red Dawn© 2012 – Lionsgate
The group of youngsters becomes well known as the “Wolverines” and their efforts inspire hope in the regular citizenry. A small band of war veterans, led by Col. Andy Tanner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan who you will recognize as Watchmen’s Comedian), eventually joins up with the high-school team and together they capture some sort of communications jamming device that prevents the U.S. population from conspiring to rise up against their oppressors.

What all this really amounts to is 90 minutes of explosions, patriotic posturing and excessive melodrama that caters to The Hunger Games crowd, who, I’m certain, will flock to this movie in droves to get a glimpse of Josh Hutcherson and the other young stars in action. I hate to say it, but if these are the people we’re depending on to save us – we’re screwed.

This film is the first big feature for director Dan Bradley, who is best known as a stunt coordinator for films like Spider-Man 3. Unfortunately, neither the stunts nor the directorial efforts in this movie are anything to get excited about. The original Red Dawn was enormously popular during the era in which it was released and even though it wasn’t a great film it is head & shoulders above this rehash.

If you are asking yourself, like I did, “Hey, I thought this movie was supposed to be about the Chinese invading the United States?” Well, you’re right in that this movie was originally shot with the Chinese playing the invading forces, but some Hollywood decision-maker concluded that it would be too politically incorrect to continue down that path, so faster than you can shake a digital paintbrush all of the Chinese emblems and imagery in this completed film was changed to North Korea  and I don’t recall the Chinese even being mentioned – which is odd in that you’d think they have something to say about their neighbors invading the homeland of their biggest trading partner.

This would have been a much more interesting film if they had left the Chinese as the antagonists and actually put some thought into a script that included commentary on the socio-economic issues that prompted the invasion. But that brings me back to my original question regarding which audience the filmmakers are targeting with this film; if it’s the brainless teenager crowd – then maybe they’ve succeeded.
Grade: 3/10