Red Dawn, a remake of the 1984 action flick of the same name is in theaters now. The original, released at the height of the Cold War seemed very real, and that’s where a lot of the films momentum comes from. Almost 30 years later, with no real threats on the horizon, how can a remake instill the same feelings, or does it fail to do so? Does it carry on the proud name of the Wolverines, or should it have accepted the takeover peacefully?
I saw the original Red Dawn when I was about 8, at the height of my GI Joe/Soldier/I love playing with guns phase. My father thought it was would be a good idea, and boy was it. It inspired months worth of afternoons sulking in the wooded area by my house building forts and repelling attacks. When I got older I watched it again, and it became very clear how such a film released when Cold War paranoia was at a peak, could stir up quite a lot mixed feelings. I’m usually not a fan of remakes in general, but this was one that really got me interested. With no real world threat to the United States, how could the cobble together something even remotely believable as the original? The original had a pretty deep, emotional storyline, something a lot of movies nowadays kind of gloss over. While not completely as effective as the original flick, this one does quite a good job, over all.
So everyone knows the basic story. Out of nowhere, an unknown force starts to invade the northern seaboard one quite morning, and a small group of teenagers lead by the slightly older, military brother try to defend their town and their friends. It’s basic. It’s straightforward. And most importantly, they really don’t stray away from the basic concept, or try to clutter it up with unnecessary crap. Of course there’s a love interest in peril, but its not the main driving point of the plot. It could have been really easy to weigh this down with tons of pointless plot points and secondary plots, but the really kept the story pretty lean. The cast is pretty nicely done, with such heavy hitters as Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and topped up with a very grown up Josh Peck. Filmed before Thor and The Hunger Games, it really shows Hemsworth’s chops, and how much Hutcherson has learned in just a couple of years. Hemsworth really pulls his weight, and really feels like a leader. Peck’s Matt Eckard is equally as good, with some pretty heartfelt moments between the two.
This is Dan Bradley’s directorial debut, but since he’s had his hand in tons of action films as either stunt coordinator or second unit director, it was in very well capable hands. His experience in working with blockbuster action films really comes through here, and while some scenes, especially in the film’s climax have tons going on and is constantly changing between characters, it actually stays coherent and easy to follow. There’s time’s where things move a little too fast, but those are few and far between, and what happens is usually recapped later on. What really shows through though is his inexperience with small, personal scenes. While there isn’t a lot of these, sometimes they just fall flat. It seems like any scene without Hemsworth or Peck that needs a fair amount of emotion ends up just feeling a little flat. But luckily those are very few and far between, and after the flick you’ll be thinking more about the well shot action scenes and how well he handled the rest of the flick.
Here’s the thing that bothered me about the flick though. It had tons of studio problems, and ended up shelved for the better part of two years. When it was back on the slate, it was reported that the films main army had been changed from Chinese to North Korean. That got so many people’s panties in a twist it wasn’t even funny. Just from that one minor change people started bashing the film unapologetically and stirred up quite a bunch of shit because of it. I didn’t mind the change. The one thing that everyone kept bring up is that the North Koreans don’t have the means to invade us. Well guess what’s addressed in the film? They handle that whole issue and the issue of the invading army very well, and in the opening montage. After that, its very clear to see what happened, and guess what? Something like that happening isn’t completely impossible. It really ties back into the world politics surrounding the original, and even though it was a stretch, it was still possible, however unlikely. They found a current real world situation that could in fact happen, and expanded on it. I think it was a brilliant way to work around the issues without coming up with some fake country and their generic masses. I wish people would actually give things a chance before smearing them, because I think all the negative press it’s gotten for this will really hurt it in the long run.
All in all, while it might not carry the heart of the original, it sure does have a heart of it’s own. The story doesn’t get cluttered by today’s standard action throwaway plots, and it’s actually, in my opinion, a standout among the current garbage remakes. It’s a fun little action flick that’s exciting, looks great, and doesn’t grate on you the whole way through. While it’s not a summer blockbuster that’s going to blow everyone away, its a great date flick or a good way to waste a couple of hours. I guarantee you’ve sat through worse.
3.5 Wolverines out of 5