Red Dawn (2012)
Once again it is time to revisit a cut classic that in the omnipotent wisdom of the movie studios decreed needed to be retold or in the parlance of the media, a reimagining. It used to be simply being called a remake but changing the appellation to include the word, imagine, gives the often fallacious sense of imagination being involved in the process. In the case under examination here, ‘Red Dawn’, the 2012 incarnation falls short of the elements that makes a reimagining worthwhile; the opportunity for a generation to reinterpret a classic story based on concepts representative of fundamental aspects of humanity. The original ‘Red Dawn’ released in 1984 was concerned with the post-Vietnam era where soviet communism was collapsing and the Cold War was on the verge of ending. One fear that was prevalent in that time was the Soviets would feel the ground rapidly slipping from beneath them and become sufficiently disparate to consider a first strike on American soil. Reaching out to the only Communist faction in the Western hemisphere, the Cubans, they mount an armed attack on the American heartland. That was a plot paradigm that fit the geo-political structure of the mid-eighties. There was a valid and well-made variation of the theme set in Coastal Australia, ‘Tomorrow, When The War Began’, that proved its worth by providing the same basis themes filtered through the sociological lens of another country with somewhat similar backgrounds.
Although there was an honest effort to tap into some of the dominant trepidations resulting from front page events the film could not connect with the most overwhelming fears found with the American population at this time. In the post 9-11 world the most devastating fear is generated by act of terrorism. The basis of this version of ‘Red Dawn’ is driven by the recent global economic breakdown. According to the scenario contained here the economic woes of the United States and the NATO alliance eroded the countries to the point where North Korea in conjunction with an ultra-reactionary faction in Russia seize the opportunity to send a military contingent to attack and subsequently hold parts of America. The sense of plausibility =, of urgency that permeated the original is not present here without that you have a somewhat passible action flick but devoid of the political trappings the overall impact cannot take hold. The second half of the plot is that a rag tag group of high school students find themselves as the last bastion of freedom. Within American history there is a very real precedence for this. During the American Revolutionary War the troops consisted of many young men barely in their teens. The same demographic held true in our Civil War so the idea of teenagers taking up arms to defend their country is not at all a flight of fancy. So this 2012 version of the story has to combine a reasonable young fighting force opposing an unrealistic enemy. This translated to constructing the foundation of the story on sand.
Another difference in this version is altering the emphasis of the teens as a guerrilla fighting force. Chris Hemsworth is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable actors in the industry today thanks to his portrayal of Thor in the box office juggernauts Marvel Avenger’s franchise. Here he plays the mortal Marine Jed Eckert on leave when the invasion hits. Jed is reunited with his father, Tom (Brett Cullen), a sergeant in the local police and his younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck), football star fir the high school. Much to their shock and disbelief Matt and Jed watch as under the cover of a black out a force of North Korean troops have invaded the town. The force is overwhelming; paratroopers supported by aircraft transport vehicles. They flee to a cabin they have in the woods and are soon joined by classmates of Tom; Robert Kitner (Josh Hutcherson), Daryl Jenkins (Connor Cruise), and Pete (Steve Lenz). Initially there is a debate as to their course of action; surrender or stay hidden and fight the best they can. It soon becomes evident they have to resist. Calling them the Wolverines after their school mascot they start to attack targets of opportunity and some carefully scouted military objectives. The invaders at first see then as a nuance but in short order the Wolverines are inflicting noticeable disruptions. Naturally there has to be a feminine element included to broaden the audience appeal. Toni (Adrianne Palicki) has a relationship with Jed that turns to her discovering her inner G.I. Jane. She is joined by the other female character Erica Martin (Isabel Lucas). The pair tries to come off in a military manner but wind up looking like a combat photo assignment on Too Model.
There is more of a ‘protect your right to own guns’ vibe here than the need to protect our homeland theme that drove the original. This had the unfortunate effect to make the scope of the flick myopic coming off as opposing gun control on the basis that we just might need all sorts of automatic weapons and rocket launchers just in case those Commies decide to take over our country. Never mind there are McDonalds in Moscow and Ho Chi Minh City, they just might launch a full scale invasion on our turf so keep your arsenal handy and make certain high school students have expertise in tactics, guerilla strategy and the use of a plethora of weapons.
The film was direct by first time filmmaker Dan Bradley. His previous experience in movies is extensive, as a stunt performer and coordinator. This does help explain the action orientation of the movie since it is what the director is accustomed to. When combined with the screen writers, Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore background in various television shows there is a feeling of people making a change in in their career paths and trying to find a new artistic style. In all the film is more ‘sizzle than steak’ and in fact the sizzle is not sufficient to carry the load of entertaining the audience.