Red Dawn Review: The Tipping Point for Lazy Remakes

There was a time, about eighteen months ago, when you couldn’t swing a cat without running into someone name-checking Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” theory (believe me, I tried, the cat was not pleased). People loved that Gladwell riff, they loved it so much they actually sort of lurved it. Why? Well, it was an easy way for folks to discuss change, and why we rarely saw it coming. Which is why I’d posit that the current “normal” of Hollywood, releasing fantastically awful reboots and hyping terrifically terrible retreads, is all about to change. Red Dawn is that “tipping point,” heralding a bright new era of innovation, even as 2012’s version of Red Dawn is over there in the darkened corner, finger blasting various farm animals.

North Korea has invaded America. BOOM! Did you notice what happened there? With that opening sentence, Red Dawn has already said “Screw this, I’m going out for a smoke”. We’re not even three minutes into the movie and we’re already in full-on “re-write’ mode. Now, when they started development on this project, the original occupier was slated to be China (taking the place of The Ruskies from the 1984 original). And then some studio exec had a brilliant idea. Did it matter if it was plausible? Was there an intern available for even a cursory Google search (which would have revealed that the US outspends North Korea by at least a factor of 7000x on military hardware)? Or that the average North Korean is around three inches shorter than the average South Korean, simply due to a poor diet from birth? Naaaaah, no worries bra, let’s just cast some names and get this actioner out in theaters. The people will guzzle it up!

How silly is the choice of North Korea as an adversary? Here’s an excerpt from “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

It is axiomatic that one death is a tragedy, a thousand is a statistic. So it was for Mi-ran. What she didn’t realize is that her indifference was an acquired survival skill. In order to get through the 1990s alive, one had to suppress any impulse to share food. To avoid going insane, one had to learn to stop caring. In time, Mi-ran would learn how to walk around a dead body on the street without paying much notice. She could pass a five-year-old on the verge of death without feeling obliged to help.

So yeah, it would be hard to claim that Mi-ran was “loving it”. That’s one paragraph I picked of that book at random, but the whole thing is lousy with starving North Koreans. Plus, keep in mind that the book is subtitled “Ordinary Lives” – which means we’re not even talking about North Korea’s poor people, probably because everyone is poor, and many more are just plain (Alert: medical term is about to be utilized) “dead from lack of food”. This is our “monster,” the Asian menace, invading idyllic Spokane, as North Koreans are wont to do … if we’re not vigilant.

Chris Hemsworth (as played by Thor) has recently returned home from a tour o’ duty in Iraq. He’s just looking to unwind, and perhaps score a bit of high school tail. Luckily, bombs start dropping over his quiet little town and his INSTINCTS KICK IN. Now, never you mind that Hemsworth is from the land down under (where women glow and men plunder). I’m not xenophobic enough (yet) to claim that an Aussie can’t play a true ‘Merican hero, though I’m starting to wonder if, during our quest for treasure, if we haven’t lost a bit of the “art” of Red Dawn? What’s that? They were never trying for anything meaningful, and thus should be excused from all expectations? A tough view, but a fair one.

His little brother, played by Josh Peck, is in high school, which naturally means the actor they cast looks about 24. Peck is mad at Hemsworth, sibling issues, we will find out more on this front later, but for now you’ll need to make due with speeches and scenes that go a little something like this:

This trailer is around 500 times better than the film, because the actual film lasts 90 minutes, and you can’t undo the psychic damage with anything short of a fifth of Jack Daniels. Didja notice the football scenes? Those were America. Didja notice The Space Needle? THAT IS AMERICA, TOO. But let me ask you a question, even about this trailer. At 43 seconds in, what do you suppose shoots that airplane down? I like to imagine it was a grandma who was sitting on a SAM system this whole time, but I have no proof, and the movie has no clue as to how it happened either. They needed that plane to go boom so the main characters could jump out of the way. An elegant equation!