Friday, December 14, 2012

Red Dawn Movie Review

When I was about 9 or 10 years old I watched my first PG-13 movie; the 1984 Red Dawn. I don’t remember much of it, but it was a bit too violent for my tastes back then.  A lot has happened in the world since 1984, and I could see why someone thought making a remake might be a good idea. Incidentally, they didn’t really do a very good job with the new Red Dawn (2012).
US Marine Jed Eckhert (Chris Hemsworth) is on leave from his military duties and returns to his hometown of Spokane, Washington. He reunites with his Police Sergeant father (Brett Cullen) and high school football star brother, Matt (Josh Peck). After a mysterious power outage, Jed and Matt are shocked to wake up in the morning to North Korean paratroopers that are invading the neighborhood. They escape to the Eckhart family’s cabin in the woods along with some of Matt’s schoolmates, including Robert Morris (Josh Hutcherson) and Daryl Jenkins (Conner Cruise), the mayor’s son.  Jed announces that he intends to fight for freedom and the others join him, calling themselves the Wolverines after their school mascot. Jed trains the teenagers to become guerrillas to fight against the North Korean commander, Capt. Cho (Will Yun Lee), and take back their land and freedom.
So, the world has changed a lot since the 1980’s; the Soviet Union (invading country in the original Red Dawn) has fallen, dictators have also fallen, the United States has been involved in several conflicts, and we are currently in a state of war. The United States has gained new allies and new enemies. In light of post-9/11 America, the idea of the US being invaded is a lot more plausible than it was in 1984. Indeed the scenes where Matt and Jed wake up in their safe suburban home to the sight of fighter jets and paratroopers above their neighborhood is a daunting and frightening sight that doesn’t seem as unrealistic a concept in the year 2012.
However, we needn’t worry too much. Red Dawn assures us that an invading communist country can be subjugated by a team of high school kids and their girlfriends using mostly automatic weapons stolen from the North Koreans themselves. I thought Red Dawn was a timely remake that was full of plot holes. How does  North Korea with a population around 25 million, raise enough invaders to attack the United States which has a population of about 513 million, even with some assistance from Russia? The story’s time frame is pretty vague; how long does it take North Korea to invade, import heavy weapons and vehicles, enlist the local traitors, and start running things? Why are they traveling over so many other countries and an ocean just to attack the US specifically? How long does it take one Marine to train a dozen teenagers to fight and use weaponry they’ve never handled before?
Focusing on the characters in one particular resistance group was fine, provided it featured interesting characters. Red Dawn didn’t actually do that. There was very little dialogue in the movie apart from cautionary advice, victory cries, and comments from enemy leaders  eavesdropped to the subjugated population. Yeah, Matt and Jed are at odds with one another and bicker with one another. Conflict gives characters depth, but I don’t even know why they are arguing other than the fact that they aren’t particularly fond of each other. Really? You’re country is being invaded! Get over yourselves and fight the enemy together! The other characters were given barely any dialogue, so in the rare case when someone dies, you don’t really feel sorry for their loss; you even need Jed to remind you what the name of the dead character is. Dialogue was mostly limited to, “Take that, screaming North Koreans with no agenda!”
Apart from Chris Hemswroth, the acting wasn’t very good. Josh Peck was not cut out for action or dramatic roles. Peck started out as a painfully juvenile comedy actor for Nickelodeon, I’m glad he’s moving on to bigger and better things, but he just wasn’t good in Red Dawn. Most of the other actors did pretty lame job, this was probably their first acting gig and it really shows.
Red Dawn really wasn’t a very well written or acted movie. It’s almost seems like someone woke up one morning with the idea to do an unnecessary remake of a cult classic, and about a week later they finished production. I appreciate what it was trying to do: communicate that the idea of a war on American soil isn’t a far-fetched idea anymore, and to make us question whether or not we would fight to protect the freedoms we inherited from our forefathers. That was a great idea to get the audience to think about. Red Dawn didn’t really do a good job of it, though. It was more of a pro-America action movie with lots of gun fights and explosions and very little plot for a war movie. Given the amount of gunplay, the carnage is far from graphic. There are a few rousingly patriotic moments in the movie that I really appreciated. You’re not going to be missing anything if you don’t see Red Dawn, but I enjoyed it for the message that wasn’t well expressed. If you even want to bother with it, I recommend borrowing from a friend. It’s barely worth the money to rent it.

Did you see this Red Dawn? In your opinion how did it measure up to the original? Were there parts they did better or worse than the 1984 version? Comment below and let me know if the remake did justice to the original.

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