Now that the remake bandwagon is in full swing, it’s not surprising that films of all sorts of quality and cultural impact are getting the up-to-date treatment. Cue Red Dawn, a vehicle for rising star, and Loki-botherer Chris Hemsworth who inherits the role from 80s icon Patrick Swayze. This time it’s not the Russians, Cubans or Nicaraguans, but rather those ˜dastardly’ North Korean’s who are threatening the freedom of the good old US of A.
Ex-US marine Jed Eckert (Hemsworth) is back in his home town of Spokane, Washington, when an EMP pulse takes out the electricity in the area. The next morning an army of parachutists from North Korea invade the USA and take over, forcing Jed and whatever local teenagers he can round up, including brother Matt (Josh Peck) and Robert Kitner (Josh Hutcherson), to take to the hills. From there he forms a resistance force known as the ˜Wolverines’ and hoping to avenge his father he leads them into a guerilla war against the invading forces.
Following the premise of the original film, Red Dawn sees the enemy updated to modern global significance by replacing the Soviets with the North Koreans (originally Chinese, but the film-makers feared this might damage their box office in China). This time Jed is an ex-marine, to really hammer home the importance of the military in the modern USA. Much like the original, very little depth is given to the ragtag band of freedom fighters, which makes it difficult to care about them. This time however, the back-story and behaviour of Jed and his brother makes them a deeply unlikable duo, which is more problematic.
There are times where you actually feel some sympathy to the invading force, but this just highlights the politics of the film, which seem somewhat skewed. There is one key moment where Jed gives THE speech to encourage the team, including the tragic line of dialogue When I was away I was the good guy, I fought to enforce peace. Now we must be the bad guys and incite chaos. The idea that a people defending their lands from invading oppressors are bad guys is quite the bizarre ideal to believe, but it’s indicative of a film that feels like a complete mess from start to finish.
But films like Red Dawn should not be judged on their politics, no matter how ridiculous they are, it should be judged on the quality of film-making. In this area, it is a failure. Aside from the special effects, which are neat, if a little underwhelming, the pacing, structure and characterisation are poor to non-existent. The final act is cut short and it even lacks the original’s final battle. There is no problem with Hollywood remaking a film that is hardly a classic in the first instance, especially if it’s a worthy vehicle for a charismatic lead, which Chris Hemsworth clearly is. The problem is when the remake is noticeably worse than the original and actually offers nothing for star, director or audience. The original Red Dawn is best left as a cult, fun action drama, the remake is best left in the bargain bin.