THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 723, June 2, 2013
I have sworn upon the altar of god,
eternal hostility against every form
of tyranny over the mind of man
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
After two years of staying in the can due to the financial problems that MGM had experienced, the remake of the 1984 cult classic Red Dawn finally saw the light of day on Thanksgiving of 2012. At first I was somewhat skeptical about how the remake of one of my all-time favorite movies was going to turn out. When I first heard they were remaking the movie it seemed asinine to me. Back in the mid-eighties we were still having a cold war with the Soviet Union, so it didn't seem as far-fetched to have teenagers defending their homes from the Russians. Since the cold war has been over for quite sometime, who would we fight on our own soil? Not to say that we don't have our share of foreign enemies, but most of them aren't the type to parachute into Main Street America and occupy it with troops.
It didn't make sense until I heard about the possibility of using China as the antagonists. China in the last few years has been doing everything it can to assert itself as a world power. Their weapon technology has become so advanced that some of it has even surpassed that of the United States. They also have the numbers to occupy vast areas of the country. At one point I was even excited about the remake until the people at MGM decided to digitally remove all references to China and replace them with North Korea. They did this out of fear of losing access to the Chinese box office.
When I first heard about this I had a series of hysterical laughing fits. Seriously? North Korea? Yes, I know that North Korea has threatened us and is continuing to do it to this very day. I have always considered North Korea to be the equivalent of a little dog that barks and occasionally snaps at your ankles, but is never able to inflict any real damage. The country is so technologically backwards that they can't even keep their cities lit at night, much less pull off a massive invasion of the United States. Not to mention that the country is so poor and destitute that even their soldiers are half-starved. Even if they were able to get their troops onto American soil, most of them would abandon their units to gorge on Taco Bell and KFC.
I was still willing to give the movie a chance, since it wasn't everyday that you a see a movie where everyday Joe Blows take up arms to defend their freedom. After missing the opportunity to see it in the theater, I read several reviews of the movie, most of which were bad. Not that I put much stock in reviews, since the original Red Dawn was critically panned. The reviews I paid the most attention to were that of online critic Brad Johnson who usually reviews exploitation movies under the name of the Cinema Snob and Christian Toto from Breibart.com. Johnson, while being a fan of the original movie, said that the remake was not only inferior to the original, but forgettable. One of his main complaints was the lack of character development. Toto, while sharing Johnson's assessment of the character development, still found the movie entertaining despite its flaws.
I finally saw the movie when it hit video and even rented it from Blockbuster (something I hadn't done in three years) instead of waiting another month for it to hit Red Box. After seeing the movie, I would have to agree that the character development was somewhat weak. One of the strongest points of the original was the character arc. Throughout the movie we see a group of scared kids become hardened by the realities of war. In the remake it just goes straight to a cheesy training montage before going right to the action sequences. The movie could have definitely benefited by having more of a character arc. I also thought the scene where the Wolverines (resistance fighters) were stealing sandwiches and soda from their local Subway was somewhat hokey and far-fetched. I found the original more believable when it showed the resistance fighters surviving off wild game and canned beans. Though we do see one brief scene in the remake where a deer is killed for food, but we don't get the impression that they are struggling with the bare necessities like they did in the original.
Now that I have discussed the flaws of the remake, I think I should also take the time to discuss the good aspects. The movie does have decent action sequences which definitely help in moving the pace along. The acting in the movie is well done especially with Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame as Jed Eckert and the much underrated Jeffery Dean Morgan as Colonial Tanner. Though I hate to admit it, there were certain aspects of the remake that I liked better then the original. In the original movie Jed Eckert was killed because he made the idiotic mistake of opening his mouth before sneaking up on one of the bad guys. In the remake he was killed when enemy troops had tracked the resistance to their hideout. Having the main protagonist die from his own stupidity, was always one of my pet peeves of the original. The sentiment about the revision was shared by Brad Johnson and was one few positive things that he did have to say about the movie.
Even though most of the fans of the original are going to cry blasphemy at what I am about to write, I have to say that I prefer the 300 style ending of the remake where more fighters are rallied to bring about an eventual victory. I know that the ending of the original movie where most the group is killed off is a better reflection of the realities of war, but I guess I am just a sucker for a happier ending.
Overall, was the remake better then the original? Not by a long shot, but it was still entertaining and at the very least it is worth renting. I guess in the end, I just can't get enough of teenagers yelling out "Wolverines", while mowing down communists with their AK-47's.
Red Dawn the original:
Red Dawn the remake: