Red Dawn (2012)
Directed by: Dan Bradley
Running time: 93 minutes
Oh Red Dawn. I really wanted to like you. I really wanted to just have a fun time watching some ridiculous action and cliched US patriotism. But sadly, that’s not what you gave me. Alright, you did give me SOME ridiculous action and cliched patriotism; but you also gave me an awful script, a lazy story-line, some average performances and some outright, offensive racism. I mean seriously, wow!
Now Showing this week is Red Dawn, directed by Dan Bradley. A remake of the 1984 film of the same name, Red Dawn tells the story of a group of young Americans turned “freedom fighters” in rural Spokane after a force of North Korean soldiers invade the country. Calling themselves the “Wolverines”, these youths are waging a guerrilla war against the North Koreans with whatever weaponry they can get their hands on, and with no actual game plan to speak of. They’re just fighting because it is better than doing nothing I suppose. And that’s really about it; there is not really whole lot to the story beyond that.
Let me start off by saying that I have never read the original novel, nor have I seen the original film adaptation of “Red Dawn”, so my thoughts and feelings on this story are based solely upon the film presented to me. Perhaps the beefs I have with its logic are better handled or explained in the novel/earlier film but, for all intents and purposes, I don’t care. I am the perfect candidate here to judge the film as an audience member should not have seen or read the original to fully understand a new adaptation. Fact. Alright, now that I have that out of the way, let’s talk!
The first aspect of the film’s story that got to me was the fact that the initial invasion thing made no sense. The main characters just wake up one morning, and North Korean paratroopers and massive bomber planes are flying overhead. My question to the film is this: what the hell happened to the American military? They have boarder defense systems to stop this kind of stuff from happening. There is almost no explanation given for the US military’s lack of a response to the invasion. The video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (which has a similar story of Russia successfully getting a full army into the US for an invasion) gives a better explanation as to how it was achieved, and that’s saying something! No actual US military presence is really hinted to in any city in the country, which pretty much says they’re the most inept military in history. Well, they’re almost the most inept in the film. I say almost because it is really the North Korean’s who come across as the most inept army in the film. With giving little to no response when weapons are being discharged in populated areas (that are close to checkpoints staffed by soldiers!), the North Korean’s just seem like complete morons and not only does that reflect poorly on them, it also makes the victories achieved by the protagonists seem a lot less impressive.
But the completely inept portrayal isn’t the most offensive thing about the invading army in Red Dawn, not by a long shot. You see, Red Dawn was actually filmed way back in 2009 and was due for release in 2010. However, MGM (the distributor) had financial difficulties at the time and the release was delayed until very recently. Now, back in 2009/2010, the film had completely different villains: it was the Chinese military invading the US, not the North Koreans. But after the film was delayed, times changed and the filmmakers changed the villains because A. they wanted to keep up with current political fears and B. they wanted the film to still be able to be released in China, which is a huge market. So the filmmakers digitally altered all the uniforms, flags and propaganda posters from the Chinese flag to the North Korean flag. That, and a political history lesson montage at the beginning, is all they changed; so the actors playing the villains were on set and playing (from their perspective) Chinese characters and speaking Chinese, but the filmmakers decided to rely on the idea that no Westerners would be able to tell the difference between the two and just made a flag switch. And in their defense, they were right: I’m not fluent enough in either language to be able to tell the difference at face value; but I came across that little bit of information when I was researching for this review. Now I don’t know about you, but the idea that the filmmakers thought it was OK to pull that kind of swap on the grounds that “eh, Chinese people and Korean people are basically the same” just feels offensive and racist to me.
The script is pretty awful. Lots of crappy one-liners, groan-worthy patriotic sentiment and lots of wasted potential. There was basically no exploration of how actually killing people was affecting these kids, they just went through a montage and they were OK with it! What’s more, there is an interesting parallel to make with this film and things such as the war in the Middle East, what with a nation deciding that another is too much of a danger to them and sending in troops to up-heave their society, but are now in a guerrilla war with a select few of the local population. Except in real life the local guerrilla warriors are called “terrorists” whilst in Red Dawn they are “freedom fighters”. I’m not taking sides here, I just feel that is something the film should have tried to sink its teeth into, but the irony goes unnoticed.
Lastly, as is often the case with a bad script, the performances left a lot to be desired. Chris Hemsworth sells the US marine decently enough, and the other kids do alright I suppose but none of them were actually anyone we came to care about. Most of the dialogue from the supporting players was clunky exposition, merely stepping stones to the next gun battle. The gun battles were handled quite well I must say, they were the most enjoyable aspects in the film. But they don’t make the film really worth it, so yeah, give this one a miss.
See you next time!