'Red Dawn': the remake that no one asked for or wanted
Movies are similar to boats. Before they can set sail, they have to be engineered, prepared for scenarios of disaster, fitted with a proper crew and have an idea of a destination. Keeping with the analogy, the remake of "Red Dawn" is a hollowed out log with holes in the bottom trying to find its way across the Pacific.
The story of "Red Dawn" is very similar to the original. The United States is invaded (this time by the North Koreans) and somehow they manage to siege and occupy the country. With a new war at hand and the entire military on vacation (I guess), it's up to a bunch of high school students to engage in guerrilla warfare and take back of the land of freedom. As you can guess, the plot is incredibly contrived and is one of the reasons "Red Dawn" is practically dead on arrival. Granted, within the movie's own twisted logic, the story is presented and told quite well; but to buy any of it would require an extensive stretch of the imagination.
The other big issue with the film is the characters. We have Jed (Chris Hemsworth) who is a Marine, and that's basically it. He has a brother, Matt (Josh Peck) who is... his brother. And a bunch of other paper thin characters whose names I don't care to remember. The individual arcs range from minute to nonexistent, and combining this with a the processed story, there's practically nothing to care about while watching "Red Dawn."
The rest of the movie actually isn't that bad, it's just average. The writing is standard fare, with dialogue that avoids clichÃ© yet fails to find originality. It's clear the movie was written for a teenage male audience in mind, and while that never bodes well, it is several levels above "Transformers." The action scenes certainly have some fun moments and are given the proper time and pace, but suffer from an excessive shaky cam and mediocre editing. The acting quality is directly correlated to how well-known the actor is. Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson are both good, Peck is okay, and everyone else whom I've never heard of is pretty awful. One piece of the movie that heavily weighed on my nerves was the shameless product placement. Subway practically gets a two minute scene devoted to them, and you'll be looking at a car with Dodge Ram printed on the back quite a lot.
One facet where "Red Dawn" impressed and later disappointed me was the thematic element. The original 1984 film is undoubtedly one of the most wave the flag pro-America, pro-war movies of the era. The remake, at least at first, seemed the doing the opposite. It makes mention of how the United States' actions in Iraq mirror those of the North Koreans in the film. That was interesting, but unfortunately, it's quickly forgotten, and by the end of the film the message once again reflects the original. I'm left wondering if the shift in view was intentional, or if "Red Dawn" is so shallow it can't even recognize its own moral.
"Red Dawn" is one of those movies that doesn't bore you and for the most part doesn't give you much of a reason to dislike it, but at the same time it offers so little engagement and substance, you feel as though disliking it is the only option. At the very least, it's the only option that brings with it logical reasoning, something definitely not found in the film.
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