Title: Red Dawn
Wait, Wait, Wait...North Korea Invaded Us? How Is That Possible? It isn't. We know it, MGM knew it, hell, the North Koreans know it. But the producers were so terrified of offending the fraction of the Chinese public that doesn't pirate all our movies in the first place, they changed the enemy to a "North Korea-led coalition," which makes even less sense.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One and a half Kim Jong-uns out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Unruly adolescent insurgents wage terrorist campaign against peacekeeping occupiers.
Tagline: "Welcome to the home of the brave."
Better Tagline: "When they came for the grunge enthusiasts, I said nothing..."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Following global economic upheavals, the United States is invaded by a coalition of nations led by North Korea, who use their apparently well-concealed fleet of air transports and heretofore unknown EMP technology to render us defenseless. High school student Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) joins his older brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth), an active duty Marine conveniently home on leave, and heads for the hills outside Spokane. They're joined by a handful of fellow students and Toni (Adrianne Palicki), a torch-carrying former classmate of Jed's. Understandably displeased by the situation, Jed turns the group into a lethal guerilla force opposing the occupiers.
"Critical" Analysis: Much as I want to let movies stand or fall on their own merits, It's impossible to avoid comparing the Red Dawn remake to the John Milius original, which was such a product of its time the idea of this new version isn't just unnecessary, it's mystifying.
Absent the looming specter of war that was present from, oh, say 1962 until 1989, the new movie loses a great deal of its impact. We live in a world of car bombs and drone attacks, so even though the premise of the original Red Dawn's was decidedly goofy (Cubans! In Colorado!), it *felt* realistic.
Milius' other theme involved trumpeting of the virtues of the Second Amendment and the fairly obvious national security implications inherent in taking away our guns. This is pretty meaningless today, since Americans have been hoarding firearms at a rate greater than any time in our history. In that respect, maybe making North Korea the enemy makes sense; not only have they become the default global whipping boys since the fall of Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein Obama, but they're probably the only country batshit enough to invade a country that only needs a giant "Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again" sign on its border.
This new batch of kids are both more and less resilient than their 1984 counterparts. On one hand, they accept the reality of a hostile invasion rather easily. Must be all those Call of Duty marathons. On the other, it isn't enough that sneering Kim Jong-holes have seized the Pacific Northwest, now Jed and Matt - whom were introduced to as he single-handedly loses a game for his football team - have some mommy issues to get through at the same time. Sorry guys, is this massive and unprecedented foreign invasion getting in the way of your "me" time? Man the fuck up.
So they hide out, then hiding becomes monotonous, so they train.
Jed must have been some sort of platoon commander back in the USMC, because in a remarkably short period they're sabotaging enemy installations and freeing patriotic Americans from certain execution. And that big truck of C-4 they happen upon doesn't hurt either.
Even though this was shot a couple years before Thor and The Avengers, Hemsworth clenches his jaw like a guy who just had a premonition about starring in one of the biggest superhero movies of all time and wondering what the hell he's doing here. And Palicki, well, I'll always love Friday Night Lights.
Josh Peck portrays Matt as such a hopeless emo asshole you can't help but think the rest of the party wished he hadn't survived the initial invasion (and there are at least two occasions where no jury would have convicted Jed for fragging him). Josh "Peeta Mellark" Hutcherson plays Robert, the C. Thomas Howell role from the original. This Robert, however, never goes full-bore psycho. Speaking of that, aside from the brotherly conflict (and the laughably abortive romantic interludes involving Jed and Toni), there's hardly any mental anguish. The Wolverines are a group of generic teens who -- while in the midst of a guerilla campaign against invading forces -- never show signs of sickness, poor hygiene, or even the need to shave. At least Matt's girlfriend has the decency to get some split ends (she doesn't do much else).
Beyond that, everyone adjusts just fine. No one talks about how their hate "keeping them warm," there's no hidden traitor (the one who ultimately compromises their position does it by accident), though not everyone comes through unscathed. I'll just say this: if you're a minority and you want to survive an enemy occupation, your last name better be "Cruise."
And did I mention Jeffrey Dean Morgan is in this? No? Well, he is.
Red Dawn is in theaters today. When the real invasion comes, we'll be too busy tweeting pithy rejoinders to defend ourselves.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.