This week is a look into a movie that, to me, made almost no sense for why it would be made for today’s audience. In the original Red Dawn, we had the Cold War tensions flaring and the idea of some kind of military action against the U.S. was still at least something that people could imagine. It was a little slice of American propaganda and some good old-fashioned cheerleading for the Midwest sensibilities. Nowadays, though, we don’t actually have some enemy that we are truly afraid might attack us and the message of the original seems downright ridiculous to us as a modern audience. So how could they possibly make this film enjoyable? The answer? Make it as much about throwing the U.S. military action in other countries back in the audiences’ faces as possible.
The main enemy here is North Korea, though it was originally filmed as China but then they realized they probably shouldn’t piss off a market that big. But hey, nobody in North Korea is going to see and nobody actually gives a shit about them so that’s a safe bet. The movie goes through a lot of hoops in the beginning to paint an alternate universe where North Korea would be a threat to anyone besides themselves. It takes the economic collapse of all of Europe and most of the U.S., the return of Russia to communism, the alliance of Russia, China and North Korea into one supergroup, and the U.S. being involved in having their forces spread out over like 5 different wars at once. Once all of that takes place then North Korea can finally claim the west coast.
The story takes place in Spokane, Washington which is immediately a departure from the original. Instead being in “Small Town, USA” in the Midwest, it is now in the second largest city in the state of Washington. The movie wastes no time getting to the action, either. You get a couple opening scenes where all of the characters are introduced with their main characteristics painted in the broadest strokes and then it starts raining Koreans on Main Street, complete with explosions and car chases. It is now up to a small group of mostly high school students to fights back. Side note: The rallying cry of “WOLVERINES!” makes way more sense in the original since a small town would probably have just the one or maybe two high schools so everyone would know what it meant. In Spokane, you have probably at least 10 just in the city limits and most people are going to just be confused as to why you are shouting about an X-Man while you shoot soldiers. Anyway.
Now, I said that the movie is all about reflecting U.S. military action in other countries and it starts off with the parallels immediately. Chris Hemsworth’s character gives a speech at the start about how for these soldiers it’s just some place but this is their home and so fighting and dying is easier when you’re protecting your home. They call themselves insurgents, use car bombs and are for reals child soldiers. The occupying forces talk about how they are trying to help rebuild the infrastructure and get things running smoothly if only those damn terrorists would stop attacking them. The people collaborating with the army are seen as scum. The only thing it’s missing would be if they started calling the group a bunch of religious extremists.
This isn’t to say the movie doesn’t have a lot of issues, mostly with race. In the resistance group there are 2 hispanic people. They have almost no lines and do not survive with one even getting shot because he tries to save the white hero while he is being a selfish douche. There are 2 black people. They do not survive, only one is really a main character but he gets abandoned. There are, of course, no Asians since they are the bad guys. The last four survivors at the end of the movie from the original group are all white. It’s really kind of jarring how much they went out of their way to include non-white characters so that they could have them die somehow.
The action in the movie is quite well done, at least. Several scenes tend to lean a bit too much on the shakey-cam for the creation of tension but it isn’t the overdone throughout. It’s an enjoyable enough movie if you don’t think about it too much but has a lot of things going on when you do, some good and some bad. I think it averages out to a 3 out of 5 for me. Enjoyable enough to sit through but not exactly something I am going to be remembering fondly years from now.