Friday, November 23, 2012

Red Dawn (2012) - Movie Review

Yes, this is a remake of the 1984 movie of the same name which starred the likes of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and Lea Thompson. The original took advantage of lingering fears over the Cold War and how American citizens might react to a Soviet invasion. This time around, the story is reshaped to fit more modern times using North Korea as the villainous invaders and a new crop of young talent including Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and Adrianne Palicki.

Jed and Matt Eckert (Hemsworth and Josh Peck) are brothers who have been at odds ever since Jed, the older of the two, left home and joined the military right after their mother passed away. While on a six-week leave, Jed takes the opportunity to come home and attempt to make things right with his estranged brother. Unfortunately, invading North Korean forces have plans of their own which not only interfere with the brotherly re-bonding, but threatens to take over the entire country with the help of some deadly new technology.

For some reason, the Eckert's home town of Spokane, Washington has been chosen as a strategic target and the boys, along with a few friends manage to escape the attack and take shelter in their family's cabin in the woods. (Wait a second...Chris Hemsworth facing unforeseen danger at a Cabin in the Woods? Sounds strangely familiar.) With the help of his military training, Jed quickly organizes his group of teenage refugees in to a guerrilla fighting force that looks to take down Captain Cho and his North Korean army that is clearly up to no good.

If you are at all familiar with the original movie, you are well aware of some truly iconic moments like the drinking deer blood ritual, C. Thomas Howell's character yelling out "Wolverines!!!!" victoriously from a hilltop, and Soviet soldiers marching through the streets of small town America. You also remember the performances by the group of actors and actresses in the film who went on to become household names and cultural icons. Even though the same formula is followed with this newly updated version, it doesn't give you the same feeling that you are watching a movie you will want to see over and over again.

All of the key beats of the original story are in place, yet it just doesn't seem important in any way and I didn't really care about any of the characters. To make matters worse, I never felt any sense of dread from the invading North Koreans nor did I ever get the sense that they had any chance of being victorious. Sure, the whole point of the movie is how young American citizens rise up and conquer bad guys, but I remember watching the original and thinking how overwhelmingly superior the Soviet army was. I just didn't get that at all from Captain Cho, his angry superior officer, or anyone else labelled as a bad guy.

There's a reason this movie sat on the shelf for two years after its initial planned release date the main one being MGM's financial troubles which resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy protection. There was also an issue with the studio replacing China as the original invading country due to some real world politics so some re-shoots and story changes needed to be made. After all this was taken care of, the movie was delayed again from a 2011 release date which I believe was simply to better take advantage of Hemsworth and Hutcherson who are both much bigger and more bankable box office stars after appearing in The Avengers and The Hunger Games respectively.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say this was a bad movie, it does fall well short when making the unavoidable comparison to the original and has a tough time standing on its own as well. On the plus side, there is no shortage of good action, plenty of explosions, and lots of eye candy for both male and female viewers which makes me think this movie would have fit better on the summer calendar where these types of movies typically show up. The best thing to do it just kick back with a bag of popcorn and yell "Wolverines!!!" whenever a big explosion takes down some bad guys and you'll be just fine.

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