Saturday, November 24, 2012

Some Decent Action Scenes Can't Save This Needless Remake: Our Review of "Red Dawn" (2012)

Directed By: Dan Bradley 

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language

Run Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Synopsis: U.S. Marine Jed Eckert (Hemsworth) is home on leave, visiting his father and younger brother, Matt (Peck), when North Korean soldiers suddenly invade their hometown. Jed and Matt flee to the woods, form a rebellion with a group of friends they saved, call themselves Wolverines after their high school mascot, and attempt to save their town. A remake of the 1984 original.


Andrew: Hello readers! The other night Sarah and I joined the crowds looking to see a movie the night before Thanksgiving, where we joined a relatively full crowd in seeing the new Red Dawn remake starring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck and Josh Hutcherson. Red Dawn, much like The Cabin in the Woods, was originally filmed in 2009 starring a pre-Thor Hemsworth, but shelved thanks to MGM’s bankruptcy problems and is just now getting released in 2012.

Sarah, you haven’t seen the original 1984 version starring Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and other notable 80’s actors, correct?

Sarah: That is correct. I didn’t even know Swayze and Sheen were in it.

A: Then I can tell you that the new version is relatively faithful to the original. Most of the character names are exactly the same…

S: What about the story? I know the original version had the Russians as the invading enemy and the new one changed it to North Korea.

A: That’s one of the two big differences for sure. The two differences are that A.) they’ve moved the setting from Colorado to Spokane, Washington, and B.) they’ve changed the villains from the Russians to the North Koreans.

Now, when they originally filmed the movie in 2009 the bad guys were actually the Chinese…

Chris Hemsworth headlines the cast of young up-and-comers in the remake of 1984's Red Dawn. Ironically, he filmed this in 2009 before hitting it big in 2011's Thor.

S: Oooohh! That would’ve made a lot more sense for “Red Dawn.”

A: Exactly, especially because they’re a relatively big world power now. But while the film was sitting on MGM’s shelves, they decided to alter the film’s villains from the Chinese to the North Koreans because they decided demonizing one of the international box office’s largest markets probably wasn’t the brightest idea.

S: That should have been obvious from the very beginning of filming. In the long run the change to North Korea probably works out best for the movie’s box office haul…

A: But was it the best move for the plot? We’ll get to the idea in a little bit. But for now, Sarah, now knowing what some of the similarities and some of the differences are between the two versions, what did you think of Red Dawn?

S: I wanted to like this movie, I really did. But the only person in the film with any kind of talent is Chris Hemsworth. I mean, you have Josh Hutcherson who went on to be in The Kids Are Alright and The Hunger Games after this was filmed, but he’s not very good here.

I was very disappointed with Red Dawn. I wanted to like it SO BAD. But in the end, I found it incredibly cheesy, particularly the dialogue. The dialogue was just awful and I couldn’t stand Josh Peck’s mouth-breathing the entire movie. It made me really upset. [Laughs] Yeah…I didn’t like it.

A: What about it besides the dialogue didn’t you like?

S: There were plot holes that bothered me.

A: Like?

S: They make a big deal about Spokane’s mayor, who is the father of one of the Wolverines…

A: Daryl, played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s son, Connor Cruise.

S: Yeah, he’s Daryl’s dad, and they show that he’s aligned himself with the North Koreans to save his own butt. But other than two brief scenes they don’t do anything with that conflict for Connor. He has a couple brushes where he has to choose between his dad or the wellbeing of the Wolverines and their city, but that’s it.

Actually, a lot of my problems had to do with Daryl. (MINOR SPOILER ALERT IF YOU’VE NEVER SEEN EITHER VERSION) You know, there’s a development towards the end where the Koreans plant a tracker on him and when the Wolverines find out, they just leave him behind and you never see him ever again.

Okay, yes he’s probably captured by the Koreans and maybe even killed, but you never find that out.

A: I like your point there, especially because in the original version when the Wolverines find out that Daryl has a tracker in him they straight up kill him. (END OF MINOR SPOILER)

S: Wow, yeah that would’ve been a lot better. Oh, and the Russians being brought in? That should have been huge, but all we ever see is ONE Russian!

A: True, there’s only one Spetsnaz solider we ever see.

S: It should have been like, “Oh crap. The Russians are here, that means a second insurgence!”

And also, where is the rest of the country? I understand that the coasts are being attacked first, but where the hell is the rest of the military? I know they said in the film that they got struck first but there should still be plenty of active reservists and normal soldiers who should be able to fight back. Where are our jets? I just find that the concept and the storyline is lacking in a lot of ways.

A: And again, to be fair, a lot of that is similar to the original…

S: Which doesn’t surprise me.

A: But I agree with you for the most part. It’s tough to make it plausible in today’s world because a land invasion of anywhere in the United States by any country is probably not possible. Today’s wars are fought first with technology like drones, and only when it’s absolutely necessary do foot soldiers go in. Essentially, if you’re going to invade the United States, things like drones, dirty bombs, etc. are the way to go.

So I agree with you on that. But they do explain a new weapon, a strong EMP device was used to known out electricity all around the country.

S: Right! And I understand that the Koreans have some sort of stand-alone communication device that the American military needs to get their hands on to fight back, but the movie ends before they ever show you what good having that device does for them. There’s a big final battle to try and get this communication device, and then the film ends. There’s no closure.  

A: It does end abruptly after the Wolverines get the briefcase thing, and I hate to be defending this movie because I didn’t like it very much either, but the briefcase is just a Macguffin.

What the movie is about is the group and it’s mainly about Josh Peck’s character, Matt, and his transformation from a relatively selfish and immature teenager who doesn’t think about what’s best for the team, into the leader that the group eventually needs.

So by that point in the movie he’s grown as a man, as a soldier to the point where his older brother, Jed (Hemsworth), admits that he’s finally proud of him.

S: Yes…but…while he has to be the leader I don’t think it’s very well done. I had a hard time with that relationship between Matt and Jed. Early on in the film there’s a fair amount of animosity between them because when their mother died Jed joined the Marines, leaving Matt behind for 6 years.

When Jed returns on leave there’s this animosity between them that wasn’t quite believable on Peck’s side of things. Does that make sense? I felt that Hemsworth did a good job portraying the military guy who comes home, he’s kind of hardcore…but I had a hard time believing the Matt character.

A: Yeah, Josh Peck doesn’t do a very good job carrying his weight in that relationship. And you know, I’m sure that we personally are comparing this relationship between two estranged brothers to the similar one portrayed by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in Warrior, which was incredibly believable. And that’s like comparing a couple of rank amateurs to master thespians.

S: Oh yeah! That’s a great comparison! That’s exactly what I wanted and what it should have been. Instead we’re given half of that. Then you have the supporting cast, the rest of the Wolverines, who also didn’t do a lot for me.

A: There are a lot of pretty faces…

S: There are a lot of pretty faces, there are a lot of big names…

A: Eh…I wouldn’t say there are a lot of BIG names. Outside of Hemsworth and maybe Hutcherson…

S: For this generation, and especially now three years after they originally made this, they’re relatively big names.

A: I’d say when this was filmed in 2009, I’d say nobody in this movie was a big star. Off the top of my head, Peck had been a child star on Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, Adrianne Palicki was in the Friday Night Lights television series but that wasn’t a terribly popular show, Hutcherson had been in some family films like Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Hemsworth had portrayed Captain Kirk’s dad in the Star Trek reboot earlier that year, but like I said none of them were really stars. Heck, even Jeffrey Dean Morgan wasn’t a huge name despite being in stuff like Grey’s Anatomy and Watchmen.

"Maybe if we stand here with our guns and look sexy, the North Koreans will just leave?" (From left to right: Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Connor Cruise)

S: Who was Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Grey’s Anatomy?

A: He was Denny. C’mon, you’re the one that watches the show and you didn’t know that’s what his real name was? [Laughs]

S: I should probably know that one, huh? Ok, so I guess they aren’t really big stars even still.

A: So here’s the thing for me: there were actually a few things in this movie that I did like. I’d be lying if I said the first sight of the Korean paratroopers filling up the sky and the initial invasion didn’t give me chills at the sight of it.

S: I just wish they hadn’t given so much away in the trailer. I feel like that would’ve been more impactful if we hadn’t seen it before.

A: Well it’s a huge part of the story and kind of understood that it’s gonna happen, but it still gave me the chills. So I thought that was well done. I thought a lot of the actual ground battles and guerilla tactic attacks by the Wolverines were all really well done. The final shootout was relatively well-staged and there was some tension there I hadn’t been expecting.

But like you mentioned earlier, this acting isn’t very strong, the dialogue isn’t very strong. But the biggest problem is that it is so ridiculous – the idea that any country could just straight up invade the United States…

S: Especially a country as small as North Korea. They’re on our radar, they’re kind of like that country sitting in the corner of our eye that we’re just waiting to do something so we can bomb the crap out of them, but…like…if it had been China they could have done so many more things that could’ve hurt America as a country instead of just dropping in.

A: And they try to rationalize why America is being invaded…it has something to do with how the economy has gone to crap around the world…but I’m not quite sure why North Korea wants to invade us because of this. I think somewhere in the opening credits someone says North Korea has the 4th largest military in the world and that has GOT to be incorrect. That has to be BLATANTLY incorrect. (Editor’s note: According to the website, North Korea has the world’s 22nd largest military, ranking right behind Poland and right ahead of the Philippines)

Now, I also want to say – and correct me if I’m wrong – that they said North Korea was sort of just taking care of the Northwest corner of the United States while Russia was taking care of the rest of the country?

S: Yes they did, which doesn’t make much sense either.

A: Just the idea of invading the United States in today’s day and climate is laughable.

S: Well again, they don’t do a great job explaining why Russia would want to invade America either, or how they’d bypass all of Europe in the process. And we have a lot of Russian readers, too! So the idea that they’d help North Korea to invade us really bothers me!

A: Now again, I understand that in the original they really only focused on this one group of rebels in Colorado and ignored the rest of the world. In fact, World War III is going on in the original and they don’t really focus on it outside of the town that they’re in. I didn’t think that worked so well here, because today’s audiences aren’t really keen on being left with a lot of questions.

S: And what, wasn’t the original made in the 1980s? That was a much different time where, while still implausible, something like the Russians invading America was a little more of a real concern, especially if it was small-town America.

Ok, so final thoughts?

A: You know what? The bottom line is that they didn’t need to remake it.

S: They didn’t need to remake it! If they needed to remake it they shouldn’t have stuck so close to the original, in my opinion. Make it something your own.

A: Well I think if they had to remake it (and they didn’t, but I digress) they should have kept the setting in the 1980s. Make it a period film. That’s the ONLY way this might even make a lick of sense. Updating it to present time, changing the villains from Chinese to North Korean and having to digitally alter uniforms and redub dialogue…it’s just not good.

S: Good call. And despite a good performance from Chris Hemsworth where you can really see the star potential that he would tap into when he was cast as Thor, it’s not nearly enough to carry the rest a movie that didn’t need to be made.


(Individual Scores - S: 2.5/5  A: 2/5)


  1. Good review. To me, this movie was crap and didn’t do anything to enhance or build-upon the original. I didn’t love the original a single-bit, but it looks like a freakin’ masterpiece compared to this garbage.

    1. Thanks Dan! This movie is total crap. The original isn't very good either, and this one makes it look like a classic.