The movie made sense in '84, when the Cold War was still swinging along and a movie could tap into residual anxiety about the Commies taking over. For the remake, the Soviet threat is gone, so the North Koreans turn out to be the villains in the occupation of the U.S.A.
Actually, the film was shot with the Chinese as the villains, but the studio thought about how much money they could make selling the film in China and decided to change the invading force.
A few overdubs of dialogue, much digital scrubbing of flags and emblems, and you've got yourself the North Korean incursion. North Korea being a closed marketplace, MGM didn't care much about offending possible consumers under that regime.
The location for our group of homegrown resistance fighters is Spokane (although the movie was mostly shot in Michigan). Two brothers, played by "Thor" actor Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck, lead a ragtag crew of teens against the occupying army.
They call themselves the Wolverines, after the local high school mascot. But surely you remember that part from the original film.
What's interesting about this one is hearing Hemsworth's Marine talk about how they'll adopt the methods of insurgents to wreak havoc against the invaders, because insurgents will always prevail in their own country. He even speaks of the Viet Cong with approval. Coming from an Iraq war veteran, this is a twist.
You have to suspend disbelief for the premise here, especially given the idea that a country of limited population would have a plan to occupy the vast United States. If you want to buy into the concept for the sake of a fun night at the movies, fine -- but the execution here needed to be much, much better than it is.
Director Dan Bradley is an experienced stunt coordinator and second-unit director, so rest assured the explosions are well-managed. Those pesky scenes where people have to talk, however, are decidedly problematic.
The fantasy elements of fighting in the forest and living off roots and berries will appeal to survivalists everywhere, but even those folks might have to concede that this movie's pretty bad. So now we just wait for the box office to tell us whether we've evolved at all since the '80s.
"Red Dawn" (1 star)
Remake of the chest-beating survivalist fantasy from 1984. This time the invading army belongs to North Korea, and it's up to a ragtag crew of Spokane teenagers to lead the insurgency movement against the occupiers. Even fans of the original might have to concede how bad this one is, although the explosions are well-managed.
Rated: PG-13 for violence.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Meridian, Oak Tree, Thornton Place, Cascade, Woodinville.
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