Dear Red Dawn (2012),
Within the first five minutes of our time together, this remake establishes its cookie cutter pedigree. It’s not that it’s totally bad, it’s just that it looks like so many things you have seen before right from the start.
When we get the lowdown on the younger brother in high school and the returning marine brother in a non-descript Spokane Wash. neighborhood, it is apparent that this adequate prologue could be the back story for about a thousand different films. Once the requisite high school football game and sassy blonde girlfriend scenes are out of the way, there is the morning takeover from some sky-borne military force and it is here that I laugh while watching the shaking snow globe close up – ala Jurassic Park cup of water – and muse on how it could be announcing anything. The lead up is so pedantic that you could go running outside to find Godzilla, a T-Rex, or Giant Trolls stomping around or hell, any number of alien ships skimming the sky overhead.
But of course, the antagonist isn’t as exciting as any of those. It’s just the damn North Korean army parachuting in, and looking a lot like something from a War World II movie. At this point the balloon deflates quite a bit! I mean, the first death knell for the film is the premise this entire exercise is based on. The North Korean army just waltzing in by air even in a coastal location is ludicrous. I mean there is some lip service to a sort of EMP process but that is never made clear. Also, even if it was a selective EMP, most of the cars around town seem to avoid damage which kills EMP believability.
When the action begins after the Sheriff father tells his sons to head to the proverbial cabin, we get some wild and wooly jittery handy cam car chase scenes and wrecks on the way to the cabin, and of course there is the first ‘take stock of the resources’ scene and marine brother Jed taking charge. As the usual rag tag training leads to unlikely perfectly executed rebel covert ops, the next death knell occurs and I suddenly realize that amongst its many flaws, this remake dramatically loses some of the vulnerability of the original. There is no quiet moment out in the snow that reminds us that these are just high school kids. There are no scenes of threadbare humanity that shows the original cast at the breaking point.
No, the players in this story could be helmed by most anybody. Say, the cast of adolescents from The Children of The Corn, or even the geezer veterans from The Expendables. Whomever it was, the story is such that you still won’t have any empathy for them in any case. So, when the big mystery communication box heist goes down and they get out, our yawningly stoic protagonist played by Chris Hemsworth is now all happy and congratulatory and trying to sell his imminent death from the distance of a country mile. But by this time it goes down, the believability has bent and shattered so badly that as a viewer I was just marking time at this point.
When the film ends with the completely predictable little brother taking over for martyred big brother, all I know is that I was eyeing the exit, thinking “okay I made it through another podcast poll worst of the month pick, phew.” Chalk up the bile on this one to my pet peeve ‘bad movie lost budget.’ For taking the cash away from another more deserving film, Red Dawn, may you be permanently relegated to bad late night cable for all time.
Though its not saying much, long live the original Red Dawn!