2012’s ‘Red Dawn’ pales next to 1984 version December 8, 2012
“Red Dawn” circa 1984 marked the first film released with the Motion Picture Association of America’s newly created PG-13 rating. This historic moment in film came following audiences’ response to violent PG films such as Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Movie viewers and the MPAA believed it was necessary to create a new rating to warn parents that some films would feature violent or offensive material appropriate only for 13 and older eyes.
John Milius’ original film wears the PG-13 badge proudly as it is willing to show the bloody violence perpetrated on the invading Russians by the rag-tag team of Wolverines. To that effect, 134 acts of violence occur per hour, or 2.23 acts per minute. The remake refuses to show the violence, but often shows its cowardice. The camera cuts away to over-dramatic reactions by the cast during violent scenes. In film this method is sometimes effective, but not in “Red Dawn.” Rather than creating a deeper sense of drama it comes off as less poignant, because the connection to a character is lost when the camera cuts away.
Milius’ “Red Dawn” is grim and gritty compared to 2012’s remake. In the remake, baby-faced actors and beautiful actresses run around in designer clothing shooting North Korean invaders. This only becomes especially distracting when returning to the original film.
The “Red Dawn” of 1984 features bruised, bloody and beaten young men and women with nothing but their hair in order. These teenagers, including Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson and Charlie Sheen, are flawed and have real human emotion intact. They don’t look or act like movie stars. They commit to the reality of being teenagers in a war-torn town while the remake features movie stars playing war.
The remake of “Red Dawn” by no means needs to exist. The original is revered as a minor cult classic that has found an audience with 1980s film lovers, but few others. The biggest problem with the existence of this remake is that it stands on no ground and bears no message. While Milius’ “Red Dawn” dared to make a statement about the Russian conflict during the Reagan era, the remake simply fills in the villain void with an Asian stereotype.
The “Red Dawn” remake was originally shot featuring the Chinese as the villain, but was later changed to North Koreans. Offensively, the flags and propaganda featured in the film were digitally changed, but the Chinese actors were simply altered only in name. The fact that the film has no footing in conflict and refuses a stance ultimately doesn’t allow for any emotional resonance.
Additionally, the characters are unbelievable as rapidly trained mini army men. “Red Dawn” the television series should have been produced rather than a feature film with an abysmal 93-minute running time. Audiences are forced to care about the characters and believe their incredible ability to learn heavy artillery within what appears to be weeks, maybe even days. The original shows the young soldiers making childish mistakes such as losing power over their weapon while the remake never features a flawed attack. This lack of inferiority makes these super soldiers into astonishing characters that look entirely implausible.
The injustice perpetuated most by the remake is that it recreates moderately iconic scenes from the original, but does so with distaste and humor. A particularly good scene in the original features C. Thomas Howell drinking deer’s blood, learning the feat of survival and how death factors. Instead of providing a tender moment, the remake casually makes this scene into a joke. The remake consistently laughs in the face of a far superior film and will garner little support for that attitude.
Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.