When Red Dawn first premiered in 1984, it was so a movie of the time. The “Red Menace,” aka the Soviet Union, was still the U.S.’s hardcore enemy as our nukes and their nukes stared each other down in a Cold War that would defrost merely years later.
For those of us that remember the Patrick Swayze-starring film, it felt real, as if Russians invading America was a true possibility. Fast forward to 2012 and we have a new Red Dawn, where the enemy is North Korea and among a youthful cast, Chris Hemsworth is our star.
That original film also starred Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey… all who would become big stars of the decade. Red Dawn 2012 features a cast of youthful actors that could themselves find their way to stardom in the coming years. Friday Night Lights’ Adrianne Palicki and Josh Peck as well as The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson are the kids who follow Hemsworth’s lead in seeking to be the spark of a revolution when North Korea invades.
Yes, you read that correctly: North Korea invades! The film gives us some sort of backstory that sets the plot in motion. It is a nationwide takeover predicated on our computer, electrical and infrastructure systems collapsing at the hands of an electronic attack from the country that -- it must be stated -- does have its share of computer terrorist capabilities. So, this isn’t too far on the reality scale.
But, it surely doesn’t pack the same punch as the Russians invading in the first one. There wasn’t a soul alive during the mid-1980’s who didn’t believe that the Soviets could really attack us.
Front and center in our Red Dawn exclusive trailer is proof that the film is not trying to be too rooted in reality. That is not such a bad thing. Where the first film established why the Russians invaded the small town that contained our Wolverines (named after the local high school mascot where everyone attended, except for Swayze’s character), the Red Dawn remake fails to give us any reason why the Washington state community was chosen by North Korea’s high command.
Where Swayze was a soldier home on leave, so too is Hemsworth. He leads the youngsters in a series of guerrilla attacks, sometimes mirroring the exact set-up of the original film. But, this remake is thrilling… don’t get us wrong. The action sequences are some of the best battle scenes seen all year. That’s not necessarily saying much given the breadth of war movies in 2012, but still… Red Dawn rocks.
Hemsworth gives the performance of his career, which is incredible since the film was shot three years ago. He is just that good. But, even he can’t save Red Dawn from being a slight letdown, given the iconic status of the original.
Theater companies take on plays that have been performed before dozens of times in their history -- so, why not the same standard for motion pictures? Sure, our Red Dawn review admits that the latest Red Dawn is pale compared to the original. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own merits in the vein of a purely popcorn film.