The OriginalAs I said, the original Red Dawn was a fantastic film in every way. It had a gripping plot that felt realistic enough to scare people that such an invasion really could happen. It was well-shot, well-paced and well-acted. The action felt real. It was exciting. And what really made the film was the story itself. At its core, this was a story of a group of teens who needed to grow up much faster than anyone ever expected in the worst possible circumstances.
As the movie progresses, we learn that these are Cuban, Nicaraguan and Russian troops who have come up through Mexico (after a communist coup in Mexico) or been dropped from planes which had been disguised to appear like commercial airliners. They are part of a Soviet invasion after the Ukrainian wheat harvest fails and the Soviets face starvation. As part of the invasion, a limited nuclear exchange took place between the US and Russia. That wiped out some of the bigger cities and a good part of China. Now battle lines are fixed with the Soviets holding part of the Western United States and the US getting ready to fight back. But that’s just the backdrop.
Secondly, the story worked because you felt for the characters. These kids faced impossible choices and real trauma. They had to deal with death, fear, anger, loneliness and isolation, lack of knowledge, guilt, disloyalty, and learning the difference between hubris and confidence. This presented a tremendous emotional range, and the fact you could see yourself in their place pulled you in and forced you to wonder how you would respond.
Finally, the story ends the right way: America prevails and sets the world right.
The new film has none of this.
The RemakeThe remake is a competent modern movie. That means that visually, it’s well done: the images clearly convey what is happening and it’s pretty to look at. The CGI is barely noticeable, which is a nice bonus. The actors are pretty. And if you like to see images of people firing guns for two hours, then this film is for you. If you want more out of a movie however, then skip one. Why?
Uh... no. The Russian economy and military are sclerotic. The only way they’re getting troops to the US is on American Airlines. Their equipment is rusting in the field and has proven to be no match for ours. The North Korean military is worthless and probably can’t make it to Seoul, much less the West Coast. The film says, “they had help,” but there’s no one out there with a big enough military to pull this off... we couldn’t pull this off. As for this EMP, the writer apparently doesn’t know this, but for decades now, the US military has been buying electronic equipment that is hardened against an EMP. So claiming that an EMP weapon stopped our military is just stupid. Plus, the only way to stop our entire military would be to use this EMP all over the planet, which would cripple the bad guys too. Not to mention that anything that wasn’t running at the time wouldn’t be affected by the EMP. And even if you can overlook all of that, the entire North Korean and Russian militaries are not enough to hold even one state, much less two thirds of the country. And if they tried, our EMP-hardened nuclear missiles or our hidden subs would turn North Korea and Russians into smoking husks.
The film finally ends with Thor getting killed and Nerdki giving the same speech Thor gave to the group originally as he inducts new members into the group. There’s no resolution to the invasion or even a suggestion of a resolution. I guess the steal-a-phone plan didn’t work.
Here’s the thing. Like so many other films these days, this one is pretty to look at and the action is ok until it gets really, really dull and repetitive. There isn’t a single moment that you care about any of the characters. I can’t even name them and I knew the names going in! The plot is total nonsense and feels like nonsense. The bad guys are cardboard, but so are the good guys. There are no highs and no lows, and the film ends rather than resolves. This is a clinic on how not to make films: a nonsense story that no one in the audience can buy into, characters you don’t care about, and a plot that is little more than a rambling series of action sequences with no actual climax.
Compare that to the original, which was a clinic on how to make a compelling film – a plot that forces you to put yourself in the position of the characters, strong characters who need to overcome increasingly difficult obstacles (both emotional and physical), high stakes that keep rising, and a climax that is the most tense moment of the film. Skip the new one, watch the original.