We Want Action: Red Dawn (2012)

Red-Dawn-poster When it comes to remakes I try not to get too morally indignant. While I’m personally of the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thinking, I completely understand that the various studios own these properties and can do with them what they want. I’m okay with that because I know I can always go back and watch the original any time I please. Those “You raped my childhood” people not only need to come up with a better word, but also get something a little more important in their lives to worry about.

So, I went into this new version of Red Dawn with an open mind. I should also note that, while I like the original, it wasn’t a film that I watched over and over again as a kid. Much like Lost Boys, I came to it as an adult and liked it, but there’s no nostalgia involved. I was also rooting for this movie a bit because parts of it were filmed in Detroit, which isn’t too far away from my home time, so I feel a weird little connection to it. Plus, I wanted to see it back when it was filmed in like 2009 and hoped it would get its fair shot.

And you know what? It’s a pretty damn good flick. I’m not going to compare it to the original because my memories are fuzzy, so let’s talk about it like it’s its own thing. After a series of political clips and some football scenes, the town of Spokane, Washington wakes up to an army of North Korean paratroopers landing in town and quickly taking over. They don’t throw everyone in jail right away, but instead capture certain people while letting others roam around, but they’re not really free. A marine (Chris Hemsworth) leads a group of high school students, including his brother (Josh Peck), out to a remote locale where they’re able to set up shop. Instead of running and hiding, though, Hemsworth explains that a small fighting force can do a lot of damage if they’re well trained, quiet and hit the right targets at the right times. Cue the montage!

The beauty of this film is how unique it is. A lot of films pick up in a world already over run by a moral-crushing enemy force with a small group of people sprouting up, being brave and doing their best to topple the regime. But, because Red Dawn takes place in the beginning of such an insurgency, there’s not only a sense of newness, but also one that these kids might actually succeed. The North Koreans in the film have yet to fully set up their system and therefore the kids — who go by the named The Wolverines — can move in and out and plan their attacks. At the same time you’re dealing with a group of high school kids which might sound silly considering what they’re trying to do, but actually makes all the sense in the world. Who better to fight for ideals and rightness than kids who haven’t been beaten down by the real world? Many of them already feel indestructible, so it makes sense to take that natural impulse and use it for good.

The movie doesn’t dwell on those topics, they’re just things I thought of while watching. In fact, at just over 90 minutes, it doesn’t dwell on too much, but never felt rushed or sloppy. I appreciated how much they could make me see and feel in the span of an hour and a half. And man, did I feel a few things. The rest of this paragraph is SPOILER TERRITORY, so skip if you don’t want major elements revealed. After the Wolverines plus the few Marines go in and snag the communication device, there’s a scene where everything seems nice and cool. I should have known something was going to happen, but I didn’t and I certainly didn’t expect to see Hemsworth get shot in the face! I actually thought he was wounded a lot worse than he was letting on, so when it looked like he was going to be okay after his talk with Peck, I was even more surprised when he got hit. While that moment certainly had surprise-based drama the next one was far more tragic. After driving away from their attackers, the Wolverines realize that one of their own has been internally tagged with a tracking device. It’s a sad moment when he asks for gear and decides to stay back in order to do a good amount of damage before presumably getting killed. Making matters all the more heart-wrenching  the kid looks like he’s about 12. That was a pretty intense one-two punch that covered a lot of bases, something I appreciated.

Alright, no more spoilers here. I really enjoyed the Red Dawn cast. I didn’t buy for a second that Hemsworth and Peck were brothers (or that Hemsworth was American OR speaking in his regular voice), but I still really enjoyed their characters and the relationship they had. Peck has a real puppy dog quality to him that worked well for his character. And wow, what a physical difference between this movie and The Wackness which came out in 2008! I also enjoyed Josh Hutcherson who had a somewhat similar quality, but seemed a lot more serious all around. Digging him in this movie makes me want to check out The Hunger Games, but my wife says I should read the book first. It also starred fellow Toledoian and current Lady Jaye Adrianne Palicki — who actually went to high school not too far from my parents house — who was pretty enjoyable. No kidding, this scene gave me tingles:

There’s also a lot going on in this movie from an effects point of view, most of which seems to be practical. There’s all kinds of gunplay, but also more explosions than I expected. Heck, there’s more tanks than I expected too and most of them don’t fare too well. Needless to say at this point, I really enjoyed this movie and recommend giving it a chance!

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