Can the Red Dawn Remake Pull it Off?

Photo Credit: Open Road Films (II)
September 18th, 2012

Can the Red Dawn Remake Pull it Off?

-- In a world where big risks can mean either big returns or big losses, there is often a propensity in Hollywood to remake movies that did well the first time around. The decision to remake a classic film can often bring in hordes of fans of the original, but it can also backfire. The question of whether filmmakers will be able to pull off a remake of the 1980s' "Red Dawn" will soon be put to the fans.

The original "Red Dawn" was directed by John Milius and depicted an invasion of the U.S. by the Soviet Red Army. The film further detailed the resistance efforts of a group of high school students. Just a few of the actors who appeared in the film who later went on to make it big include Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and the late Patrick Swayze. Although the rather right-wing original film received no end of criticism from liberals, it nevertheless managed to attain the status of a cult classic. Perhaps one of the best virtues of the film was the way it managed to present the horrors of war while at the same time offering the thrills of a good action film.

When the idea of remaking the film first began floating around, there was one huge problem. The Cold War with Russia had long since ended. In order for a remake to be plausible, there needed to be a new and believable threat. Ultimately, the decision was made to replace the Soviet Red Army with the North Koreans.

Filmmakers originally intended to depict an invasion by the Red Chinese. The idea had merit at first glance. The Chinese could still pose a Communist threat, just like in the original film. Furthermore, the Chinese possess a massive army and population. Finally, next to the United States, China is the next closest country to being a super power. Ultimately, the Chinese could be completely believable as a conceivable invading force.

Ultimately, however, there was concern regarding offending the Chinese market and shutting out a rather lucrative box office in China. China is currently one of the fastest growing markets for American movies in the world. The release of a movie that presented the Chinese as an evil threat could have turned away massive crowds of filmgoers in China. The financial risk simply was not worth it, and the decision was made in post-production to change the invading force in the remake from the Red Chinese to the North Koreans. MGM quickly went to work removing any hint of Chinese symbolism and flags from the film. The threat was still Communist and still believable, living up the dictates of the original "Red Dawn."

Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck, Isabel Lucas, and Adrianne Palicki star in the film. While the original rag tag group of teens trying to save the United States from Communist invaders was based in Colorado, the new film is based in the Pacific Northwest.

The remake of "Red Dawn" has been in the making for three years and was originally filmed in 2009. The excuse for such tardiness? It seems that Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, like many these days, experienced financial problems that prevented the movie's release until now. The interim between filming and release has certainly proved to be advantageous for at least one of the film's stars. Since the film was originally shot, Chris Hemsworth has managed to build quite a solid reputation with successes such as "The Avengers" and "Thor." At the time "Red Dawn" was originally filmed, Hemsworth was still largely unknown. Until that point, his largest role has been a remarkable short appearance in the opening scenes of "Star Trek."

Prospective viewers may wonder how the original and the remake of "Red Dawn" differ beyond the identity of the threat. In many regards, judging from the trailer, the remake appears to be much like the original. It will come as little surprise to viewers that things do explode in the film. Along with replacing the Soviets with the North Koreans, a special emphasis was also placed on ensuring a post-9/11 atmosphere in the film.

It will finally be released to the viewing public on November 21st, the day before Thanksgiving. When the original film was released in 1984, many viewers found themselves scared witless at the prospect of a possible Soviet invasion. Will the remake of "Red Dawn" be able to pull off the massive interest and fandom the original film managed to spawn? Only time will tell.