New Dawn: Updated version of the 1984 classic bursts with ramped-up action
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Going into the new Red Dawn, I wondered why there was a need to remake the ’80s classic about a group of teens who hide out in the woods, when the United States is overrun by foreign invaders, and turn into a band of inspirational freedom fighters.
Coming out of the new Red Dawn, I had the same question.
Other than several pumped-up action sequences that benefit from improved direction and special effects over the last 25 years, there’s little to tout in this jingoistic battle yarn, which lacks the innocence and the heart of the original.
The action has been moved from small-town America to the more significant Spokane, Wash., and like the original, begins with a group of high school students jolted out of their blissful teen lives into the bitter reality of enemy invasion.
Unlike the original, these teens do not waste time hiding out in the hills learning how to live off the land and honing their skills. From Day 1, they decide to be guerillas, picking away at the North Koreans who have occupied their hometown (replacing the Cubans and Nicaraguans from the original film). In fact, the movie glosses over the group having any real difficulty acquiring food, shelter and supplies or dealing with homesickness.
One advantage to moving the action to a major city: It allows the boys to slip in and out of the city at will to develop their underground resistance and make their surprise attacks. Another is that they can create a more diverse group of teens. Oddly, though, they build a resistance network without recruiting any more actual soldiers, just a supply and intelligence network.
One of the drawbacks of the bigger city is that they’re named after their high school football team, the Wolverines, something iconic for small-town America but not as significant in a city like Spokane, which has more than a dozen high schools.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor in The Avengers) stars as Jed Eckert, the leader of this ragtag group. As fate would have it, he was home from the Marines, visiting family, when the attack hit, making him the senior member and the only one with any previous combat skills.
Hemsworth and co-star Josh Peck (Josh of Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh), as brother Matt Eckert, deliver reliable but unimaginative performances. The phrase “adequate but uninspired” sums up all the acting. It’s not that they aren’t believable; it’s just that we don’t care much about any of these guys. There are casualties in any war movie, but only one Wolverine death evoked any emotional reaction from the audience. Several of the original cast went on to be Hollywood stars, but this next generation does not seem to be poised for greatness.
The movie deviates from the original in the second half, to create the need for some major battle sequences. Unfortunately, that deviation requires viewers to not have even the most rudimentary knowledge of the laws of physics.
Three members of the Marine Corps surface on a mission. (It takes three of them to replace Powers Booth from the original.) They bring knowledge that the North Koreans and their Russian allies have used some sort of long-lasting electromagnetic pulse to knock out the power and keep it knocked out. Supposedly, they’re using special radios immune to the pulse to have superior communications, compared to U.S. insurgent forces. One of the problems with this bit of hokum is that the Wolverines have been using battery-operated cellphones to take surveillance photos and trigger hidden explosives. Apparently, they can do this because no one told them the EMP would make it impossible. The Marines want to steal one of the special radios, and they enlist the Wolverines to help, creating an improbable showdown at the former police headquarters, headquarters of evil Capt. Lo, who’s been hunting the Wolverines since the invasion began.
If you choose to take your chances with the new Red Dawn, don’t pay too much attention to the illogical details or the bland characters; just go for the action sequences, which are the film’s only redeeming quality. Fortunately, there are a lot of them within the modest 90-minute running time, so you never have to wait too long for the next one.
RED DAWN (2) • Directed by Dan Bradley • Starring Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck and Jeffrey Dean Morgan • Rated PG-13 • 105 min. • At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas.