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Customer Review

21 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Swayze's Jed Would Tell These Wolverines to Get Walkin'..., March 8, 2013
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This review is from: Red Dawn (2012) (Amazon Video)
I can count on one hand the number of good remakes I have seen in my lifetime. The Thing, The Fly, and Terrence Malick's Thin Red Line are all examples of remakes that trumped the original films. Last year's rehash of Red Dawn is likely to go down in the record books as the worst remake in cinematic history.

Growing up in the '80s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the original Red Dawn (1984). As implausible an idea of a joint Soviet/Cuban invasion was, somehow John Milius not only made the premise work, but injected a frightful sense of stark realism into his story. Red Dawn (1984) was a very atmospheric film, and a subtle character study of two reluctant leaders, Col. Bella (Ron O'Neal) and Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze). Watching a group of scared high school kids develop into hardened partisans seemed natural and logical. And their eventual dissolution was heartbreaking. I can watch the 1984 Red Dawn over and over and it never loses its punch, despite its flaws.

The remake is devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever. I will attempt to break down the most glaring problems with this film as I see them.

Chris Hemsworth as Jed Eckert: Hemsworth might as well have been playing Thor again. He never made any leadership mistakes; he demonstrated no crisis of conscience; he could make the "Wolverines" fall in line at the drop of a hat with a glare and some silly, ham-fisted dialogue. The original Jed was just an average joe with some wilderness survival skills. Hemsworth's Jed was a battle-tested Marine, so he was a warrior right off the bat.

I can't really blame the actor for a bad screenplay, but the 2012 Jed Eckert never had to level a gun at a comrade turned traitor; never made the mistake of falling into a well-laid enemy trap; never held a childhood photo and cried to himself at the innocence and camaraderie he lost. No, Hemsworth never faced anything resembling a challenge. And for that, his portrayal of Jed Eckert failed miserably. Patrick Swayze's Jed was a very flawed leader whose decisions were sometimes terribly wrong and, one could argue, led to the deaths of his friends and his own brother. That made his character all the more real. In contrast, Hemsworth's Jed didn't really face any trial he wasn't already trained to handle.

Matt Eckert: Whoever played this character turned in the most wooden performance of the movie. He was completely unconvincing as Jed's brother. His rallying speech at the end was a complete joke. I'd have rather watched a drunken, middle-aged Charlie Sheen reprise this role than the kid they cast as Jed's younger brother.

Robert: In the '84 version, C. Thomas Howell's Robert was my favorite character. He progressively became the most rabid Wolverine of the lot, and went out fighting against all odds. His death underscored the futility of partisan warfare. I was wondering when Robert was going to turn into the hardened killer in this version. Unfortunately, I found the Robert of this film to be an afterthought. A complete cypher.

The Enemy: North Korea? Are you kidding me? It was a big enough leap to think that the Soviets could end up on US soil in '84...but North Korea in 2012? That stretches things into the realm of impossibility, even though they're supposed to be a part of some "Asian Communist coalition." The enemy in this film posed no threat at all to the Wolverines, yet still managed to take over the Pacific Northwest. Their commander, Capt. Cho, was a one-dimensional cardboard cutout -- a far cry from O'Neal's Bella in the '84 version (or William Smith's Strelnikov, for that matter).

Andy Tanner: Recasting Powers Boothe's original grounded "Eagle Driver" was another major let-down. They should have just left Tanner out of the film. No depth of character was displayed -- Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Tanner, recast as a Marine, was all action and "oo-rah!" 2012's Andy Tanner was as pointless and wooden as Capt. Cho. You would think that Tanner and his motivated teammates could have shown a little humility about their battle readiness -- after all, in this film, we'd just gotten whipped by a country that can't even feed its own people.

The Dialogue: Forced. We get an unhealthy dose of simpleton patriotism to explain why the Wolverines are fighting; why they "need to stay and fight"; why they are going to fight, etc. It took several painful scenes of bad dialogue to convey their convictions and motives. When asked "what makes us different from them?" in the '84 version, Swayze's Jed summed it up in one sentence. "Because we live here." That simple answer was a thousand times more convincing than any bit of rah-rah jingoism vomited forth from anyone in the remake.

Erica and Toni: Why did the screenwriter bother with these two? In the '84 Red Dawn, Erica (Lea Thompson) and Toni (Jennifer Grey) were spirited and could slug it out with the other guys, no questions asked. In the remake, the pair never showed anything resembling grit, combat fatigue, or any emotion besides blank stares when they weren't fawning over the Eckert brothers.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere of 2012's Red Dawn was the equivalent of watching someone else play an urban-warfare first person shooter on the Xbox 360. An hour and 30-odd minutes of the "Wolverines" blowing things up and then returning to the safety of their "underground base" got real old, real fast. In the '84 version, battlefields looked like the real deal; you could feel the cold, miserable conditions the Wolverines were living in; you could tell they were hungry, tired, and breaking down. None of that was present here. It seemed like freedom was just a car ride away, rather than a near-impossible trek through enemy lines.

Also, Milius didn't waste time taking the viewer into the action in '84. In the original version, you see a few location shots of Calumet, Colorado to establish the identity of the town, then you're smack dab in the middle of a high school history class when paratroopers fall from the sky. There was no CGI back then, so this all looked and felt completely real. Here, you have a typical teen movie lead-up, where time is wasted on a freaking football game! Then, you get to suffer through at least 10 minutes of pointless character introductions -- pointless because the characters are never really developed in the movie at all. About 15 minutes in, the CGI invaders fall from the sky with absolutely no sense of menace at all. Yawn.

Score: Basically, there was none to speak of. Basil Poledouris' dynamic soundtrack from 1984 could have been easily worked into this film as a motif by the composer. Instead, the director and producers took the video game route: they opted for a soundtrack that was lifeless and dull, and blended innocuously into the background.

I could go on for days with a list of problems that made this retooling a complete farce, but I'll leave you with this: either save your money or just watch the original film. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

I can't say the same if you rent or buy the 2012 remake of Red Dawn.

Zero stars.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 8, 2013 11:06:49 AM PST
Brian Baker says:
Well done!

I couldn't agree more (raised some of those issues in my own review). You nailed it in every detail.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 12:02:19 PM PST
Ryan Henry says:
I just can't see any justification for this movie to have been made. It was a pale, whitewashed imitation of the original -- which, although PG-13, was no "kiddie movie."

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 1:11:45 PM PST
Brian Baker says:
Yes. Further, the original told an entire story. I can't help but wonder if the producers didn't think there'd be a "Red Dawn, part 2" in here somewhere, finishing the story.

I still get goosebumps when I think of Swayze and Sheen dying on that bench in the falling snow, and the cut to the Wolverine memorial at the boulder in the mountains.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 1:21:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 8, 2013 4:00:12 PM PST
Ryan Henry says:
"I still get goosebumps when I think of Swayze and Sheen dying on that bench in the falling snow, and the cut to the Wolverine memorial at the boulder in the mountains."

There are so many good moments in the old Red Dawn...

For me, the scene where they shoot Daryl and the Russian soldier gives me chills. When Robert empties his last AK-47 magazine at the HIND Gunship in the original, I raise a middle finger high and yell "Wolverines!" right along with him.

Where were all these great moments in the remake? Where was the emotion, the feeling that draws you into these people's lives and makes you feel for them?

Oh, I almost forgot how they made the "spirit of the deer" scene into a complete joke. That was supposed to be the metaphorical turning point for Robert...the first step in his development as a freedom fighter/warrior. I guess since he didn't really do much in the new version, it didn't really matter.

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 5:48:16 PM PDT
Garth says:
This is a great review.

I think you might like this.

It's a draft of the original Red Dawn's screenplay (sans Milius's input). Most of the darker elements seem to come from the original screenwriter (Kevin Reynolds) and the sillier (or more Movie-ish) moments are Milius's contribution. For example there's no "AVENGE ME!" and no one sings America the Beautiful.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2013 11:54:30 AM PDT
Ryan Henry says:
Garth...thanks for the link. Will check it out.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2015 1:25:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2015 1:26:13 PM PDT
Ryan Henry says:
Two years later and I finally sat down and read that screenplay. It started out a bit shaky don't make 'em like that anymore. Robert was even colder than I thought he could be. The execution scene in the original script you linked me to was WORLDS better...more subdued and cold-hearted. That's one thing I didn't like about the original was the tuneless "America the Beautiful" protest singing to try to drown out the Hymn of the Soviet Union. Say what you will about the USSR, they had what I consider to be the most musically stirring national anthem ever written. So much so that Russia kept it and changed the lyrics.
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