Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Let’s Review Red Dawn!

As the Culture Blues Intern, it is my duty to record the post-screening discussions of my editors, so that they're not required to "sell out" and write actual cogent criticism.

Boys! Remake me! Remaaake mee!

 Jeremiah staggers into the office. His clothes are torn, his beard is more haggard than usual and he’s clutching some crumpled production notes like they're the only thing keeping him alive. His words come out in short, weak gasps.

Jeremiah White:  I’m ready… to review… Red Dawn.

Jeff Hart:  Where the hell have you been? That screening was a month ago! We’ve been using a room full of monkeys pounding away at typewriters to churn out content for you. Guess what? The monkeys love Sons of Anarchy!

Jeremiah falls into an office chair.

Jeremiah White:  I wa… I was…

Jeff Hart:  Hold on, I want you to hear what the monkeys have been coming up with. It’s actually pretty good. Intern, read what we were going to run today.

Intern:  It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.

Jeff Hart:  It never gets old! OK, where were you?

Jeremiah White:  I was being held by the Chinese. They snatched me when I came out of the screening. Although the whole ordeal kind of started during the movie. That was a lot like torture too.

Jeff Hart:  What the hell did they want with you? This isn’t a political blog.

Jeremiah White:  They wanted to know about the movie, about how they were portrayed.

Jeff Hart:  They’re not even in it anymore. The invading army was changed in post-production. How could they not know that?

Jeremiah White:  After the news broke that they were the villains, the government blocked access to all entertainment websites.

Jeremiah slumps over. He’s fading, nearly unconscious.

Jeremiah White:  Ironic, huh?

Jeff Hart:  It took them a month to get that out of you?

Jeremiah White:  I held out… as long as I could.

Jeff Hart:  That’s stupid! Tell them everything! Anyway, are you gonna review this dumb movie or what?

Jeremiah’s head lifts. He looks at us with renewed vitality. His recovery is miraculous.

Jeremiah White:  I’m an American; you’re goddamn right I’m going to review this piece of crap.

Jeff Hart:  Jingotastic! So what’s Red Dawn look like in 2012?

Jeremiah White:  Rather than keying in on modern American fears (terror attacks, economic ruin, minorities), Red Dawn sticks to the invasion premise of the 1984 original.

Jeff Hart:  Well duh, that’s the movie. I bet there’s some cyber-babble and low-rise jeans to indicate that this is 2004 and not 1984.

Jeremiah White:  There is… I think. I’ve subconsciously blocked out as much as possible. It's a coping mechanism.

Jeff Hart:  Well you’ve been through an ordeal. Can you continue?

Jeremiah takes a sip of water.

Jeremiah White:  I’m an American, aren’t I?

We all take a moment to appreciate Jeremiah’s patriotism.

Jeremiah White:  Despite lifting it directly from the original, director Dan Bradley shows little respect for the outdated premise. Our ragtag bunch of kids quickly become expert shots and skilled soldiers.

Jeff Hart:  They must have the same firearms instructors as the survivors on The Walking Dead. Headshots!

Jeremiah White:  Their guerrilla missions require them to head into occupied urban areas armed to the teeth at the grace of an oblivious invading force. It completely eliminates the need for all their sneaking around. There's no indication the bad guys could ever beat us Americans in a straight up gunfight, despite their obvious advantages. If we ever do get invaded, we'd better hope it's by this particular Coalition of the Incompetent, because they're basically a doormat.

Jeff Hart:  Well, I don't think anyone is going to see Red Dawn for an even-handed treatment of international militaries. They just want to see Americans kicking ass draped in the stars and stripes.

Jeremiah White:  The action scenes aren’t exciting enough to warrant the suspension of disbelief required or to excuse how derivative they are. Full-on urban warfare generates a few interesting moments, but mostly it’s just people firing machine guns.

Jeff Hart:  What about the cast? It’s a real who’s who of young people I gather are famous for other things.

Jeremiah White:  They don’t get much material to sink their teeth into and mostly underperform even in the modest tasks required of them. You never get the sense that they understand no matter what happens, their whole world has been shattered. Instead, they're fighting for a return to normalcy. They never seem troubled enough by their dire straits. They’re more guerrilla Goonies than a band of orphans hiding out in the wilderness desperately trying to delay being killed.

Jeff Hart:  Anyone really stand out?

Jeremiah White:  Josh Peck in particular is horribly miscast as the ill-defined second in command Matt Eckert. His introduction paints him as an impulsive jock, but that doesn’t stick. He seems more likely to have been in his room playing Magic: The Gathering when the bombs dropped, especially when standing next to his uber-macho jarhead older brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth). The plot requires Peck to go through a transition that the movie never manages to sell.

Jeff Hart:  They just couldn’t match the complexities of John Milius’ original, huh?

Jeremiah stands up, as a swelling orchestral score comes out of nowhere.

Jeremiah White:  The original is mostly memorable as silly late-era Cold War propaganda and an early showcase for the emerging Brat Pack. But it gives a serious (not necessarily realistic) treatment to what a group of unprepared kids might go through when thrust into combat. The war of attrition begins immediately, they are forced to execute one of their own who collaborates with the enemy, and they have to confront the fact that what they are doing has little effect on the war as a whole. It wears these kids down in a way that the fast-paced, gunfire-and-explosion packed remake has no interest in. They pay lip service to some of these issues, and even employ a spineless, neutered imitation of one specific plot point, but it’s just time for the audience to catch their breath between bland action sequences.

With those final words, the last of Jeremiah's strength leaves him and he collapses on the floor.

Jeff Hart:  I won't forget the sacrifice you've made here today. Going to see the Read Dawn remake so that I don't have to. Man, people throw the word "hero" around to often, but that's exactly what you are.

Jeremiah strains to lift his head, and offer one final thought.

Jeremiah White:  'Merica.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tagged as: , , , ,

Comments are closed.