At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Red Dawn “2012”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action/ Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Edwin Hodge, Brett Cullen, Alyssa Diaz, Julian Alcaraz, Will Yun Lee, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kenneth Choi, Matt Gerald, Michael Beach/ Runtime: 93 minutes

I think it is safe to start this review off by saying that for a slice of cinematic pie that was on the precipice of being delayed over and over to the point that it seemed like we would never see it come onto any sort of big screen whatsoever I think that perhaps the 2012 remake of the iconic 1980s Russia Invades America movie Red Dawn maybe should have just seen a quiet and low-key release to DVD…..operative word there being maybe. I mean looking at this one way this slice of cinematic pie is a decent enough, engaging to some degree entry in the Action genre that has a fair amount of intriguing gunplay to its name. On the other side of the coin however this is a husk of what the original movie was about, a wonderful example of what I call a “remake only in title”, and is in many respects an insult when paired up with scribe/film helmer John Millius’ iconic film from 1984. I mean if you give this a view based solely on what it has to offer and you’ll find that it’s a decent little view overflowing with guns and ammo, but nowhere near as much in the way of characterization or narrative. When you put beside the original however….you really can’t make such a comparison possible. Indeed omitted is the vibe of family both real and surrogate, gone are the bonds of blood and unity in the face of genuine terror and tragedy all placed in the framework of an anti-combat story. Indeed this new take on that same narrative seems to only focus on the moment a character gets to shoot something or blow something up and any pathos to be found seems like an afterthought right down to making our main duo brothers only because that’s one thing the original would demand to stay the same. I mean don’t get me wrong dear reader: whilst the 2012 take on Red Dawn is by no means the worst slice of cinematic pie I have ever had to sit through, it does alternate between being completely unnecessary and in some respects a blown chance to really give a “modern audience” a riveting saga of surviving even when everything around you seems to be falling apart. Instead this is one slice of cinematic pie that is content with operating as another run and gun action film with nothing of substance to its name save for decent filmmaking and a lot of bullets and bombs.

The plot is as follows: Red Dawn “2012” starts its “riveting” saga as we witness a young member of the Marines by the name of Jed Eckert as he is given leave from combat duty in Iraq and heads home to the small town of Spokane in Washington state in time to see his younger brother Matt play in a big game as the lead quarterback of their small town’s high school football team. Yet even though Matt’s team doesn’t ultimately come away with the W, he is still applauded by their dear ol’ dad Tom for showing true leadership ability during the game. Things soon take a turn for the nightmarish though when first the power goes out and then the next morning sees the terrifying arrival of enemy troops raining in from the sky which reaches an apex courtesy of our heroes encountering the leader of these troops, one Captain Cho, before taking flight and heading into the mountains outside of town. Yet while our intrepid duo are able to get a few people to go with them including Daryl who is the son of Spokane’s mayor, they are sadly unable to save Matt’s girlfriend Erica before she is taken captive by the enemy forces. However when our group finds themselves getting a heartwrenching courtside seat to the enemy’s visceral ruthless for themselves, our intrepid duo and the group that have fled with them decide to engage in guerilla warfare in the hopes that not only will they make the invading force pay for what they’ve done, but also maybe just maybe take back control in the name of the US of A as well….or something like that….

Now even before sitting down to view this slice of cinematic pie, not even taking into account what it does well or not in regards to action beats and pathos on the silver screen, and only taking into account all the hullabaloo about it, it is really not that difficult to see how this slice of cinematic pie is a stab in the back with a Bowie Knife to the original from 1984. For starters the original movie was a no-holds barred very much anti-Hollywood kinda slice of cinematic pie that had the guts and bravado to take on a very risky topic and to also show America’s nemesis as just that regardless of any fallout it might accrue for telling a narrative it wanted to regale us with in the manner that it chose to tell it with no regard for political correctness whatsoever. To that end, we saw that the original film most assuredly struck a chord of fear in quite a few movie goers, hit more than a handful of raw nerves, and was seen by more than a few as just another red-blooded American film that had no genuine reason for existing other than functioning as a passionate anti-combat film that shows this slowly but surely as the film goes on. I bring this up because those same things people took issue with the original now can also be placed on this slice of cinematic pie as well. Yes it’s also very guns a’blazin and proudly American as the original, but the big story to be found here is the fact that this slice of cinematic pie has made the change in who is invading us this go-around from the Chinese to North Korea following a newspaper in China crying foul about that and made the claim that this slice of cinematic pie is trying to get people in an uproar against the country of China. Yet do you think the original movie’s helmer John Millius would have given a hoot in heck in regards to what could have been said about his take on this narrative had it been made nowadays and a foreign government had gotten ahold of the script? Of course I’m being rhetorical with that. In fact, Millius actually did pen the narrative for a video game known as Homefront which, ironically, deals with an invasion of America by North Korea. At the same time though that’s neither here nor there and not the point. The point is that this slice of cinematic pie was pressured into giving into something that even the original faced and had no hesitation about choosing to stick to its guns and make the movie it wanted to make. Yet even with that being said, it does still feel a little far-fetched for North Korea to represent the invading and occupying antagonist in this slice of cinematic pie for reasons that honestly are not in my job description to go into since last time I checked reviewing movies did NOT include going into thorough geopolitical analyses….

As for how this actual slice of cinematic pie itself is once you sit down and give it a watch……well its decent enough if you know going in that this is an A-Z entry in the Action genre that really doesn’t offer up that much else in the proceedings. Yes the action in this is quite potent and rarely lets up following the beginning which sets up not only our main heroes and our main villain, but honestly less quite often is more. I mean the original was able to do all that this film does in 10-15 minutes with a few opening paragraphs of text and a quippy statement regarding the scoreboard still showcasing the results from the big game the night prior. Yes this new take does annihilate the original’s moment where the enemy troops land outside the boys’ classroom and replaces it with a cool scene where we see Jed and Matt wake up to explosions occurring outside followed by troops landing directly into their neighborhood. This slice of cinematic pie also makes the choice to give us more time with the group as they both train and also utilize their guerilla mayhem against the enemy at locales around town than the 1984 original did thus devoting more time to action beats rather than pathos and three-dimensional characters. As a result, I can honestly say that the 2012 remake chooses to keep some things familiar whilst making other things distinct enough that this may be its own film, but it also is still familiar enough to be recognized as a remake to Red Dawn. Yet as slick as this slice of cinematic pie is in many respects, that again doesn’t exactly make it a better film. Indeed gone is the rousing, patriotic musical accompaniment from the original which in many respects helped to mold the original into the film it was and in its stead is a musical accompaniment so generic you can’t help but roll your eyes. Also by making Jed a Marine instead of a skilled outdoorsy kind of guy really does water down the potency of a group transforming into a guerilla force to be reckoned with since now Jed simply drills it into them rather than the group being allowed to grow into it. Suffice it to say this is a very disheartening slice of cinematic pie that is no more than a run of the mill entry in the action genre that has enough explosions for Michael Bay to take notes on and no less than a slap in the face to the iconic 1984 original movie.

All in all  just to sum it all up for you dear reader, the 2012 take on iconic 80s favorite Red Dawn is a slice of cinematic pie that has all the style and action in the world going for it, but nowhere near enough immersive and engrossing material to back it up and/or make it worthwhile. Yes the gun battles are riveting and efficient, the explosions are a’plenty, and this slice of cinematic pie is as stylish as can be. It is also a film however that chooses to scorn the original directly in a variety of ways not including how it chooses to just skim over the more thought-provoking anti-war perspective and much more fleshed out characters that the original delightfully possessed. Suffice it to say then that if you grew up with the original from 1984, or love the original from 1984 and appreciate what it is trying to convey then you are going to have the worst field day imaginable when it comes to this slice of cinematic pie. If however you are just in the mood for a time waster with a degree of decent enough action then you’ve come to the right place. As for me well I try to be on both sides of the argument, but with this one it wasn’t that easy. Suffice it to say then that a middle of the road score really is the best that I can do…..but hey to each their own right? On a scale of 1-5 I give Red Dawn “2012” a solid 2.5 out of 5.