The most important thing to remember going into the 2012 remake of Red Dawn is that the original, like so many classic action films of the ‘80s, isn’t very good.
What is was (like so many classic action films of the ’80s) was very, very American.
This was a big deal at the time. The styles of the ’60s and ’70s regarded films that celebrated America and American traditions as being in bad taste, and the Reagan era ushered in a spate of jingoistic movies. (Sylvester Stallone was a critic’s darling up until Rambo.)
So, a lot of these movies were highly enjoyable for cathartic reasons, if nothing else.
The key thing, then, is that no matter what goofiness occurred with this remake, it would be challenging to make it unAmerican. I mean, this movie is inevitably a paean to the Second Amendment. It’s all about Americans keeping and bearing arms, and how kick-ass that is!
So, I believe the studio screwed up in a couple of ways here. First of all, when they announced changing the Chinese villains to North Koreans, they should’ve pointed out that the enemies were a melange of menacing eastern countries. The Norks aren’t imagined to be the sole invaders of America, just the group that invaded the particular area, thus reducing (somewhat) the absurdity of the scenario.
The second error, I think, was taking the Chinese out in the first place. The rationale, apparently, was that they wouldn’t be able to release the movie in China. The simpler solution to that? Leave the Chinese in, and make an alternate ending where the Chinese win!
And then, ironically, it hasn’t even been released in China
All that aside, how is this remake? Probably better than the original. Chris Hemmingsworth (Thor) and Josh Peck (“Drake and Josh”) are in the late Patrick Swayze and even later Charlie Sheen roles, and they’re probably much better actors. (Both have had long running roles on TV and more movie credits than either Swayze or Sheen.)
They play out the fraternal drama well enough, with the only distraction being Peck’s odd and vaguely effeminate haircut.
Basically, though, this is a survival movie, akin to a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion, and so lives and dies on its action sequences and how the characters react to their new circumstances which are largely quite good. The Flower was entertained, but more importantly, The Boy was not pissed off.
It’s a short, peppy movie that zooms through its 90 minutes going from devil-may-care action scenes to touchingish emotionalish moments(ish) to character development moments—really, it’s not bad at all, all things considered. Very ’80s without any inclination to camp.