False Dawn for “Red Dawn”?

by Steven F. Hayward

I never thought a remake of John Milius’s 1984 classic Red Dawn was really necessary or even plausible with the end of the Cold War now old enough to get carded at a bar.  It just wouldn’t have the same frisson.  Liberals hated the original Red Dawn.  The New York Times’ Janet Maslin called it “rabidly inflammatory,” “incorrigibly gung-ho,” and “dissipated by wildly excessive directorial fervor at every turn.” Vincent Canby, writing also for the Times, wrote that Red Dawn “provides an unusual glimpse into the mind of a certain kind of contemporary archconservative. . . it exposes for all to see the cockeyed nightmares of those on the lunatic fringe.” Canby also found the movie “emotionally infantile and politically nuts, though not, I think, especially dangerous. It’s too ludicrous.” TV Guide called it “infantile right-wing fantasy” and the “cinematic embodiment of the paranoid delusions of militarists, survivalists, and television evangelists; definitely a film for the Reagan era.” The Financial Times wrote: “John Milius’s Red Dawn is a slice of gung-ho anti-Communism cut fresh and quivering from the American body paranoiac.”   It was difficult to distinguish American media from Soviet media. Pravda took note of Red Dawn, calling it “a monstrous anti-Soviet concoction filled with so many bloody scenes, a film so primitive, and so relentlessly false.”  And of course the film was a monster hit at the box office.

So how could anyone possibly produce a remake that will attract this kind of favorable notice?  (Does Pravda even still exist?)  Naturally the only plausible red menace today would be the Chinese, but they’ve more or less abandoned Marxism and adopted state capitalism.  Besides, if the Chinese want to bring down America, they’ll just dump our bonds, and then buy the U.S. at the subsequent asset fire sale.  A more plausible invader would be jihadist Arabs, but just trying selling that idea in Hollywood.  (Thought experiment: try to envision a remake of Arnold’s True Lies, with the villainous “crimson jihad” cast as the heavies again.  Arnold would have more success getting back into politics.)

Well, it turns out the filmmakers indeed cast the Chinese as the invaders, but are in the process of digitally altering the film to change nationality of the invading force to . . . North Koreans.  (Cue the Team America: World Police theme music here.)  The LA Times reports that this is all being done in the interest of corporate profits, fueled by the fear the film won’t sell in the big Chinese market if they are the heavies.  Times bloggers Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey appropriately think this is lame, “a whitewash.”  But above see see the long review of the uncut version of the film that Jason Apuzzo has posted on the Libertas Film Magazine site. He likes the original cut a lot, and like all sensible people deplores the cravenness of MGM in preemptively surrendering to China.