It's always a daunting task to remake a beloved classic. When the bar is set high, it's all too easy to fall short. The pressure is on.
Of course, the new "Red Dawn" wouldn't have faced any such pressure. The original version, made in 1984, is laugh-out-loud terrible. Sure, it had a decent cast, including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson and C. Thomas Howell. But that's about all it had going for it - aside from a raging hate-on for Commies. Eeeevil Commies.
The remake also boasts a solid cast, with Chris Hemsworth ("Thor"), Josh Peck ("Drake & Josh") and Josh Hutcherson ("The Hunger Games") picking up where Swayze, Sheen and Howell left off. It also stars Connor Cruise (Tom & Nicole's son) in a respectable enough performance as the mayor's son, Daryl.
This time around, instead of Russians and Cubans parachuting in to rid America of its capitalist ways, we have North Korea terrorizing Spokane, Washington. (With reinforcements from Russia capturing other parts of the country.) That eerie parachute scene at the beginning of the flick is one of the original's most frightening moments, and the remake was wise enough to pay homage.
The new flick is actually pretty loyal to the original. It even keeps the "spirit of the deer," scene, where the Eckert brothers encourage Robert drink up deer blood. The modern-day brothers, though, are a tad less sincere than the originals. And way less emotional. Swayze and Sheen spend a good chunk of the flick bawling, while Hemsworth and Peck are a little more, um, manly.
The ladies in the new one aren't as unhinged as Grey and Thompson's characters. The latter were a surly pair, with plenty of incoherent outbursts that could only be dismissed as "bitches be crazy." The modern heroines, on the other hand, are sassy, strong, and sane enough to serve as love interests. They do far less grunting than their predecessors, and as a result aren't nearly as entertaining.
Interestingly enough, both Red Dawns feature standout performances by actors who share the same middle name: Harry Dean Stanton in the original, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the remake. Stanton played the brothers' father, whose haunting cries of "avenge me! Avenge me!" stick with you for most of the flick. Morgan plays one of the military dudes who team up with the Wolverines towards the end. His wry smile and pithy zingers are a welcome addition.
But enough comparisons. The real question is -- why remake "Red Dawn"? The original was hilariously bad at best. And the premise is horribly jingoistic. It seems almost risky to unleash such a beast in today's hyper politically correct day and age. Perhaps that's the point, though. To stir up controversy and hope that translates into sales.
Or maybe it's much more simple than that. When remaking a terrible movie, there's nowhere to go but up. While the new "Red Dawn" certainly isn't going to win any awards, it's a lot slicker than its predecessor. It's a fast-paced, entertaining action flick packed with attractive teenagers and an incredible bankable star in the form of Hemsworth.
I could speculate all day and still have no idea why "Red Dawn" was plucked from obscurity and designated worthy of a remake. But don't worry, I won't. Instead, I'll start mentally bracing myself for some other questionable remakes that are sure to follow if "Red Dawn" is a hit. (I'm looking at you, Garbage Pail Kids.)