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Is The New Red Dawn The Dumbest Movie Ever?

A remake of the mid-80s cult classic movie Red Dawn, in which a group of Colorado teenagers singlehandedly defeat the Soviet-Cuban military force that has taken over their town as part of an invasion of the United States, has been in the works for several years ago. Last year, we learned that the writers had decided to change the script they had drafted to make the invaders North Korean instead of Chinese. Some people on the right saw that as evidence that the studio was afraid of offending the Chinese, although the fact that China is a growing market for American movies seems to have escaped them. In any event, the movie is set to come out in November, and Wired’s David Axe argues that it may well be the dumbest movie ever:

North Korean paratroopers descend on an American small town. U.S. military resistance collapses. Korean armored vehicles roll down the streets unopposed except for a band of heavily armed bros in hoodies.

No, these are not images from some teenage gamer’s fever dream. They’re scenes from the movie Red Dawn, a remake of the 1984 cult classic about a joint Cuban-Soviet invasion of the U.S. and the attractive young American insurgents — the Wolverines — who help defeat it. The revamped Red Dawn, starring Chris Hemsworth, a.k.a. Thor, blasts into theaters in November.

But don’t expect it to linger very long. Where the 1984 original successfully played upon widespread public fears over a supposedly rising and belligerent Soviet Union, the remake expects viewers to take North Korea seriously as an existential threat. We’re guessing the flick is going to get a lot of unintended laughs.

You see, the actual North Korea is a country of 24 million people with a GDP roughly equal to North Dakota’s. It’s an impoverished, even starving, prison state that lacks modern weaponry and any ability to deploy forces globally. If preview clips posted this weekend are any indication, the movie magically gifts North Korea with a huge fleet of long-range transport planes … because it has to. Of course, how these planes get past the U.S. military’s 3,000 jet fighters is anyone’s guess.

(…)

In any event, John Milius, the writer of the original Red Dawn, called the remake “a stupid thing to do.”Although not formally associated with the new production, Milius was offered a chance to read the screenplay. “It’s all about neat action scenes and has nothing to do with story,” Milius griped. Coincidentally, Milius is credited (though not without controversy) with penning the backstory for the video gameHomefront, a military adventure about — you guessed it — a North Korean invasion of the U.S.

Let’s be honest, now. The original Red Dawn left much to be desired in the way of geopolitical realism itself. The idea that the Soviet Union and Cuba (with some apparent assistance from an Arabic nation that was probably meant to be Libya) could launch a transcontinental land invasion of the United States that would succeed rather than seeing its supply lines utterly destroyed by American naval and air forces was silly. Even in the context of the mid-1980s, the idea that the Soviets/Cubans could have pulled that off and that the U.S. military would have been so easily defeated as to essentially cede 1/3 of the Continental United States to the enemy, not to mention the question of why nuclear weapons were never used in that movie. In any event, though, it was an entertaining movie and I’ve watched it a few times as it has come up on cable or some such place. It gave us a classic rallying cry in “Wolverines!,” and it was one of the first big movies for stars of the future like Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen.  The real question, of course, is why anyone thought there was a need to remake a cult classic like this. The obvious answer, of course, is that it’s part of the sad new world of Hollywood where recycling old ideas, or turning television shows and comic books into movies, seems to be the formula studios believe that they have to follow to make a blockbuster.  If Steven Spielberg were entering the business today, the studios would likely be trying to convince him to direct the new movie version of “Full House” or something.

Axe is correct, of course, that the idea of a North Korean invasion of the United States is utterly silly. How would they even get the troops the roughly 6,000 miles across the Pacific? And, again, wouldn’t they have a little problem called the Pacific Fleet to deal with? Besides if a North Korean soldier suddenly parachuted into a suburban American community, the first thing he’s likely to do is surrender and ask to be taken to the nearest McDonalds. It’s an absurd premise and, combined with the fact their using mostly unknown actors, suggests that the film is going to royally suck.  In all likelihood I’ll wait till this thing is on DVD and get it for a dollars from RedBox or something.

Is it the dumbest movie ever? That I’m not sure of. I’ve seen some pretty dumb movies in my time, including a few that I’ve stopped watching on DVD less than an hour into the film and two occasions where the stupidity was so bad that I just had to leave the theater. The premise of this movie is ridiculously stupid, but sadly that’s true of much that Hollywood produces these days. The original Red Dawn was silly, but it was a fun movie. This one just sounds stupid.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. If they had balls they’d make the kids Afghan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  2. (Remember, the story-line of the original Red Dawn was one of inversion. It’s been a while, but doesn’t the Cuban guy say “in winning we’ve become what we opposed?”)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  3. Bill says:

    Never watched the original Red Dawn and I have no intentions of viewing the remake. Just one comment- You know you’re getting old when movie remakes are being made of movies that were released when you were growing up. Tron, Blade Runner, Red Dawn to name a few. Can Howard the Duck be too far behind?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  4. The original was a great movie, even if the premise was quite far fetched. This new one should be about Islamist insurgents conducting coordinated attacks in cities around the country, and how the people deal with the resulting chaos. That story line would actually have some merit.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 18

  5. rudderpedals says:

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show remake will truly mark the death of film.

    @john personna: OK but if they really,truly had balls someone’d have redone it as Anti-Red Dawn where the kids fight off homegrown survivalist McVeigh types

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  6. @Nicholas Fitzgerald:

    They did that on multiple seasons of 24

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  7. michael reynolds says:

    They’ll sell a few tickets in the gun-totin’ red states, they’ll sell some tickets to hipsters looking to goof on it, and they’ll sell some tickets in the overseas markets that still think FX and action scenes are cool. It’s a low-budget, end-of-summer burn-off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    Theres a bladerunner remake?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  9. @rudderpedals:

    Red Dawn is about the subjective teen experience. They don’t explain high ideals or political philosophy. Kids are just living their lives, and then tanks roll into town and round up their parents. What kid pumped on adolescence wouldn’t want to fight that, to make it a myth?

    Red Dawn was probably drawn from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and transferred here. The movie had American kids setting up IEDs for military convoys. That deserves about 3 exclamation points.

    So fast forward a few years and kids that grew up watching Red Dawn in the US are themselves in Afghanistan, facing IEDs.

    Inversion.

    The serious movie would play with the brutality of the cycle and the costs all around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. Scott O says:

    The South Park remake of Red Dawn was pretty good

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s07e10-grey-dawn

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Brett says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    The obvious answer, of course, is that it’s part of the sad new world of Hollywood where recycling old ideas, or turning television shows and comic books into movies, seems to be the formula studios believe that they have to follow to make a blockbuster.

    I think it’s more that this was somebody’s pet project in Hollywood, and they eventually got the pull to get it made. There’s a quote out there from one of the producers about how he saw the original Red Dawn as a child and it “changed his life”, blah, blah, blah.

    The film was a success, but not a massive one. In 2012 dollars, it made a total of about $84 million against a budget of $9 million. Compare that with Ghostbusters, which in 2012 dollars made about $640 million versus a budget of about $66 million.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Al says:

    Given THQ’s financial troubles, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the chance to sue a movie studio.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Modulo Myself says:

    The opening scene of Red Dawn, where the Soviet paratroopers land and decide to start shooting up the local high school, is pretty funny.

    It’s possible that the Red Dawn remake script has existed for twenty odd years, and that the North Koreans were once Iraqis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Dave Schuler says:

    Dumbest movie? It’s a pretty crowded field.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Justin says:

    Some factual errors above. In the opening scenes of the original Red Dawn we’re told that NATO had disbanded, and Communists had no problem rolling through a sympathetic Europe after a famine. The premise was that pacifists had come to power and allowed the U.S. military and NATO to be weakened.
    Later in the movie we’re told the USSR had indeed used nuclear weapons against the Chinese. The invasion of the U.S. was done “like they did in Afghanistan,” first getting special forces into the country via commercial flights and capturing airports to use as forward air bases.

    Silly yes, but that’s how it happened in the movie, I’m just saying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Well, there’s “bad” movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space, there’s “bad” like Disney’s The Black Hole (where we were amusing ourselves with the number of physics howlers and theological howlers they committed), then there’s “bad” like Sheila and the Brainstem….

    To misquote Tolstoy: ” each bad movie is bad in its own different way.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. michael reynolds says:

    “What is Mitt Romney hiding?” gets 180,000 hits on Google. Almost as many for “What is Romney hiding?” and “What is Mitt hiding?”

    There will be growth in those numbers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 11

  18. JKB says:

    What! That sounds less plausible than Invasion U.S.A.

    The original played on a lot of mythology from the Cold War and it evolved into a decent character play. But you really needed the idea of an equal adversary, Cuba getting over the missile crisis lesson and a deep background watching WWII movies and reading stories of the resistance and Nazi occupations. What will the kids today have to work from?

    Hollywood has run out of ideas. I can’t believe they tried a remake of The Manchurian Candidate. It was a serious piece of its time. It’s a sad comment on the modern liberal arts education that they produce writers without any ideas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Hmmm. That was supposed to be on a different thread. It’s that damned early Alzheimers again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  20. DRS says:

    Should get the – you’ll pardon the expression – red carpet treatment at the premiere in Seoul.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. al-Ameda says:

    As long as they cast Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson, and Blake Lively in it, I do not care what the storyline is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  22. An Interested Party says:

    This new one should be about Islamist insurgents conducting coordinated attacks in cities around the country, and how the people deal with the resulting chaos.

    In other words, your preferred plot should be as ridiculous and nonsensical as the plot of both movies…

    It’s a sad comment on the modern liberal arts education that they produce writers without any ideas.

    It’s even sadder that you are attempting to blame a few bad movie ideas on the modern liberal arts education system…obviously your education has failed you…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    It’s a sad comment on the modern liberal arts education that they produce writers without any ideas.

    No, sorry, it’s not the writers. It’s the executives. It’s the business people.

    Every day the execs hear pitches that are original and interesting. And they ask themselves, “Is there ‘pre-awareness’ of this concept? No? Then I’ll just choose the thing people already know something about because then my ass is covered.”

    It’s all about reducing risk to investors. It’s the money, stupid, not the talent.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  24. de stijl says:

    Between Red Dawn and Homefront, my inner armchair shrink says that Milius may have some paranoia issues. Is “Red Dread” a recognized DSM disorder?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Modulo Myself says:

    @de stijl:

    I think John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski was actually based on Milius.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. sam says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Hmmm. North Koreans. Scarey. Reminds me of what I once read about why little kids love dinosaurs: They’re big, ferocious, and extinct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. steve says:

    Manos: Hand Of Fate gets my vote for dumbest and worst.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    “And how can zeees be?!? For he eeeez the Kwisatz Haderach!!

    Still takes the biscuit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @Nicholas Fitzgerald:

    The original was a great movie, even if the premise was quite far fetched. This new one should be about Islamist insurgents conducting coordinated attacks in cities around the country, and how the people deal with the resulting chaos. That story line would actually have some merit.

    It was a great movie in the way that Die Hard 3 was a great movie, is that what you meant to say?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. de stijl says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Awesome! That explains a lot.

    BTW, I happened to get Barton Fink in from Netflix yesterday which is great because I haven’t seen in it like 15 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Donniej says:

    The Undefeated is the dumbest movie ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Al says:

    @rudderpedals:

    If they had some balls they’d turn DMZ into a movie.

    Also, that I’m the first one mentioning DMZ in this thread greatly saddens me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Listen, the last thing we need in our progessively re-made America is some kind of film, remake or not, that could lead our well-conditioned young men to see themselves as having some kind of personal responsibility to defend their now military draft-free country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  34. An Interested Party says:

    …that could lead our well-conditioned young men to see themselves as having some kind of personal responsibility to defend their now military draft-free country.

    Defend from whom? The North Koreans? The Chinese? The scary Muslims, perhaps? That last group is trying to take over the world, you know…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  35. anjin-san says:

    Since it came up on this thread:

    Google > What is Mitt Romney hiding? > About 3,810,000 results

    Inquiring minds want to know…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  36. I always found Red Dawn made the most sense if you thought of it as a movie about the Vietnam War that was trying to trick the audience into seeing the war from the Viet Cong’s point of view.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  37. G.A. says:

    The Day After Tomorrow
    was the dumbest movie ever……

    For a blockbuster budget.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  38. @anjin-san:

    Of course, if we’re going to buy that as a valid measure, “What is Barack Obama hiding?” nets 74,700,000 results.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  39. john personna says:

    @G.A.:

    Yeah, mini ice ages come on in a year or few, not 10 minutes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. walt moffett says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Or a tale of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, thought The Beast was much better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. @rudderpedals:

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show remake will truly mark the death of film.

    Since it was a West End musical first, couldn’t it be argued that the original RHPS was a remake?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  42. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    For cognitive dissonance value, it’s hard to out do Salt, but it was still a great action flick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. michael reynolds says:

    We just fired a small SUV 350 million miles to f*cking Mars and it stuck the landing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  44. J-Dub says:

    Substitute “Tea Party” for “North “Korea” and it might be a believable plot. They’re already here and armed to the teeth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  45. Al says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Dude, are you even trying to put comments in the right thread any more?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  46. Just Me says:

    I saw the original as a teen. If it wasn’t for what then I viewed as “eye candy” I wouldn’t have bothered with the movie. It was pretty dumb then, and a remake IMO would be pretty done now. I remember at the time wondering why the Soviets would invade the US by landing in Colorado. The whole movie just seemed to ignore the fact that there is a military presence in the US and several of them in Colorado-as if the US wouldn’t notice an invading force in its airspace.

    I am one of those people who tends to nitpick the unrealistic aspects of a movie-so I am pretty sure the idea of North Korea invading would be just the beginning of my nitpick fest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  47. Vast Variety says:

    The origional Red Dawn seriously altered history to make the US much weaker and esentally alone on the world stage to make the story work. I have to assume that they will also do the same in the remake. They would have to unless they want to use China as our adversary and even that would be a stretch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Since it was a West End musical first, couldn’t it be argued that the original RHPS was a remake?

    Adaptation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. Al says:

    @G.A.:

    BZZZT!

    Sorry, the correct answer to “What was the dumbest blockbuster budget film?” was The Adventures of Pluto Nash which grossed about $32 million including DVD and overseas markets. That puts it nearly $68 million in the red. The Day After Tomorrow grossed nearly $653 million putting it over a half a billion dollars in the black.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. Dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That 7 minutes on NASA TV was incredibly fun to watch live.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. Ernieyeball says:

    You know, it’s an interesting thing when you consider… the Earth people, who can think, are so frightened by those who cannot: the dead.
    Plan 9 From Outer Space

    This could be considered insightful cinema dialog for 1959 if you ask me.
    (I know. Nobody asked me.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  52. rudderpedals says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’d like to give fun musicals a pass because there are so few of them. (Plus what mantis said)

    @Al: DMZ might hit a little too close to home

    @Dazedandconfused:You didn’t like the Dune miniseries?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0