The original Red Dawn was the perfect storm of '80s schlock and patriotism -- all rolled into one epic, David-and-Goliath battle for the fate of freedom and justice. Dated or not, most fans would say the original is pretty much perfect. So, do we really need another one?
With a reboot of the film in the can and nearing release, it’s a question worth asking.
Released in 1984, the original Red Dawn came from a post-Cold War world, at a time when the Berlin Wall was still four years from coming down. Much as it is today (albeit in different forms), oppression was a hot topic — and original director John Millius tapped into that mood, capturing the emotion of a generation in a mid-budget teen action flick.
The film was easy to connect with, and played on one of man’s most primal fears: Being trapped, oppressed and having your freedom stripped away. From being grounded to having the car keys shelved, teens worry about these things everyday. Red Dawn took those feelings and ratcheted them up to 11, leaving a ragtag group of high schoolers as the literal last vestige of freedom and rebellion.
And people liked it. It did so well it helped launch and solidify several young careers, from Patrick Swayze to Charlie Sheen, with Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson tossed in for good measure.
The Wolverines were the answer to a lingering anxiety that still haunted the country. If something were to happen, that American spirit of freedom would prevail — and we’d have fun and look cool doing it, too.
Fast forward nearly 28 years. It’s 2012, and the world is a very different place. Instead of the post-Cold War, we’re still stinging from post-9/11, with domestic terrorism a more rational fear than an all-out invasion from another country.
Much like the original, the new Red Dawn looks to help launch some young careers, with Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and Adrianne Palicki all getting top billing. Admittedly, they went about the process a little backward (the film was actually shot a few years ago before they were stars, and shelved until now due to MGM’s money woes), but same idea.
As for the cultural climate, that’s the big question. In a world of cutting-edge technology, with superhero films lighting up the box office and capturing minds in a very different way, is there still a place for a ragtag, low-fi band of misfits to take on an invading army?
If it’s done right, yes. Absolutely, there is.
But, it can’t just be a rehash of the original. We’ve seen that version, and felt that version. The message is outdated for a modern generation, and iPhone-toting kids and twentysomethings who live on Facebook probably wouldn’t connect with those ideals.
This is where the concept of a “reboot” and “reimagining” really comes into play. The essence of Red Dawn can absolutely still resonate, because everyone still feels oppressed in some way, and we all still pull for the little guy. But, that heart needs to be wrapped in a 2012 veneer so we can relate to it.
If the reboot can find that same heart — the same youthful, rebellious quest for freedom — that’s something that worked in the '80’s and would still work today. Those ideas never go out of style.