Red Dawn Blu-ray Review
Occasionally a film’s raw concept can be so compelling, so immersive and so thought provoking, it can actually mask out the project’s inferior content. 1984’s RED DAWN has transitioned into a classic, sans the “cult” moniker, as the film’s notoriety has soared in past years due to its motley crew of now well-known stars and the sustained relevance of its terrifying and incrementally more possible plot of an invasion on American soil. The bone chilling idea of being awakened by a foreign military force is what keeps the original RED DAWN in the view of crimson colored lenses by its fans, because it’s certainly not the acting, directing, writing or production value. A film of this ilk should be the “poster child” for anyone that actually champions remakes. It contains an incredible plot concept that has only strengthened with time and can now be produced with modern technology and top writers/actors that have a love and passion for the source material. So armed with this mandate what does Hollywood give us? A stuntman who once played Jason Voorhees in the director’s chair and “The Norse God of Thunder” in the Patrick Swayze role. Maybe we deserve to be invaded.
This time around it’s the North Koreans, although still backed by the Russians, who have invaded the “land of the free,” by triggering some type of super secret EMP weapon that has knocked most of the US electrical grid and allowed foreign forces to invade from both coasts. As the invasion begins, US Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth, THOR) who is home on leave in Spokane, Washington, gathers his brother Matt (Josh Peck, THE WACKNESS) and a band of his friends in a retreat to their father’s cabin in the woods. As the North Koreans further establish themselves in the town, the small band of refugees learn to become an insurgence with the guidance and training of Eckert, and take on nickname of their high school mascot, The Wolverines.
Even though casting for this film was not spectacular, it’s certainly not the cause of its epic disappointment. Hemsworth is now a very well known asset from the Marvel films and he is probably the most believable character in the film, so even though there were probably better options to take on the now iconic role of Swayze’s Jed, Hemsworth is at a distinctly progressive point in his career than Swayze was in 1984. The chief saboteur of RED DAWN’s second mission is shallow and callous treatment of any semblance of character development. Probably the most enduring torment of the original film is way most of the character interaction felt monotonous and unedited, but at least it did allow for a sense of investment in their fate from the audience. In the new film, as soon as “The Wolverines” are assembled, the narrative jumps into a montage mode that would make Rocky Balboa wince. Not only does it miserably fail in selling the notion of a group of high school kids absorbing the physical and mental toughness needed to survive such a predicament, but it hardly allows for any recognition of the team’s individual members.
Another “ace in the hole” of this remake should’ve been the escalating probability of this once unfathomable scenario due to cyber terrorism. The film begins on the right track with real-life clips from news shows demonstrating how the US has weakened itself by deploying too many troops across the globe and the impending threat of an attack on our computer systems. The latter is completely ignored as the film progresses, even though a compromising of our computer servers would be a far more believable scenario than a super EMP that destroys all the power grids in the country. There was also an opportunity wasted to address why in a country where guns outnumber people, why was it so incredibly easy for paratroopers to take over two-thirds of the country.
Emphatic detractors of “remakes” will have a new entry in their portfolios with 2012’s RED DAWN as an exemplification of incredulous exploitation of audiences’ nostalgia by way of big action sequences and gratuitous violence that secures no roots in the film’s characters outside of the main protagonist. First-time director Dan Bradley had a valuable opportunity to greatly improve on well-loved title and indoctrinate a new band of “Wolverines” to the next generation, but instead the only battle cry they’ll be uttering is, “Where was Hugh Jackman?”
Video: 2.40:1 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4: The picture is near flawless on this disc, it has deep blacks, fantastic contrast and the unparalleled sharpness a Blu-ray is capable of. But it’s all wrong for this film, and especially for a remake of a film where the grittiness of the production was such a strong element. I’m not saying they should’ve started laying on the grain filters until it looked like the Zapruder tape, but a little would’ve gone a long way in helping the overall tone of the film not seem like an episode of NBC’s REVOLUTION.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: The audio in the film is very well done, the many explosions and waves of gunfire never interfere with the dialogue and in the few instances in the film where the audience will actually care about specific characters, the audio enhances the moment greatly.
There are zero bonus features included on this Blu-ray: This is a very odd way to release a brand new film, usually the bonus features are shot in correlation with the film’s production. As for a commentary, you can still hear one from the production studio simply by inference; there was no way they were sinking one more penny into this project.