Red Dawn (2012)
There has been many a Red Dawn movie made since movies started hitting the screens - but when the original first hit the screens it created something more than an underdog story. I should correct myself here I suppose, as it was nothing really all that new as far as movie history goes, but it somehow managed to evoke a whole new sense of feelings from it's audience when suddenly the cold war came down on us hard, and the world rested on the hands of a few teens and their determination. Enough about that movie though, this is a remake and all, but I feel we need to look at it on its own before we cast any judgements!
Our plot doesn't take long to get into effect - Communism strikes the shores of America in a lightning fast blitzkrieg that would have made Hitler cry. Seemingly overnight, the forces of North Korea drop from the sky and start taking places over (or as characters allude to later on, flat out bomb some places) with the intent of taking over the world (or maybe just America)! A rag-tag bunch of kids escape the invasion, and led by Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) who has just returned from military duty on leave to visit his family form a guerilla fighting group to oppose the red menace and get freedom and revenge for everyone they know. The party fluctuates a bit in size as they either gain or lose more members, and the central plot is as simple as that - Korea bad , 'Murica good . Then again, I'm sure you didn't pick this movie up because you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice or Oprah, so lack of plot isn't going to be a big deal-breaker to you.
As far as things that may be found lacking, characters themselves essentially have no backstory whatsoever. Yes, one can argue it isn't necessary in this situation (it truthfully isn't) given the circumstances, but some people might expect more. The only real backstory we are given centers on Jed and lady-friend Toni (Adrianne Palicki) and some reminiscing of the olden-days. Character development fairs a bit better, surprisingly, as we see Jed's younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) take a vaguely John Connor (Terminator ) transformation from the beginning to the end of the movie, and somehow the entire assortment of WOLVERINES! (Sorry, had to get that out of my system) go from everyday kids to gun-toting commandos in a quick montage (although there is a noticeable character change in one of the "sidekicks" characters as he gets over his peaceful ways and buds into a real hero). Beyond that, the characters act as you would expect someone in an action movie to react (as in, compared to real folk it's hard to think most people would be so cool and level headed after a short stint in the woods when so much is going down around them). If a character they know dies, they grieve accordingly for X amount of time, and then they move on and toughen up.
On the enemy side of things, most the Korean soldiers here are nothing - figuratively. They are "the enemy" and that's all we need to know - that we should hoot and holler when they get killed, because the beautiful simplicity is they are just evil drones in the guise of man. True, in the real world this wouldn't necessarily be true, and in one line it is alluded to that these soldiers in reality probably don't even want to be there, but outside of that one line and Cho (Will Yun Lee) getting in trouble for not doing his job well enough, there is no humanization of the Koreans in this film. When a sole Russian appears in the film, we are given a simple "He's spetsnaz because that's the color beret they wear, and hes probably there to counter us" from Jed and it is entirely left to that (it's okay, he only shows up about 3 times tops anyways). As far as the baddies in this film go, it's just a typical action movie meat-grinder - the only emotion you are as a watcher supposed to feel is patriotic jubilee over their utter annihilation.
The settings here are, well, as I say to often modern. Nice touches are lined up here, thanks to the communist invasion scenario, so we get to see a slightly altered modern - a football field turned into a prison camp, a police department with Korean flags draped down it, propaganda graffiti left by the Wolverines and their supporters (by the way, if I have somehow not mentioned it, the Wolverines is the sports team of the town, and the good guy "rebels" end up taking it as their guerrilla war-name) and some nice scenes of the woods (including one that seems incredibly dead as though a forest fire has torn through it for some reason). Attire evokes what it would expect - the Koreans decked out in their military gear, doing their occupationist thing while the Wolverines wear a mix of stolen korean gear and more common apparel (to fit in of course). Everything looks believable here, which helps lend to the "what if" scenario of the entire movie, but at the same time it also helps prevent anything from really standing out.
Soundtrack wise, I can honestly say I don't remember any of it. This either means one of two things: it did the stereotypical job of what music should do (add to the feel/emotion/action of a scene) or it was just entirely forgettable. Theres a song that plays at one point on the "freedom radio" as a tribute to the Wolverines and all that they do, but that is the entirety of what I can remember as far as soundtrack goes (I believe there may be a party/bar scene at the start pre-blackout as well). Effects wise the sounds are good, guns have that wonderful gun noise, explosions rumble and boom as one would expect, and the character audio is largely understandable and well-delivered. Minor gripe here, however, is that movies love to do this stupid thing with suppressed weapons that make it go "pwip pwip" and seem as though nobody nearby could possibly hear it - truth of the matter is it doesn't work like that. No biggy though, inaccuracies are part of the fun of movies (otherwise we'd never grow to think cars could explode).
So truth be told, I enjoyed this movie. It had a nice pace, did a good job with the action set-pieces, and never went too over the top with what it presented. As far as action movies go, thats successful. If you are looking for super plots, by now you should know that it's rare to find them in flat-out action movies. If you are looking for a little patriotic "America, Heck Yeah!" however, this is probably a good choice.
Now, as I mentioned, this is a remake so I can't just leave it at what's up top, because as the title alone is a good reason for many a person to want to know about this movie from their memories of the old one. How does this one compare to the 1984 original? Well, spiritually although the enemies have changed it feels pretty sound. This version, being more modernized, takes a few liberties the other didn't have (the original's Wolverines didn't have a military-services older brother to train the entire group, for instance) which does tend to take away a little bit of the underdog feel of the film. I mean, yeah, sure the Wolverines are outnumbered as badly as the Spartans at Thermopylae, but they are smart enough to jury rig c4 bombs and have this well trained leader figure to pull everything together. The original just had a more deep "survival" feeling to it, as the characters felt more like a bunch of kids/young adults whose greatest extent of knowledge was hunting and camping as opposed to organized attack tactics. In contrast, the new one also had a much more realistic feeling to it because of the reason that these kids were doing so well was the military-trained brother and the things he learned when he was in action overseas. There's also no shooting of a RPG directly through the center of a russian helicopter's open doors - that helps it feel a very much bit less goofy.
The original has also spawned other movies of similar ilk, such as the exquisite Tomorrow, When the War Began . Of the three, Tomorrow feels the most authentic - not providing too much of the classic 80's action fare, but also not making it's hero characters too unstoppable as they may feel in the 2012 Red Dawn . Of the three, Tomorrow is also the only one that takes place in Australia, making it more of an "inspired by" then a "rip off", with hopes and plans of an eventual sequel (by the end of Tomorrow, the heroes are only just beginning to hit a point where they could really be considered to be like the Wolverines of the Red Dawn movies). Tomorrow also had more character-oriented development than either of the two Dawn movies, so for the folks more interested in that then the general feel good "America!" attitude you may want to check that one out.
So, to sum it all up, I enjoyed Red Dawn from both standpoints, content with it as a remake and as it's own movie. There are aspects that could have been done better, but the movie held up well to action movie standards and I would hope any viewer wouldn't regret spending their time to watch it.