"Red Dawn," the reboot of the 1984 film, is nearly two hours long. This is either far too short or far too long, depending on what the audience is trying to get out of it. As it stands in the final product, though, the film is a tedious bore that made me physically uncomfortable, and had me thinking of skipping out early and making up what I had seen.
The captive audience, though, will sympathize with the makeshift group of failed high-school athletes and refried characters brought together by a sudden occupation of Washington state, the Spokane area specifically, by axis powers led by North Koreans and silent Russians for absolutely no discernible reason.
It's the underdog story Americans love! Our federal government has failed and a new, under-described super weapon has blacked-out the Pacific Northwest (at least) and decimated the infrastructure to allow foreign paratroopers to immediately be able to fly in and gain control - only to be thwarted by a small band of freedom fighters who named themselves after their school mascot: the Wolverines (in a rare show of school spirit).
This film image released by Film District shows Josh Peck, left, Josh Hutcherson, center, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from “Red Dawn.”
Perhaps the film would be enjoyable if one were able to suspend disbelief of even basic logic. The myriad questions that you'll have to ignore using that method would include the following: Why, if the infrastructure has been destroyed, are characters able to turn lights on and off a little bit later? How were the North Koreans able to descend on the unsuspecting town immediately after a blackout? Were they invisible before the infrastructure collapse? Why are Russians involved if they have no bearing on the story? Why are North Koreans even invading? What is the purpose? Why did I pay for this?
Once logic has been suspended, then the audience will be treated to jolts of high-energy, interesting action that last for whole seconds before the filmmakers want to add something else to think about in the numbing and awkward scenes used, presumably, to "progress" the "plot" and "develop" the "characters."
Chris Hemsworth is the main character and only saving grace of the film. Hemsworth is a likeable Australian actor - though you wouldn't be able to tell due to his excellent American accent - who has starred as Nordic god Thor twice in the last two years ("Thor" and "The Avengers"), and even had a great turn in "The Cabin in the Woods," which is one of the most entertaining films of the year. One can only hope that "Red Dawn" won't throw the brakes on his career. He plays Jed, a U.S. Marine who is on break to visit his family for the first time in awhile, and he's forced to shoulder the dead weight of a bunch of high school students who miraculously learn how to shoot and fight seemingly overnight under his tutelage.
The worst offender is his little brother, Matt, played by Josh Peck (of children's television). Peck looks exactly like an unfavorable split between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cameron from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and, as such, has no right to be playing a headstrong, aggressive high school football player who is "in love" with and dating the school hottie.
The rest of the characters are an amalgamation of the various ways that adolescents from the school of shallow disaster movies might react to a disaster; that is to say that they are completely unrealistic and utterly boring.
These cliched characters may be a holdover from Hollywood circa 1984, but that just means that the filmmakers couldn't even figure out what parts of classic action movies should be revived. In all honesty, this film should have been an unrepentant cheese-fest of bad one-liners and silliness, interspersed with hardcore action - which is exactly what is beloved about action films - but the filmmakers played it straight and it is definitely for the worst.
A miniseries or a television show, which would be a lot like the 2006-08 CBS show "Jericho," might have been a more appropriate medium for a story of this size. It would allow the time necessary for addressing basic concerns like cause for the invasion. It wouldn't even have to be a plausible cause, but if there is no clue whatsoever for the purpose of the happenings on screen then there is little room to be emotionally invested. The characters could have been developed as well, rather than being basically interchangeable and forgettable.
Likewise, the film could be much shorter if it removed all pretension to plot whatsoever and just gave the audience excitement at least equal to their investment.
Film tickets and concessions cost a lot of money and take time to watch that could be spent doing productive, or at least entertaining things. If you are easily entertained by listening to high-schoolers riffing on basic philosophy, ethics and explaining what love means between sessions of shooter video games, then, by all means, plan a trip to the magic of movies.
(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews will appear periodically in Thursday's Arts &?Entertainment section.)