You’d think that, post-9/11, Americans have, if anything, greater worry about threats from abroad than we did back in 1984, when the teen Commie-anxiety flick “Red Dawn” was released. So you can see where the producers of the new remake told themselves that the built-in receptiveness factor was there. They even planned on hitching their movie to that dated title — making this, in a way, an even odder war story than the bluntly provocative, Reagan-era original.
As the target demographic emeritus will recall, the old setup had down-home Colorado youths Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and pals turning mountain guerrilla fighters (“Wolverines!”) when Soviet forces invade. The new version, from stunt coordinator-turned-director Dan Bradley, drops Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, and Josh Hutcherson into the roles, and shifts things to more urban Spokane (actually Michigan). While the filmmakers might employ other geopolitical hot spots to most effectively tap contemporary fears, North Korea is promoted to Evil Empire status. Semi-forced? Maybe. But, hey, it satisfies the brand. And the creative choice is no more suspect than 11th-hour re-edits and digital tweaks reportedly used to swap out China as the invader, to avoid a negative impact on Hollywood’s growing Chinese market.