Daniel W. Drezner

Dumbest… remake… well, not ever, but since the beginning of this decade

Dumbest… remake… well, not ever, but since the beginning of this decade

Children of the 1980’s have suffered a series of body blows this summer — the death of Michael Jackson, the death of John Hughes, etc.  Well, now it appears we will have to suffer another indignity.  MGM recently announced that they remaking Red Dawn (this week they announced their casting choices), a staple of basic cable outlets for twenty years — and one of the most unintentionally campy movies ever made. 

For the uninitiated, the movie depicts a Russian/Cuban/Nicaraguan invasion of the United States, and the fierce resistance put up by a band of high schoolers.  As one of FP’s movie geeks, I love this movie almost as much as I love Starship Troopers.  Harry Dean Stanton shouting "Avenge me!!"; Lea Thompson and C. Thomas Howell acting all tough;  Patrick Swayze shouting "because we live here!" as the justification for killing Russians; Powers Boothe’s scenery-chewing; the Cuban occupiers subduing the population by accessing gun registration forms — it’s all good.  Wolverines!!!!!

Now, this movie — the first one rated PG-13, by the way — was pretty absurd even by Reagan-era standards.  Which brings one to an interesting question — why remake it now? The commissioned screenwriter has provided the following justification:

Similar to the way the original played off Cold War fears in the 1980s, [writer Carl] Ellsworth says the remake will play off of current fears related to post-9/11 terrorism. ”As Red Dawn scared the heck out of people in 1984, we feel that the world is kind of already filled with a lot of paranoia and unease, so why not scare the hell out of people again?”

Well, sure, except that this makes no f***ing sense.  Post-9/11 terror scares Americans because of the prospect that an attack could take place at any moment.  The one thing actors like Al Qaeda can’t do terribly well is secure and hold territory — which is exactly what the Russians were ostensibly trying to do in Red Dawn.  I fact, in the original movie, it’s the Wolverines who act a bit like terrorists, bombing Russian installations and such.  So I can’t see how Red Dawn is a usable template for talking about post-9/11 terrorism concerns. 

This isn’t as bad an idea as remaking Hogan’s Heroes — but it’s pretty close.