By Jason Apuzzo. A $75 million movie from MGM about a Chinese communist invasion of the United States. A brazenly patriotic smack-down of Obama-era socialism. Centering around an Afghanistan war vet. Starring Tom Cruise’s son. Featuring music by Toby Keith. With a plot devised with help from the RAND Corporation.
A hard-core remake of Red Dawn.
I know what you’re thinking – because it’s what I’ve been thinking since I first heard details about all this several days ago. This is all some sort of gag, right? Hollywood doesn’t do this sort of thing. This isn’t the 1980’s anymore. Wake up! This is the era of Avatar, of Fahrenheit 9/11, of Sean Penn hanging with the mullahs in Iran. The communist Chinese aren’t our enemy – they’re our friends! They make our TVs and T-shirts and disposable ink cartridges. Our real enemies are American corporations, environmental polluters, and all those blonde chicks on Fox News. Get your head in the game, Apuzzo. You’re daydreaming again!
Apparently not. Difficult as this is to believe, MGM is indeed now in post-production on what appears to be an extravagantly hardcore remake of John Milius’ 1984 film, Red Dawn. Details of the project are starting to emerge from people who’ve read the script (see Latino Review’s synopsis of the plot here, or The Awl’s account here), and to say that the new film’s creators are ‘pulling no punches’ would be an understatement. The new Red Dawn looks to be one of the most intensely anti-communist films since My Son John from 1952. Yet it’s set in the world of today.
First, let’s back up a bit. If you’re not familiar with the original Red Dawn – a minor film in its day that’s become something of a cult classic – the film depicted an all-out invasion of the United States at the height of the Cold War by the combined forces of the Soviet Union and communist Cuba. We never really see much of the invasion, however, or learn a great deal about its immediate provocation. Almost the entirety of the film is spent following a spirited resistance group made up of high school kids played by then up-and-coming stars Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey. Basically, the kids get hold of some weapons, fight the Russkies in the Colorado hills, kick a lot of commie-Spetsnaz ass, and otherwise shout “Wolverines!” (their high school mascot) about every 5 minutes when they aren’t speeding away in a pickup truck.
The film came out while I was in high school, and I thought it was a hoot – although one sensed at the time that the filmmakers were struggling somewhat against their modest budget. Like a lot of high school guys at the time, I had the hots for Lea Thompson – I was a lot more interested in her than in the AK-47s and RPGs, frankly – but still I liked the concept of fighting commies on American soil, and Red Dawn delivered on that score like few films I’d ever seen. [Chuck Norris' Invasion U.S.A. raised the ante on that scenario the following year - the 80's were really something.]
In the new Red Dawn, the invading Chinese army apparently uses the pretext of America’s current economic decline to invade. Here’s how AOL’s Daily Finance site summarizes the plot:
Set against the backdrop of contemporary politics, the film begins with an American withdrawal from Iraq. The President decides to redeploy troops to Taiwan, where escalating Chinese militarism is threatening America’s ally. At the same time, he also welcomes the former Soviet republic of Georgia into NATO, unleashing Russian worries that America is spreading its sphere of influence deep into Eastern Europe. Having destabilized relations with two of the world’s largest powers, the President then claims that the U.S. is only partly to blame for a global economic meltdown, further escalating tensions with China and ultimately leading to the invasion of the Pacific Northwest.
The RAND Corporation apparently had some input on this scenario. And as invasion scenarios go, this is a reasonably plausible one – for a Hollywood thriller, at least. What’s more interesting to me are the actual details of the Chinese-communist occupation. While details are still a bit sketchy, a lot is given away from behind-the-scenes photographs from the set. I’ve put together a little collage below of what are apparently propaganda posters spread by the film’s Chinese invaders:
Are we getting the picture here? Is it just me, or is there something distinctly Obama-esque about these posters? What these posters reveal is that the Red Dawn remake may actually go where the original film did not go (largely due to the fact that the original was made during the Reagan Administration), which is in equating certain tendencies in contemporary American liberalism with Chinese-style communism (!). That would be an extraordinary thing for a Hollywood studio to do nowadays. The UK’s Guardian reports, for example, that the Chinese have American ‘collaborators’ who help them in their occupation. [Shades of V here.] I wonder who those ‘collaborators’ would be?
To reiterate, I’m still stunned by all this. I’m expecting to wake up and find it’s all a dream – that I’ve been floating in one of those alternate-reality tanks from Avatar, believing that I’m still living in 1985 and reading a Tom Clancy novel after football practice. I have a million questions, all of which boil down to: how did this movie get greenlit? How did this one slip by?
All the right people are getting angry about this film: specifically, the state-controlled Chinese press, and The New Yorker. The Awl is absolutely furious over the film, and you can sense the familiar rhetorical patterns forming: that the film is ‘racist,’ ‘paranoid,’ ‘Sinophobic,’ ‘provocative,’ etc. Of course, it might be interesting for someone to ask the Tibetans or the Taiwanese what they think of all this.
For more details about this film, visit the MGM website or this Red Dawn fansite, and we’ll otherwise keep you updated on all this as more information becomes available. Here is some behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s shoot in Michigan. The film will be released November 24th, 2010. It’s being directed by Dan Bradley, a stunt coordinator and second unit director who’s worked on some of Hollywood’s biggest productions (Independence Day, the Bourne films, the Bond films, the Spider-Man films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, etc.) The film will star Connor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman); Chris Hemsworth of Star Trek, and Isabel Lucas of Transformers.
Final footnote: the one time I met John Milius a few years back, we spent about three hours talking about the White Rajah of Sarawak … and about Mao. Although John wasn’t involved in writing this new film, I’m wondering what he thinks of all this.
[UPDATE: Special thanks to Michelle Malkin's site for linking to this post.]
[UPDATE #2: I just spoke to an executive at MGM, and he provided us with some exciting details about the film. Additionally, he confirmed a few basic points about the film: 1) the negative cost for the film is actually around $42 million; 2) Red Dawn as yet has no release date due to the complex situation at MGM; 3) Connor Cruise appears in the film, but is not actually the film's main star. We'll have a lot more to report about Red Dawn down the line.]
[UPDATE #3: Special thanks to the LA Times' Patrick Goldstein for linking to this post, and for his very kind words about our site.]