I had the opportunity watch Life of Pi or this. Since I don't like watching movies based off of books that I want to read, I went with this.
At first glance, this looked to be a B-Movie. It turned out to be not even that. And no, it's not so bad it's good. It simply falls flat and has nothing to offer. There's some good action here, and some of these people are legitimately good actors. However, why is Josh Peck still playing a teenager? I really want to give him a chance at older and more mature roles, but he's being typecast as the slightly dorky brother now. Come on, he's buffed up since then!
Peck was actually my main reason for seeing this film. I thought that he was going to be hardcore, that this was his chance to be manly. Yet, the casting director decided to not only make him the week link of the team but put him next to Thor for emphasis. Come on, guys. At least give him a cool haircut or something. There was a sense after the film was over that he was as hardcore as his brother, and it kind of worked, but not that much.
What I can give this film is that it starts out fast. There's maybe only a scene or two before they cut to the chase. I'm glad that they didn't make me wait too long, but the first film started out early in its very first scene.
Yes, I watched the original right after this film. Heck, I'll draw a bunch of comparisons right at the end of the review, when i really want to cut loose, but I still want to get talking about what this movie got wrong even when you take the context away.
It's not that the characters are unrealistic, or that there are any plot holes. There's some nice action. Perhaps that's the main reason why anyone went to see this movie, although I'm sure that some wanted to watch it to see if it could build off of another story and add more to it. Watching this and knowing that it was a remake, I couldn't help but get the sense that the original was better. I just knew it. In my bones. It wasn't something I could confirm until later, but the fact that I could get that impression just watching the remake all on its own speaks leaps and bounds.
On its own, what did it get wrong? Why did it fail as a cinematic experience. First, the climax had no substance. That's always bad. Yet, I'm going to go out and talk about the band of brothers here. First, Josh Hutcherson was a useless character. I think there was some sort of subplot about him getting over his fears or something, but it really had no substance. It was just thrown in there, and there was no lyrical throw to it. I kept on wondering, "Why is this guy in the movie?"
Then there's Josh and his older. After a ton of action and other nonsensical throwaway material, the Koreans get a Russian who specializes in putting down insurgencies. During the Wolverine's (the name for the main cast, for those not in the know) most important mission, one of the characters gets tackles by two or three Koreans. I can't remember, since it's been a while since I saw it and it was dark when it happened, while the cinematographer clearly had clearly caught a case of shakycam. The point it, the Russian walks up to him, sticks a needle in him, and the Koreans let him go. The guy runs off.
This part confounds me. Is there nothing conspicuous about that? You were tackled by multiple guys, stabbed, and let go. They didn't chase after you. Does it make a difference if I phrase this in the second person, so you can imagine that you are this guy? Doesn't something about that situation seem a bit off? If I remember correctly, that character might have even been informed of the purposes of that Russian guy, but I might be mistaken. In any case, he really should have known that he had a tracking device on him. Come on, man.
Now it's off to the Wolverine's celebrating their recent victory over those pesky invaders. They got the MacGuffin, and things are looking pretty good. Thor papa-squats next to his little bro. Things get quiet. Up until that point, Josh's character had a lot of trouble with rash judgement, endangering the rest of the group with emotion-based decisions. He finally manned up with the final raid. Thor gives him an "I love you, man" talk. They smile. It's a tender, quality moment.
And it was all just a dream. No, wait, wrong plot twist. That would have been a twist. But no, the obvious thing happened, except I could tell they were trying to make it not-so-obvious. Yeah right, like that's ever going to happen.
See, with a scene like this, I can almost guarantee that something tragic will happen almost instantly afterword, and it did. I called it the moment the scene began, and I was correct down to the very moment it would happen. Thor got up, his moment of approval now over. Josh feels good about himself. Thor walks over to the doorway to meet with his girlfriend.
Right in the head! And I predicted the five-second time frame that it would occur. The girlfriend kneels over him and starts screaming in despair, while the guys get all panicked and have to drag her along. They start shooting out the windows, trying to escape, succeed, and so forth, until they confirm later on that they have indeed been via the homing beacon in their pal's stomach. Thor's girlfriend gets ticked, and he's left behind.
And I'm telling you all of this because I don't consider these spoilers. They were really obvious.
On another note, the two girlfriends. Thor's and Josh's. I can't remember who played which, since they seemed a bit interchangeable to me. That's not necessarily a bad thing in a movie like this, but it's really disappointing in a reboot. However, I think that Thor's girlfriend was played by Adrianne Palicki. Coincidentally, she was slated to play Wonder Woman in a television show. Good thing that never happened. In any case, in hind sight, it is amusing that Marvel's main mythological character and DC's main mythological character collided.
Oh, and both actresses were in their late twenties when playing these parts.
Then, using my resources as a college student, I watched the original with a group of people I considered friends. The original was a bit tackier, but there was something cool about it. The characters were slightly more colorful. Charlie Sheen, while kind of hated today, at least played a pretty good role, being that guy in the letterman jacket. There was another guy who often wore a Star Wars hat. They had some cool camouflage outfits. Patrick Swayze was the lead character. The deaths were a little more sudden and felt more tragic.
And Lea Thompson. My goodness, Lea Thompson. You know Marty McFly's mother? That's her. That right there is enough to make the original not only special compared to this one, but special in its own merit. Was her character just a little silly? Yeah, kind of. She had this weird crush in that film. Still, everything about her character is cooler than those random extras who dated Thor and Josh.
The original also had a better villain. In that one, the US was invaded by Cuba, and the Cuban commander who tried hunting down the Wolverines was a little more human of a character. That's not saying that the Korean guy in the remake was inhuman, but by comparison, where was some more depth in the Cuban, if only a little. There was more humor, more conflict, and something else in him. He didn't like being a bad guy. He didn't like killing. The Wolverines wore him out, and it didn't personally want to kill them. He actually let Patrick Swayze's character live when he saw that he was already dying and carrying his dead brother. He had a lover back home. Was there an incredible performance? No, but it was certainly more memorable that the Korean officer who I hardly cared about. There was humor there between the villains that wasn't in the remake. It was a nicer experience.
And it had Lea Thompson, who's a blessed angel in disguise. I watched the original a second time just for Lea Thompson's character.
So overall, earlier last year I also watched Total Recall, another remake of a classically cheesy action movie that went horribly wrong. However, at least that one had a memorable moment or two. Nothing significant, but at least it had that. As far as the action goes, there is nothing I remember from this new Red Dawn. These negative tings that I make fun of right now are pretty much the only tidbits I can come up with. Every once and a while I think "but this part was particularly charming and cool", but then I realize that it was from the original.
A tip to screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and and Jeremy Passmore: if you're going to create a remake, take everything that was in the original and flesh it out with an extra dimension added to the characters instead of merely changing the time period.
And seriously, I could have watched Best Director, Best Special Effects, and Best Original Soundtrack winning The Life of Pi!