With the “Red Dawn” Reboot Coming Out: The 12 Elements That Made the 1984 “Red Dawn” So Unrecreateably Awesome
This week the new, updated reboot of the 1984 classic “Red Dawn” opens in theaters. As a general rule, we’re skeptical about remakes. A great movie comes from a particular time and place, and the things that made them work the first time don’t often resonate with an audience 20 years later. Typically, they turn out to offer nothing more than a semi-familiar script with updated special effects and contemporary wardrobes but none of the magic that made the original.
That seems especially true of “Red Dawn,” given all the product-of-its-time awesomeness. The original came out at precisely the right time in world and pop culture history. It was a harmonic convergence of geopolitics, actors just entering their prime and movie industry standards. It’s hard to imagine a new one will capture that lighting in a bottle again. Because in order for it to, it will have to compete with the 12 Elements That Made the 1984 “Red Dawn” So Unrecreateably Awesome:
In the new “Red Dawn” remake, the invading army overrunning the sacred soil of the good ol’ US of A is from North Korea. Now I’ll grant you that the North Koreans are plenty villainous in their own right. But no one, and I mean no one, from the latter half of the 20th century on can match the Soviet Union for good old fashioned evil. Why Cold War paranoia has fueled every decent action movie/ thriller of the last 60 years. Everything from “The Manchurian Candidate” to “Dr. Strangelove” to most of your Bond movies to “Rocky IV.” And the mid-80s were the height of anti-Soviet sentiment across America and around the world. Sure, the North Koreans are scary. I suppose. But hardly a rival. To put it in a sports metaphor, picture the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey game. Now replace the Russians with the North Koreans. Now you’ve got the picture.
Definitive Quote: “America is a whorehouse… where the revolutionary ideals of your forefathers… are corrupted and sold in alleys by vendors of capitalism… “
2. Patrick Swayze
Swayze was just beginning his ascent to the throne of superstardom. He’d done “The Outsiders” and “Uncommon Valor.” And he was still a few years away from “Dirty Dancing,” “Ghost,” and his triumphant, career defining masterpiece, “Road House.” But there’s no question that “Red Dawn” made him a star. The Swayziest.
Definitive Quote: “One thing’s for sure now… No one can ever go home again. Never.”
3. Lea Thompson
Lea was already a star, fresh off her breakout role opposite Tom Cruise in “All the Right Moves.” And she was one year away from her first blockbuster: “Back to the Future.” To again put it in terms of a sports metaphor, as a rookie Ted Williams drove in over 140 runs. A few seasons later, he won the Triple Crown. In between he was the last man to hit .400. “Red Dawn” was Lea Thompson’s .400 season.
Definitive Quote: “In time, this war – like every other war – ended. But I never forgot.”
The Guinness Book of Records recognizes 1984 “Red Dawn” as the most violent movie ever made.. According to Guinness, the bloodshed comes at a rate of 134 acts of violence per hour, which works out to a gory 2.23 per minute. There’s no way in Hell in today’s world a studio lets a director unleash that much carnage.
Best Quote: “Dogface! I show you how Soviet dies!”
5. Charlie Sheen
Only one movie can claim the historic title of “Charlie Sheen’s First Film. Enough said.
Definitive Quote: “You’re getting pretty low on feelings, aren’t you?”
6. The 1984 “Red Dawn” Made Actual, Non-Charlie Sheen-Related History
The military operation in Iraq that captured Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003 was codenamed “Red Dawn”
Definitive Quote: “It’s twelve o’clock, American, another day closer to victory. And for all of you out there, on, or behind the line, this is your song.” [Battle Hymn of the Republic]
7. C Thomas Howell
He was Eliot’s friend in “E.T.” He was Ponyboy Curtis in “The Outsiders.” But “Red Dawn” made C. Thomas Howell’s career. Granted him putting on blackface for “Soul Man” pretty much ended it two years later, but “Red Dawn” definitely made it.
Definitive Quote: “Wolveriiinnnes!”
8. Jennifer Grey
OK, ’84 “Dawn” wasn’t exactly Jennifer’s debut. But unless you remember her bit part in the Aidan Quinn/ Daryl Hannah romance “Reckless” (and who does?) it was the first time you ever laid eyes on her. And it was impossible not to fall in love instantly as all the talents that made her a superstar were on display. The feistiness of Jeannie Bueller. The cute vulnerability of Baby Houseman. All in one adorable pre-nose job package and toting a machine gun.
Definitive Quote: “Go on ahead. I’m just gonna stay here and listen to the wind a while, okay?”
9. The 1984 “Red Dawn” Made Non-Charlie Sheen-Related, Non-Military History History
This was the first motion picture ever released with an MPAA PG-13 rating. Hollywood’s way of telling America’s teen population, “This is really super violent, but we kept it just non-violent enough that you don’t have to bring your mom with you. Wanna see?” It was Marketing 101. Like celluloid crack for the nation’s 13 to 17 year old movie going demographic.
Definitive Quote: “Come on, buddies! Come and get ‘em! Shoot straight for once, you Army pukes.” [gets blown up by a tank]
10. Powers Boothe
Today he’s known as the growling, leather-tough villain with a voice like a stone crusher and a moustache in shows like “Deadwood” and “24” and movies like “Sin City.” But in 1984? Then he was the growling, leather-tough good guy with a voice like a stone crusher and no moustache in “Red Dawn.” His Col. Tanner character embodied the American fighting spirit in a way that made Goose and Maverick look like they were flying scenic tours of the Grand Canyon. So how did he get shot down then? It was five-to-one. He got four. Pure badassery.
Definitive Quote: “The Russians need to take us in one piece, and that’s why they’re here. That’s why they won’t use nukes anymore; and we won’t either, not on our own soil. The whole damn thing’s pretty conventional now. Who knows? Maybe next week will be swords.”
11. Harry Dean Stanton
Even in 1984 he was a veteran actor, playing a string of hapless sad sacks like the FBI agent who let Frankie Five Angels kill himself in “Godfather II”, Brett in “Alien” and the title character in “Repo Man.” But in “Red Dawn,” he was nothing less than the guy who fathered the kids who saved America.
Definitive Quote: “Boys! Avenge me! Avenge me!”
This is the one thing the new “Red Dawn” can never, ever, compete with. The ’80s were a time so magical that future historians will scarcely believed they existed. America took all that Cold War paranoia, nuclear sabre-rattling and fear that at any moment mushroom clouds would appear on the landscape like… well, like mushrooms… and channeled it in such a way as to produce the greatest culture the world has ever known. Dexy’s Midnight Runner. Zuba pants. John Hughes teen comedies. Donkey Kong. Ronald Reagan. Tony Basil’s “Hey Mickey.” Chicks shaking their stuff on the hoods of cars in WhiteSnake videos. It was a mystical time when anything seemed possible. And at the heart of it all was “Red Dawn.” A big, grandiose, spectacularly bloody middle finger to the rest of the world that said “You want a piece of this? Come and get it. And we’ll kick your Commie pinko hindparts from Iowa all the way back to Red Square with nothing but a gang of plucky teenagers carrying assault weapons.” That’s some serious glory to try to recapture.
Definitive Quote: “In the early days of World War 3, guerillas – mostly children – placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so that this nation should not perish from the earth.”
We here at MovieQuoter don’t mean to judge the “Red Dawn” reboot before we’ve seen it. We’re rooting for it to be great. All we’re saying is “good luck.” That’s a might big set of teen-sized combat boots to fill.