Anyone who lived through the 1980s probably remembers Red Dawn, the World War III movie in which a bunch of Colorado high school students band together to fight against invading Russian and Cuban soldiers. It’s not exactly high-class cinema, but Dawn captured the Cold War paranoia of the Reagan years, when the world was just a button-push away from nuclear holocaust at the hands of our Soviet adversaries. Thanks to its distinct subject matter and its destined-for-fame cast of young Hollywood talent, the film has become something of an enduring time capsule – enough so that, a few years back, Hollywood thought it worthy of 21st century facelift. Enter the new Red Dawn, just out in theaters, with a new cast of fresh-faced somebodies. Yet the 2012 Dawn has been somewhat beleaguered: first it sat on the shelf for years due to MGM’s bankruptcy; secondly, the international villains in the remake were the Chinese, but the film’s producers decided that they didn’t want to risk that country’s foreign box office, and decided instead to digitially change the film in post-production to make North Korea the invading baddies. So was the new film worth the troubled wait – or worth making at all? Well, the latest edition of the Haiku Review’s Remake Spotlight is here to tell you which revolution should be televised.

Red Dawn (2012)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki & Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Screenplay by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore
Directed by Dan Bradley

If they’d known this was
coming, the ’84 cast
might have surrendered.

Grade: C-

Red Dawn (1984)
Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen & Jennifer Grey
Screenplay by John Milius and Kevin Reynolds
Directed by John Milius

Swayze tells Russians
Nobody puts Baby in
an internment camp!

Grade: B-

The winner: While it’s far from a perfect movie, the 1984 Red Dawn is clearly superior to the new film, which misses any opportunity to make itself relevant for a modern age. Besides just being rather terrible, the 2012 version comes off as little racist by simply dubbing Korean dialogue over actors who were speaking Chinese, and just assuming American audiences wouldn’t care to tell the difference.

By Daniel J. Hoag
The 1984 Red Dawn is available on Blu-ray and DVD; the 2012 Red Dawn is now playing in theaters nationwide.