Can CGI erase xenophobia in Red Dawn?

I really enjoy the work of John Milius, who is the screenwriter of Apocalypse Now, and the writer/director of Big Wednesday and Conan the Barbarian.

In fact, Milius co-wrote and directed Red Dawn, and apparently there’s a bit of 80’s nostalgia for it because the remake is coming out this week, starring Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. 

Red Dawn was definitely (originally) a right-wing movie, it was about the Ruskies taking over America in the days before glasnost. Milius has always been a right wing nut, but a loveable right wing nut, so much so that the John Goodman / Walter Sobchak character in The Big Lebowski is based on him. Still, remaking Red Dawn may not have been such a smart idea in the age of political correctness, especially considering its Reagan era xenophobia.

Instead of the Russians, the new Red Dawn had the US being taken over by the Chinese. Now Entertainment Weekly tells us that with the help of CGI, the enemy hasbeen transformed into North Koreans, where the uniforms and flags were changed thanks to digital technology. Originally Red Dawn was going to come out through MGM, but the studio went bankrupt, and it was hard to get a distributor set up without the changes. 

As producer Tripp Vinson told EW, “No one else wanted to distribute the movie, given how politically sensitive it was and [because of] the emerging Chinese market.” What Vinson is referring to is the fact that the Chinese market is very important for movies to make their money back, and film revenue in that country is currently up 40%. As Vinson writes, when a movie has to make big money, you don’t want to offend 1.3 billion people.

Still, you have the feeling a North Korean group is not going to be happy about this and could launch a protest. Again, remaking Red Dawn today doesn’t feel like a smart movie because it wasn’t the most politically correct movie in the world, even back in the days when we were living in Reagan country. 

Milius himself isn’t nuts about Red Dawn being remade either. Never one to mince words, he told the L.A. Times, “I think it’s a stupid thing to do. The movie is not very old.” He also wasn’t thrilled the bad guys were the Chinese in the remake. “Why would China want us?” he added. “They sell us stuff. We’re a market. I would have done it about Mexico.”