Unwarranted criticisms abound for this remake of the 80's cheese-fest which starred a host of up-and-coming, young B-listers such as Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell. In contrast, this updated version has it's own troop of young Hollywood talent including Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki and Alyssa Diaz; the aforementioned contrast being that this time the cast can actually act.
Hollywood loves remakes for the same reason that it loves sequels - money. Professional (and amateur) critics, on the other hand, tend not to; instead they seem to love to trash them. Granted, quite often the criticism is justified but not always. Every once in a great while the new version surpasses the original; such is the case with Red Dawn.
I'll be the first to admit that some films should be held sacrosanct - inviolable. A fine example is Hitchcock's Psycho. Red Dawn though...c'mon, who are we kidding here? It's developed something of a cult following but it's no classic. The original was chock-full of holes and inconsistencies, bad special effects and even worse acting. It was completely unbelievable...and so cheesy that they should have sold crackers and wine at the theater instead of popcorn...yet it was the 80's and the action film reigned supreme; besides, it was fun.
Even with the problems that the remake faced, being shelved because of MGM's financial woes and the decision to change the protagonists from Chinese to North Korean (for fear of alienating China and losing access to it's box office), this film is still superior to the original in almost every way. It's single deficiency is the choice of North Korea as the invading/occupying force; I found it a bit hard to swallow that a successful operation of this magnitude could be launched by them. Yet the movie is so well-done in every other aspect that it just didn't matter.
I like that they left the original main characters and merely shook up the dynamic a bit. After all, there was no reason to completely change those characters; they were what made the first movie good, in it's own way. From the opening sequence, this new (and improved) version blows it's predecessor away.
Hemsworth and Palicki were fine here (no surprise for me); Hutcherson, Peck and Diaz impressed me (as I had seen little of them up till now) and it was nice seeing Brett Cullen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in their supporting roles. As I said before, the caliber of the actors here was simply better and so was the script. The actions of the characters, the dialogue, the emotion...all of it was much more believable.
Finally, as movies go, there are set-in-stone classics (such as Casablanca and Rear Window ) and there are memorable action flicks; if the original is remembered as being one of the latter, then 2012's Red Dawn very much so belongs in the second category.
Honestly, I don't get why people are so down on this film. It's damned good! So if you want some cheese with your whine then, by all means, opt for Swayze & company; for myself, I'd much rather see Hemsworth drop the hammer on the North Koreans.