By Paul Hickey
Ahead of its release later this year, rumors have been confirmed that the remake of the 1984 classic Red Dawn has had to make some not-too-minor adjustments. Originally featured was an invasion of America by the Chinese Army. But in a desperate attempt to tap into the Chinese market, the enemy has been changed to North Korea. It would seem that Hollywood has come grovelling at the gates of Beijing, and its $1.5 billion box office.
Over the past few years, it seems the formula for an instant success in the film industry is to take something from the 80’s, give it a modern day twist, and release for public consumption (Karate Kid, The A Team, to name a few).
Enter cult classic Red Dawn. Originally set in the Cold War era of the 1980’s, Red Dawn was a huge success. The story is that of brotherhood and friends coming together to fight off the Soviet Invasion.
Jump forward 27 years, and Hollywood decides that for the remake, obviously China can easily fit the role of the big red enemy. So in its initial remake form, the film depicted “the Chinese army invading the West Coast of the United States in an apropos mission to collect on the debt we owe. Some young Americans aren’t willing to give up so easily, and the Seattle-based band of “Wolverines” launches their counterattack in the name of freedom.”
However, in 2009, MGM, the company producing the film went bankrupt, and had to find new investors. These investors don’t want to isolate the Chinese market. Solution? Easy. Just make the new enemy North Korea.
Essentially changing what was supposed to be the heart of the story may seem like a hard task. Not so, apparently. All it takes is digitally changing all Chinese flags to Korean flags, re-shooting the opening scene and voila, America’s “deeply rooted… fear of China’s rise” is now a more palatable take on someone everyone is willing to declare an enemy – Kim Jong Il!
It may seem like a strange move, but for MGM it makes a lot of sense. The Chinese market has already proved to be very lucrative (just look at the insanity over Avatar) and this is only the latest in a number of moves set to improve the relationship between Hollywood and China. In October, we told you of more China centric movies being released and more Chinese investment in American film companies.
However, Red Dawn faces a tough road ahead in Beijing. Currently, only about 20 foreign films are allowed to be distributed in China every year. It’s unlikely that Red Dawn, even after these alterations, will get included in this list. Chinese press originally claimed that the movie was remade purely to “demonize” China. And considering China censored the fact that Iron Man 2’s villain was Russian, it’s kind of unlikely they’ll accept an entire movie grounded in the demonization of its North Korean ally.
It seems that the economic power of China continues to exert its strength even in the entertainment industry. Who knows if Red Dawn will get chosen for release here (probably not.) But Hollywood’s attitude towards China is clearly changing, and we’ll certainly see more of this preemptive deference (some might call it “self censorship”??) in the future. They already changed minor plot lines in The Karate Kid. The horror!