Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A long-delayed film about Chinese invaders taking over the U.S. to help “fix” America’s broken economy has undergone a digital makeover, removing the allusions to China in fear, some report, of offending the Asian nation’s $1.5-billion box office.
As WND reported, the movie was expected to be a hard-core remake of the original communism-bashing “Red Dawn” of two decades back – where Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze staged a shoot-’em-up against invading Russians in the Colorado mountains – only this time, with Chinese invaders instead.
But now, several Hollywood sources report, the filmmakers at MGM have hired digital artists to change all the film’s Chinese flags and symbols … to North Korean.
Poster plastered on American streets in scene from remake of “Red Dawn,” before digital alteration
“Eagerly MGM shoots the movie and is ready to release it, but now they have another problem. In 2010, the Chinese box office brought in $1.5 billion dollars. That’s a lot of moolah,” comments Jeff Holder of Movieguide. “So, how is MGM going to get a piece of that revenue with a movie where the Chinese are the bad guys?”
“Potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies, not to mention other U.S. products.”
As a country closed to Western media, however, North Korea doesn’t hold the sway to avoid being cast as the “bad guys.”
And while an MGM spokesperson told the Times the studio has had no contact with the Chinese government about the film, Holder says it doesn’t take a call from Beijing to recognize the power of the Yuan.
“If you don’t see any movies any time soon with bad guys from China,” Holder quips, “just figure that the accountants got to the script writer before [the movie] could make it to the cameras.”
In fact, the Times reports, MGM began showing the movie to potential buyers earlier this year, only to discover that several companies balked at the project, saying off the record that they couldn’t risk distributing it for fear of blowback in the Chinese market.
Dan Mintz, whose DMG Entertainment is a leading producer and distributor of movies in China, told the Times if the picture had gone out without redacting the Chinese invaders, “there would have been a real backlash. It’s like being invited to a dinner party and insulting the host all night long. There’s no way to look good.”
Now, Movieguide reports, MGM has hired Photoshop Heroes to make the digital alterations.
According to the movie’s own MGM website, the plot of the film develops when “an American city awakens to the surreal sight of foreign paratroopers dropping from the sky – shockingly, the U.S. has been invaded and their hometown is the initial target. Quickly and without warning, the citizens find themselves prisoners and their town under enemy occupation. Determined to fight back, a group of young patriots seek refuge in the surrounding woods, training and reorganizing themselves into a guerrilla group of fighters.”
Whereas the original, ’80s version of the film played on fears of the military might of Soviet empire, the new film was going to portray China’s economic muscle as a possible path to taking over the U.S. The new film even portrays certain “collaborators” at work within the U.S. to bring about the fall of American capitalism.
Scene from filming of “Red Dawn,” prior to digital alteration
“The original ‘Red Dawn,’ written by John Milius … was a huge hit on its release in 1984,” reports the London Guardian. “‘Its hyper-patriotism and depiction of ordinary American teenagers fighting off the ‘red menace’ chimed with the mood of Ronald Reagan’s America. … The new ‘Red Dawn’ is expected the follow in those cultural footsteps, albeit with a different enemy and reflecting … America’s fears over economic decline.”
Reported the Guardian, “Perhaps the strongest symbol of America’s decline and China’s rise in the ‘Red Dawn’ remake does not come from the movie’s sets or script or even its plot. It comes from the fact that much of the movie was shot in and around the battered industrial city of Detroit. The city’s emptying streets and many abandoned factories were seen as the perfect real-life backdrop for the city’s war scenes.”
The film begins with an American withdrawal from Iraq. The president decides to redeploy troops to Taiwan, where escalating Chinese militarism is threatening America’s ally. At the same time, he also welcomes the former Soviet republic of Georgia into NATO, unleashing Russian worries that America is spreading its sphere of influence deep into Eastern Europe. Having destabilized relations with two of the world’s largest powers, the president then claims that the U.S. is only partly to blame for a global economic meltdown, further escalating tensions with China and ultimately leading to the invasion of the Pacific Northwest.
A YouTube video reveals some of the work on the film, prior to alteration: