Red Dawn: China is now North Korea?

A while back, I made a post detailing why I had decided I would not go to see the Red Dawn remake still in production, which was planned to use China as the villans, replacing the Soviets.  In summary, though there were many reasons not to see the film, my main beef was that I would find it impossible to suspend disbelief, as the entire premise and the plot details that came from script leaks indicated that the plot required essentially giving the foreign policy makers of both the US and China a giant, flaming Idiot Ball.

Now, more recently, it seems that this premise that was terminally stupid to begin with just got that much more ridiculous (LA Times):

[T]he filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from "Red Dawn," substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake.

Yes, that is what is being reported.  Apparently, distributors were worried about the effect of the film on the China market.  Understandable from a business standpoint, if galling.  Pleasing the censors in China is key to getting films into the China market, and if you support a film where not just some Chinese people but the People's Republic of China itself as the main villian, you might cause trouble for yourself.  Not that the film has a chance to be approved even with North Korea as the villan, but the distributors were probably worried that it could cause fewer of their films from being approved, or -- worst case -- China reducing its quota of 20 foreign films a year in protest.

Why would North Korea invade?  I have no idea.  I'm not sure the filmmakers do either -- the fact that the film is simply being digitally altered and no mention is made of reshooting, I don't think they are giving much thought to the reasons for starting a war, much less have thought at all about how the North Korean military might behave differently from the Chinese military.  They are faceless villians, pure and simple, there to invade, show themselved to be evil, and be heroically defeated.  Not that faceless villans are always a bad thing, but when they come from the real world -- the modern world particularly -- I would wish for just a little more nuance.

Why I won't be going to see Red Dawn

Image from Wikipedia*

So, the remake of Red Dawn has been in the news recently, and from what I've heard of it, I have a feeling I won't be going to see it.   Why?  There's several reasons floating around that might make it not such a palatable movie, especially for people interested in China:

  1. It is steeped in American nationalist mythology and propaganda

  2. It appeals to xenophobic attitudes toward China

  3. It's a product of outdated, Cold War era "red menace" thinking.

And all of those reasons have an influence on me, but my main reason for not being so interested is this:  The major premise is so contrived and ridiculous that I would find it difficult to maintain suspension of disbelief.

Why would China invade the US, which is probably at this point it's most important economic partner?  What possible interest would they have that would override keeping us stable?  And would they really be able to take a US city without some serious resistance from our military?  It just seems ridiculous that an event like that could occur in the current political climate.  From what I've picked up through searching around (warning: spoilers), there are a series of very unlikely events that lead to the attack, chief among them being a deployment of US troops to Taiwan.

Now, on a note of fairness, I have never seen the original 1984 film (it came out before I was born), so I don't know what the source material was like.  But seeing what I see of it, I don't think I'll be seeing this in a theater.  If I go for it at all, I'll wait and rent it on DVD or find it on TV.  Anyway, here are a couple places to find info on the film, including more reasons not to watch it.

  • Official Movie Site: Not much going on here, yet

  • Red Dawn 2010:  An unofficial site with some news and fan-made content

  • Daily Finance: A good overview of some of the criticisms and the plot points of the movie.

  • The Awl (via Evan Osnos):  This Article actually launches into a lot of broader topics.  Though I do feel at times the author reached a little too far in attempts to dig up more xenophobia, it's worth clicking to see some rather bizarre little snippets of the script.

  • People's Daily: The expected response from Chinese media.  In this case I think it's ... partly justified.  Not entirely I'm sure

*Small note:  I'm really curious as to why the star has 八一 (eight-one) inside it. EDIT: Carl on the sofa told me that August first commemorates the founding of the People's Liberation Army (August 1, 1927 to be exact, the date of the Nanchang Uprising).


Last weekend I finally got a chance to see Avatar.  The film had been delayed in China until January 2, and from what I hear about it, it's unlikely that I would have been able to see it at that time, if I had tried (as it was I just waited until I was back in the states.

I'd already read a few reviews of it, both positive and negative, so I knew what to expect.  The story was actually a bit better than I had thought from the reviews, but it was still very much suffering from the noble savage and white guilt tropes (those aren't necessarily bad, though), and I do see why people have objected to the hero being a white American who not only assimilates into Na'vi culture but becomes better than them at everything they do in a very short time (the second bit is the key to the objection).  However, I had to agree with my brother who mentioned the Avatar body as being "liberating" for the paraplegic protagonist.

I was impressed by the depth of the world and the alienness of the creatures living there.  The world of Pandora is beautifully rendered and at no time did I detect a flaw in the CGI -- in fact, I didn't even think about it most of the movie.  Like others, I noticed the conspicuousness of the humanoid Na'vi on a planet where all other land animals have six limbs, a second pair of eyes, and breathing orifices on the underside of the body, particularly when much of the world uses realistic science to make fantastic landscapes (those floating mountains are not magical in the least).  I do, however, think it is a good alien design for the purpose -- there are a few things that will take people out of their comfort zone (the neural link takes on a whole different meaning when you find it not only links to other animals, but is also used during mating -- though in my mind it makes it more plausible as far as evolution goes).

Plus, too much alienness in the Na'vi could have messed with one of the reasons I saw the movie: the language.  I've tried creating languages, or conlanging, a bit myself, and when I had read that a linguist consultant was hired to construct the language I knew I wanted to see the movie, and I think this language could possibly achieve its goal of "out-Klingon Klingon". I have tried to find as much information about it ever since.  The consultant, Paul Frommer posted a sketch of the language at Language Log, and I know of a fan site that is trying to make sense of what materials have come out.  Certain bits of the romanization (which I hear were decided from above) irk me, (x marks ejectives when ' is being used for the glottal stop?) but I do think that the language has a beautiful sound to fit the beauty of the Na'vi while still being somewhat unconventional.  I would like someday to see a developed constructed language for aliens that actually used some non-human sounds, but I can understand Cameron's desire for actors to perform their lines without manipulation.  In any case, don't be surprised if you hear me calling someone a "skxawng" (if I can get the pronunciation down, that is :P ).