But what if the military is actually in cahoots with the enemy? The new Red Dawn, which replaces Soviet soldiers with North Koreans and stars boys of the moment Mr. Peck, Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, comes at a time when the newly re-elected commander in chief of the Armed Forces is believed by a not insubstantial portion of the electorate to himself be an invader from abroad. The conversation on Twitter about this new film contains both the typical, studio-stoked hype (“This Thanksgiving we FIGHT for our freedom!,” wrote the operator of the film’s official feed) and something a bit more edgy. As one self-proclaimed veteran of the war in Afghanistan put it, “If Obama raises our taxes it is going to be like the movie Red Dawn in these parts.”
But the congruence between the despair over Mr. Obama’s re-election and the picture’s release is just coincidental. The film was originally intended to premiere just after the 2010 midterms, but was delayed until this year due to financing issues with MGM; during that time, post-production tricks were used to change the villains from Chinese invaders to North Koreans, reportedly due to the studio’s desire to retain a relationship with the growing Chinese moviegoing audience.
Of course, it’s effectively irrelevant which nation, specifically, is invading the suburbs of Spokane. “Personally, for me, it’s a fantasy action film,” said producer Tripp Vinson. “You need to create a situation where you put these teenagers in a high-pressure situation. We only cut to the bad guys two or three times.”
Neither Mr. Vinson’s nor director Dan Bradley’s résumés are especially political, aside from the new film. Indeed, Mr. Vinson suggested that the film would be an ideal distraction after a contentious election: “I don’t want to deal with politics. I want to see a kick-ass action movie and eat popcorn.” The cast has become well-known for starring in action flicks, after Mr. Hemsworth’s role in The Avengers (in which a group of ultra-qualified supermen come to the rescue of an Earth full of mediocrities), Josh Hutcherson’s performance in The Hunger Games (in which a group of idealistic teens fight to overthrow a decadent regime that thrives on death and lies to its citizens) and Isabel Lucas’s part in Transformers (… who knows, really?). And yet the film contains a few right-wing dog whistles that play into the militia fantasies still harbored by members of the conservative fringe.