With the fall of the Soviet Union back in 1991, Hollywood screenwriters lost something really valuable: a believable villain for any kind of action film featuring international conflict. The Soviets were the cinematic yang to our yin, the perfect counterbalance to the baseball, Mom and apple pie credo Americans love to embrace. Better yet, they were every bit our equal in terms of world-destroying capability. We had a giant army and nukes, but so did they. If you were a screenwriter in the '80s and needed a good villain, the Soviets were basically your go-to guy.

One film that really benefited from the fear-inspiring power of the Russians was 1984's 'Red Dawn'. That film found the Soviets teaming up with Cuba to invade an unsuspecting America. A band of teenagers (including Patrick Swayze and the always-in-the-news Charlie Sheen) became freedom fighters in hopes of stopping the terrible red menace.

MGM finished filming a 'Red Dawn' remake last year (which was then kept in limbo thanks to the studio's financial situation), and when the film was first announced many wondered who the invading force would be in light of the fact that the Soviet Union no longer exists. The answer was China. We say was, because that's now changed.

Hit the jump for more on who's invading America and why.
At first glance, making the Chinese the villains of the 'Red Dawn' remake made sense. They're not the Soviets, but they are Communists, have a gigantic population and army, and are the closest thing to a super power left outside of the United States. The Chinese seem at least somewhat believable as a potential invading force.

MGM, the studio behind the 'Red Dawn' remake, has gotten cold feet about portraying the Chinese in such a negative light, though. The reason wasn't because they feared what it might do to relations between the country and the U.S., nor was it because they were worried about offending billions of Chinese people. Instead, it was motivated solely by the bottom line.

China is one of the most rapidly growing markets for U.S. films in the world. Various sources have speculated that the country will become the world's second largest film market (bumping Japan from the spot) in the next few years. Releasing a movie where the Chinese are presented as an evil invading force probably won't draw a lot crowds to the box office in that market...

Faced with that conundrum, MGM has decided to switch the film's villain and have opted for the North Koreans instead. Since seemingly no one likes North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-il and there's not a huge market for American films in the country (unless you count documented movie geek Kim Jong-Il himself, who reportedly has copies of the newest Hollywood films screened for him quite regularly), this seems like a sound choice. The only problem is one of plausibility – it doesn't seem very believable that North Korea could ever even attempt to invade this country. Apparently, this is why they created the "willing suspension of disbelief."

In light of this new direction for the film, MGM is back in the editing room. The studio is now digitally removing Chinese flags and military symbols from the movie and are hard at work re-recording dialogue so that no one mistakes the brazen invaders for the Chinese.

This move demonstrates just how wary studios and distributors are of offending the Asian power. The Chinese government hasn't said a word about 'Red Dawn' or the country's portrayal in the original script, which leaked last year. (The only response came in an article written in The Global Times, a Communist party paper in the country. Needless to say, they weren't particularly thrilled with the screenplay.) But no one wants to risk losing market share in a potentially lucrative venue for American cinema.

Of course, a lot of this seems to be much ado over nothing. A 'Red Dawn' remake -- a redux of what is essentially a moderately popular cult film -- doesn't seem likely to draw enough attention to create genuine controversy in the first place. One thing is for certain, though -- the decision to change the villains has gotten the film a lot of free press it might not have received otherwise. So in that regard, this decision was genius on MGM's part.

'Red Dawn' seems unlikely to hit theaters before fall of 2011 -- a year later than initially planned. Will you go see it?

[via L.A. Times]
Red Dawn
PG-13 2012
Based on 33 critics

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categories Movies, Cinematical