Good news: "Red Dawn" remake changes villains from China to North Korea

Thus does Hollywood’s list of “acceptable” villains shrink a bit further. Refreshingly, though, this decision’s being driven not by politics but by good ol’ greed. There’s a lot of gold to be mined at the Chinese box office, so producers naturally figure they’re better off not depicting the local army as a brutal, anti-American force with no qualms about killing civilians.

Because that would be unfair.

[P]otential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, 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 result, the 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…

Dan Mintz, whose DMG Entertainment is a leading producer and distributor of movies in China, said the “Red Dawn” story dramatizes how Western companies can fundamentally misunderstand how the nation works. If the picture had gone out without redacting the Chinese invaders, he said, “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…. The film itself was not a smart move.”…

People close to the picture said the changes will cost less than $1 million and involve changing an opening sequence summarizing the story’s fictional backdrop, re-editing two scenes and using digital technology to transform many Chinese symbols to Korean. It’s impossible to eliminate all references to China, the people said, though the changes will give North Korea a much larger role in the coalition that invades the U.S.

According to the LAT, there’s a chance that the movie could be shelved entirely, lest the offense taken by the Chinese government at its mere existence cause problems for MGM inside China in the future. In a way, the change makes the movie more fun: If you squint and pretend really hard, you can kinda sorta maybe imagine how the fortunes of the U.S. and China could change to the point where an invasion is plausible-ish. But the idea of North Korea leading a global communist expeditionary force is so amusing that I’m looking forward to seeing how they explain it. On the other hand, the whole point of “Red Dawn” is to exploit American jitters over a rival superpower with (eventual) expansionist ambitions. In which case … North Korea? Really?

Exit question one: Why didn’t the producers realize they’d run into this problem in the first place? Exit question two: Instead of changing the identity of the invaders, why not just recut the ending for foreign distribution to show China winning? Box office gold.

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