Despite Spokane setting, ‘Red Dawn’ feels foreign

November 22, 2012 - Updated: 6:05 a.m.

They manage to pronounce Spokane the right way. But nearly everything else about “Spokane” in the new war-adventure film “Red Dawn” doesn’t ring true, several moviegoers said after the film’s first two showings at a downtown theater Wednesday.

Everyone interviewed outside the AMC Theaters said they went to see “Red Dawn” because they enjoyed the 1984 original, which featured Charlie Sheen and Patrick Swayze.

None of the handful of moviegoers said they went because the film is set in Spokane.

Even so, Joshua Law, a 21-year-old Spokane resident, said it was hard to swallow that the story was taking place in Spokane. “There wasn’t even a pine tree anywhere in the film,” Law said.

The original became a cult classic with its depiction of a group of American teenagers who band together as guerrillas and hold out against a homeland invasion by the Russian army.

That movie set the action in scenic Colorado.

The 2012 version sets the story in Spokane.

Though producers say they considered filming in Eastern Washington, most of the exterior filming occurred near Pontiac, Mich. So, no shots of the Clocktower, Riverside State Park or the Spokane Falls.

In another twist, movie industry media reported that the producers changed their minds about the film’s bad guys after filming ended. Initially, the invading army was Chinese. After realizing they didn’t want to portray the world’s largest population as invaders, the producers decided to make the attackers North Korean.

That required additional editing to transform – through digital magic – uniforms and insignia into North Korean versions.

“I guess they had to have ‘red’ or Commie soldiers in the film, to fit the title of ‘Red Dawn,’ ” said Martin Karl, who attended the first Wednesday showing.

The closest thing to a real Spokane moment is one brief flyover shot that’s meant to be looking down on the heart of the city. “They did use some real footage of downtown,” Law said. “But if you look really close, you’ll see they added some other buildings, which Spokane doesn’t have at all.”

Law also said the original movie had an ambiguous, uncertain ending. “This movie ended too happy for my taste,” he said.

Also never explained is why the invaders chose Spokane as one of their first targets. Retired Navy sailor William Lund, 62, said he had to tease out a possible explanation from a few tossed-away lines. “The North Koreans decided they would take over the Northwest first, and they wanted a smaller city like Spokane as a base, I guess,” Lund said.

Lund said the best actor in the film is Chris Hemsworth, who after filming “Red Dawn” made a major splash as the lead in the action adventure “Thor.”

Shane Workman, who skipped out of work early to see the afternoon showing, came away impressed with the new version.

“I thought it was great. I loved the original. But this was definitely an updated film. I’m coming back this weekend with my kids,” Workman said.


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