“We’ve all had to rewrite the scripts of our lives the last few weeks, we’ve learnt a lot and we’ve had to figure out whats important, what matters – what really matters. Its been quite a time.”
Back in the 1980s, American action fodder Red Dawn dared to ask the question nobody else had the guts to: what would happen to a group of ordinary American teenagers if they went on a camping trip only to come back and find their small country town in the mist of a Russian – Cuban occupation?
Tomorrow When the War Began transplants this simple and flawless idea onto a small modern day Australian town, replacing the (sadly no longer available) Soviet bad guys with a generic and unnamed Asian army – which we can be pretty sure is meant to be the Chinese. Apparently this film is based on an Australian book rather than Red Dawn but comparisons are inevitable for anyone who has seen the original, so I will go ahead and do just that.
Ellie, an every day nubile teen seemingly plucked straight from an Ozzie soap, mysteriously sets about assembling the quirkiest ensemble of teen characters that her feeble imagination can muster. There is a wacky bearded Greek, a silent Chinese guy, a fat stoner, and a nervous Christian. Ellie is obviously a devoted champion of equal opportunities.
This gaggle of non entities barely seem to even know one another, but a brief phone-call montage means they are all bang up for a camping trip together, and before we can even cling onto one redeemable quality to any of the bunch we are heading straight into a cheap Breakfast Club style nightmare in the woods.
Our fun loving teens get down to some serious frolicking in the water, open up to each other emotionally, and smash a snakes brain to pieces, all while an insipid teen indie soundtrack spells out what the characters are meant to be feeling. Fortunately this tranquillity doesn’t last as some pesky foreign types turn up and enslave Australia. Shit. At first our hero’s remain unaware of the threat, and even several suspect encounters fail to spell out the situation to the dim witted but well cleavaged fools. Soon enough, armed with one gun, a few motor bikes, and no formal training or skills, the plucky teens find it within them selves to face up to this foreign barbarity, and fight back in the style of Che Guevara but with more tits on show.
As with the 80s original there is absolutely no sense of reality any where to be seen. This is war in the same sense that the A-Team was war. AK 47s are fired aimlessly. Vehicles fly through the air and inexplicably explode whenever they come to a halt or touch anything. It all sounds like the makings of a good B movie lark but it really isn’t.
Red Dawn lacked the charm to become a well loved classic but at least it has an air of 80s innocence about it making for a far more entertaining watch. It is easy to laugh at and enjoy the incompetence on display; admiring how a couple of Hollywood wannabes could watch a couple of Schwarzenegger films and chance their luck. For an almost identical remake (though it isn’t officially a remake) TWTWB should really know better. At the very least there should be some tongue in cheek moments and winks to the audience. Instead any attempts at comedy are more deliberate and character based, falling completely flat.
Despite how badly conceived the original idea of Red Dawn might have been, it was still vaguely relevant. It unintentionally provided a small window into the psyche of American civilians during the late cold war, giving us an interesting glimpse of the how the ‘reds under the bed’ propaganda haunted the nightmares of the small town public. Similar paranoia is unlikely to be gripping the people of Australia even as China rapidly spreads its economic and military power over the region.
The entire purpose of this remake/rip off remains a mystery. Is it meant to be ironic? A piss take? A slick modern update? Is it a silly political commentary or a cool teen romp?
TWTWB might have faired better if it had fully embraced the ironic comedy tone it so badly needs in order to make any sense. Instead it comes across as a baffling ode to what was already an idiotically insane idea in the first place. But it is poor execution with no budget and little talent which makes this the embarrassment that it is.