See what happens when you keep delaying the Red Dawn remake? Australia went and made their own. Based on the John Marsden book, the directorial debut of screenwriter Stuart Beattie is modest, but at least it’s done. I saw it at ActionFest and it’s already opened in Oz.
When seven teenagers go on a weekend camping trip, they come back to find their neighborhood invaded by a (vaguely Asian) army. Their parents have been rounded up and taken prisoner, so it’s up to the kids to defend their home.
There’s Ellie (Caitlin Stasey) the leader of the camping trip, Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings) the young good girl, Homer (Deniz Akdeniz) the showoff, Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin) the insecure beauty, Kevin (Lincoln Lewis) the coward, Lee (Chris Pang) the quiet one and poor Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood) the one who has so little character she just asks questions when they need exposition.
Telling the story from the teens’ point of view is one way to moderate the action and it makes narrative sense. You see a jet battle only as it flies overhead and you hardly see any soldiers. There’s one really extended chase sequence in a truck with dune buggies and the finale at a bridge is explosive.
They’re learning on the go, grabbing a gun off a downed invader, making an inventory list. They keep making careless mistakes like falling asleep on watch or turning off their walkie talkies so they can’t hear that the enemy is approaching. They also solve all their relationships through battle. Kevin steps up, Homer takes it seriously, Robyn loses her innocence. And man, oh man, wait until you see the character transition Corrie makes. Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.
They probably had a lot of book to cram into a movie, but every time I’ve found a movie adaptation narratively unsound, it’s come straight from the books: Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code. Only movies like The Notebook actually enhance their source material with the power of cinema. The first film is probably only a calling card to let them make the rest of the books, and those will be the real movies.