Chinese press rails against 'Red Dawn'

China added as enemy in remake of 1984 film

BEIJING -- An upcoming MGM remake of the 1984 film "Red Dawn" -- this time, with the Chinese and the Russians as the enemies -- has drawn sharp criticism from one of the leading Chinese state-run newspapers two days in a row.

"U.S. reshoots Cold War movie to demonize China" and "American movie plants hostile seeds against China," read the Monday and Tuesday editorials in Beijing-based The Global Times, whose daily circulation, in Chinese and English editions, is about 1.5 million.

Coming on the heels of secretary of state Hilary Clinton's recent China visit, the commentaries said the $42 million film directed by Dan Bradley and starring Connor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), "is deeply rooted in Americans' fear of China's rise."

"Despite the world's focus on U.S.-China relations in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue and their increasing economic connections, China can still feel U.S. distrust and fear, especially among its people. Americans' suspicions about China are the best ground for the Hawks to disseminate fear and doubt, which is the biggest concern with the movie 'Red Dawn,'" one commentary said.

Excerpts of the new "Red Dawn" script, by writers Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, leaked out last weekend on the Web site The Awl. The excerpts appear to reflect a story that sees China's People's Liberation Army -- led by Korean-American actor Will Yun Lee playing the chief baddie, Captain Lo -- invading the U.S., with a group of resisters fighting back.

Posters from the film, which MGM is said to be planning to release in Nov., during the U.S. mid-term election season, show a cracked red white and blue U.S. map stamped with the PLA star and the slogan "Rebuilding Your Reputation," according to The Awl.

An MGM spokesman told The Reporter in an email that the posters online were made by fans, not by the filmmakers. "There isn't a one sheet for the film at this time," spokesman Grey Munford said.

Teng Jimeng, a professor of American Studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, said "Red Dawn" should not be taken seriously.

"It's just a piece of entertainment meant to make money out of the pockets of the post-Cold War, ideology-weary, multicultural audience," Teng told The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the "consequences" of Hollywood films showing around the world is an increasingly "amoral" and "insensitive" audience, he said.

China's media regulators long have bristled at politics in the movies and recently censored all mentions of Russia and Russians as villains from the Chinese theatrical version of "Iron Man 2."

On the flip side, director Lu Chuan's "City of Life and Death" was lauded last year by some for giving a human face to one of the Japanese soldiers depicted in his feature about the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, a hot-button anti-Japanese issue among common Chinese.

China's government, which tries to shield the population of 1.3 billion from too much foreign influence, limits to 20 the number of imported films allowed to take home a share of the boxoffice -- a cap the Motion Picture Assn. has fought for 10 years to change in hopes Hollywood studios might tap pent-up demand for entertainment.

With help from China's nascent middle class swells, the nation recently was the second-largest gross boxoffice market after the U.S. for Hollywood hits "Avatar," "2012," and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Overall boxoffice gross here jumped 43% last year to $909 million and is tipped to climb more sharply still this year.

MGM has been up for sale since Nov. 2009. "Red Dawn" producers did not reply to emailed requests for comment.