March Madness 2023: WWIII Movies Tournament Play-In Round

The Play-In field consists of original classic WWIII films going up against their remake counterparts. I will be the first to admit that these matchups are not exactly fair. Yet I wanted to take the opportunity to portray the deep divide which exists between original films and their newer-generation, poorly executed more contemporary remakes. We see this in every film genre under the sun. It just so happens that in this particular instance, I can highlight it as a component of this tournament 😊

Play-In #1

On The Beach (1959) v. On The Beach (2000)

The 1959 movie was based on Nevil Shute’s 1957 classic novel of the same name. Shute’s book shocked people every bit as much as it entertained them. Timing is everything and his work was published at a point in time when fears of nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union dominated every facet of society and everyday life. Hollywood took the ball and ran with it, producing a star-studded film version that, despite incorporating some major changes from the book, was a solid film.

The 2000 remake was produced by an Australian company. This is most apparent in the dialogue of the movie’s American characters, specifically the crew members of the submarine USS Charleston. Many of the lines, as well as character behaviors and mannerisms were too stereotypical-American military. Unrealistically so. Throwing more confusion into the mixture, when the American characters were not behaving like stereotypical Yanks, they came across as less-than-American and more Australian. This owes to the fact that the film’s writers and producers were Australian. The cast was not terrible, yet the cast was not anchored by first-rate stars like the original. Although Armand Assante gives a very good performance.

The remake was a noble effort, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the drama and message of the original.

Winner: On The Beach (1959)

Play-In #2

Red Dawn (1984) v. Red Dawn (2012)

Honestly, a Red Dawn remake was a good idea. Replace the Russians and their allies with China, put together a decent cast of young actors, maybe put a few days of research into the script and you could have a decent reboot of a Cold War classic. Sadly, instead of doing these three things, the makers of the 2012 Red Dawn remake elected to do the exact opposite.

First off, North Korea was selected as the nation responsible for invading the United States. China had been the enemy in the first drafts of the script but after leaked excerpts caused controversy in China, the switch was made by MGM. China’s box office is lucrative to say the least and the company did not want to lose access to it.

The movie cast was….way too millennial 😊 Chris Hemsworth is no Patrick Swayze and the other characters bore little comparison with their Red Dawn 1984 counterparts. Good Lord, even Andrew Tanner came back, not as a USAF O-5 and shot down F-15 Eagle pilot but as a Marine Corps Sergeant Major!!! Come on. The realism wasn’t there either. From CGI transport planes crashing into houses to the fully-stocked and crowded (in the middle of an invasion) Subway that the boys end up hiding in, the movie has zero credibility.

As expected, this one wasn’t even close.

Winner: Red Dawn (1984)

Play-In #3 

Fail Safe (1964) v. Fail Safe (2000)

The 2000 remake of Fail Safe was unique in that it was broadcast live on CBS, something that had not been done by the network since 1960. It was in every way almost a carbon copy of the original film. Same premise, characters and dialogue. Unfortunately, the remake did not produce a similar amount of tension and drama. This was disappointing considering the first-rate cast that the movie had from Richard Dreyfus to George Clooney.

Now to be fair, I have to admit that I’ve never been a big Fail Safe fan. Original movie or the remake. While a lot of the movies surrounding nuclear war are, at their core, anti-war films, Hollywood doused Fail Safe in the leftist ‘no one can win a nuclear war, it will kill us all, war is evil’ dye even more than usual. I get it, but I don’t have to like it. However, there are some aspects of both films that are interesting. The Vindicator bomber flown by the US was a fictional aircraft yet represented by a real world B-58 Hustler.

Of the two film versions I prefer the original by far. I do have to give the remake a nod for casting George Clooney as Colonel Grady, the pilot and A/C commander of the lead Vindicator. This character ends up with a fatal dose of radiation by the end of the film. Any movie that bumps off a George Clooney character isn’t complete junk.

In the end this just isn’t enough though. Original film by a few horse lengths.

Winner: Fail Safe (1964)


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