'Red Dawn' army digitally altered to protect lucrative film sales in China

Special effects teams digitally removed all references to China

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MGM has been forced to use digital trickery in its latest remake to transform an army shown invading small-town America from Chinese to North Korean, over fears of a backlash in the lucrative Far East market.

Special effects teams digitally removed all references to China from Red Dawn, with flags and symbols changed to North Korean ones, to salvage its box office potential in the fifth largest overseas market for US films.

The project has been troubled since MGM announced more than five years ago that it was to remake the 1984 cult movie, which starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. In the Cold War-inspired original, the youngsters were protecting their hometown from the Soviet Union.

The remake, which stars Chris Hemsworth in a role filmed before his breakthrough role in the blockbuster Thor, suffered in the fallout from MGM's financial troubles and missed its original release date of November 2010. Those working on the film feared it could be shelved indefinitely.

Yet another issue emerged as newspapers in China got wind of the subject matter and wrote a series of articles with headlines including "US reshoots Cold War Movie to Demonize China". Only when the army was changed was the film picked up for distribution.

China has a cap on the numbers of foreign films it shows, and refuses to screen those that criticise the country or its Government.

Skyfall, the latest James Bond film, has no release date due to a scene in which the Chinese are referenced as torturing a former secret agent. Men in Black 3 was also cut to remove Chinese villains.

The filmmakers may wonder if it was all worth it, however. The new Red Dawn was savaged by critics in the US after it was released this week. Time Magazine reviewer Mary Pols called it "jingoistic" and said it was "Friday Night Lights territory, but without good writing or acting."