Kevin: Tensions with North Korea are at a fever pitch, with the government of Kim Jong-Un reportedly testing a hydrogen bomb last week, while the country continues threatening to launch missiles at the United States and its allies. Fortunately these remain just threats, while Pyongyang has instead been much more aggressive against the rest of the world as the villain in a number of Hollywood productions. Using three such recent films as a guide, I’ll examine some possible scenarios for a North Korean attack and how we could respond, starting with …
Die Another Day (2002)
Plan of Attack: Since this is a James Bond film, the North Korean plan here is incredibly convoluted and absurd, which is why it’s probably the one most likely to be attempted by the current real-life regime. The film begins as rogue North Korean colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee) is making preparations to invade the south by sending a legion of hovercraft over the landmine-strewn DMZ (apparently he is unaware that the term “hover” is more metaphorical than literal in this case). He also mentions that he developed his hatred of America and the West after being sent to study at Harvard, which is pretty much what every conservative parent assumes will happen if their child attends an East Coast Ivy League university.
But before he has a chance to blow our minds with some truth bombs he picked up in his freshman year American history class, Moon is seemingly killed after going over a cliff during a chase with Bond. But it turns out he is alive and undergoing gene replacement therapy to turn himself into a pasty white guy. What is “gene replacement therapy” you may ask? Well I’ll let the doctor behind the procedure explain it himself: “Phase One, kill off the bone marrow and wipe the DNA slate clean. Phase 2, introduction of new DNA harvested from healthy donors.” Suddenly the procedure from “Face/Off” doesn’t sound so ridiculous right?
But hey it works, allowing Moon to assume a new identity as Gustav Graves, a super-wealthy Icelandic diamond merchant who despite not existing a year earlier – and not being a British subject – is still apparently being knighted by the Queen and trying out for the British Olympic fencing team. Graves also has a mole working for him at MI-6, a woman named Miss Frost who he met when they were on the same fencing team at Harvard (apparently in the world of James Bond, Harvard is an even greater threat to global security than SPECTRE).
Oh and Graves/Moon also somehow controls a giant satellite named Icarus that can harness the sun’s rays into a laser that he will use to wipe out the landmines in the DMZ and take out any missile that tries to destroy it. With 80,000 North Korean troops amassed at the border and ready to invade South Korea, conquer the rest of Asia, and eventually declare nuclear war against the West, our only hope is obviously National Security Administration super agent Jinx (Halle Berry)! Oh yeah and I guess James Bond as well.
Our Response: Teach James Bond to surf! Seriously, while “Die Another Day” is mainly known as the “one with the invisible car,” let’s not forget that it begins with Pierce Brosnan – or at least a stunt double probably named Chad or Shane – surfing right into North Korea, which for a poverty-stricken totalitarian state has some pretty bitchin’ waves. Note that Bond later paraglides among giant blocks of ice off the Icelandic coast, which indicates that a certain British secret agent was starting to feel a little insecure after seeing the recent exploits of America’s EXTREME! secret agent, Xander “XXX” Cage.
After seemingly causing Moon’s death, Bond is tortured in a North Korean prison for over a year and eventually released back to the Brits in exchange for Moon’s henchman (Rick Yune). Just when you think this might have interesting dramatic implications for 007’s state of mind, it’s soon become clear that the only PTSD Bond is suffering from is Post Traumatic Sex Denial, which he quickly gets over after hooking up with Jinx. In fact the biggest challenge Brosnan faces in this movie is trying to generate chemistry with Halle Berry on account of the fact that she is a horrible actress.
Eventually they team up to first destroy the gene therapy clinic in Cuba, before discovering the truth about Graves’ real identity in Iceland. They then stop the Icarus in the nick of time, while Bond dispatches Graves into an airplane engine with some quip about gravity I think, I don’t know it was pretty unmemorable. The movie of course ends with Bond and Jinx exchanging dialogue like “Don’t pull it out yet,” “That’s a tight fit,” and “My god it’s so big.” Now obviously you would assume they are talking about his penis and her vagina, but you’ll be shocked to learn they are really talking about putting diamonds in her belly button.
Why having a small diamond in her belly button gave her such pleasure is a mystery, but the main point is that North Korea would keep its plans for worldwide dominance in check, at least until …
Red Dawn (2012)
Plan of Attack: The justifiably forgotten remake of the jingoistic Patrick Swayze-Charlie Sheen classic opens with news reports about global unrest, including real-life footage of President Obama talking about the threat of cyber warfare on America’s infrastructure. Apparently Kim Jong-Il has died and been replaced by his heretofore unknown third son Kim Jong Eun, who I guess decides the best way to make a name for himself is to take over the United States with an EMP that takes down our power and communications grid, allowing North Korean troops to gain a foothold on the West Coast and Russian troops on the East Coast.
Note that his inclusion in the news footage at the beginning indicates that the takeover of America by foreign powers occurred on President Obama’s watch, so I guess we all owe Alex Jones an apology huh? Also the North Koreans are clever enough to disguise themselves as Chinese, the original nationality of the bad guys in this movie before the studio realized China is a much bigger box office market than North Korea and changed their affiliation in post-production. Although also note that even though his character was originally supposed to be Chinese, the main villain Captain Cho is played by Will Yun Lee, who also played the North Korean colonel Moon in “Die Another Day.”
After conquering the militarily vital target of Spokane, Washington early in the movie, the North Koreans then apparently spend most of their time trying to convince their American captives that they would be much better off free of decadent cultural necessities like the Kardashians, Instagram, Justin Bieber … you know what, let’s hear these guys out at least. They also chant slogans about Wall Street greed and put up propaganda posters that wouldn’t be too out of place at a Bernie Sanders rally:
Our Response: As you can see from the very rude defacement of some posters that I’m sure someone worked very hard on, WOLVERINES! Which in this case means Chris Hemsworth leading some of the shortest and wimpiest actors Hollywood has to offer into battle. I’m not sure which is more absurd, the idea of North Korea taking over America, or the idea that Chris Hemsworth and perpetually stoned-looking twerp Josh Peck are brothers.
After evading capture and hiding out in the woods, Hemsworth’s Marine character whips this crew into shape in a very brief montage befitting a movie that has sat on the shelf for a couple of years. After nearly 45 mins of watching a bunch of kids who look like their balls haven’t dropped fight back with C4-laden skateboards and shit, thankfully we eventually get the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the role played by Powers Booth in the original.
After getting everyone up to speed (apparently much of the middle of America including Michigan, Montana, Alabama, and Arizona is free, meaning we still have some good college football to look forward to), they discover that the North Koreans have a communication device that is protected from the EMP. Eventually he and the Wolverines capture it – helping turn the tide against our invaders – and although Hemsworth is killed in battle and the war is not over, the movie reassures us that we still have guys like this fighting on our side.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Plan of Attack: After apparently watching that one arc on “24” when terrorists invaded the White House, North Korea must have decided that the president’s house was seriously vulnerable since they wage an all-out assault during a visit by the South Korean prime minister. After invading D.C.’s airspace with a gunship that proceeds to lay waste to hundreds of civilians and takes out the Washington Monument, North Korean terrorists disguised as tourists attack the White House front lawn while sleeper agents inside the South Korean delegation take the President and his cabinet hostage in an underground bunker.
After killing the South Korean PM, main bad guy Kang vows to continue executing hostages unless the 7th Fleet is recalled and all U.S. troops are pulled out of South Korea. However his main plan is to get the codes for a defense program called Cerberus that will detonate all U.S.-based nukes and turn our country into desolate wasteland. With the fate of America and the rest of the world at stake, there’s really only one option: send in Gerard Butler!
Our Response: Seriously, as “Olympus Has Fallen” makes clear, the entire U.S. military industrial complex could completely stand down and take the week off as long as we have our favorite hard-partying and smooth-loving Scotsman defending our freedom. Butler stars as Mike Banning, head of human resources for the National Endowment for the Arts. Nah just kidding, he’s not just a Secret Service agent, but according to his boss Angela Bassett, “Banning was one of our best agents. Banning is ex-Special Forces, Ranger Battalion. He will move mountains or die trying.” And he’ll also help you move some furniture if your other friends flake. So yeah, Banning rules.
After finding himself on his own in the White House on account of not being stupid enough to be brutally gunned down like his colleagues, Banning proceeds to kill the White House’s uninvited guests in a number of savage and delightful ways, such as when he bashes a terrorist’s skull in with a bust of Abraham Lincoln. But he’s not just a fighter, he also comes equipped with several amusing quips such as “Why don’t you and I play a game of fuck off. You go first.” He also delivers a line early on which I have a feeling Butler has said many times in a different context:
Not only does Banning help the President’s son escape, but he also discovers that the mastermind of the operation is Kang Yeonsak, played by Rick Yune, who like Will Yun Lee makes his second appearance here after showing up as the henchman in “Die Another Day” (who says there aren’t enough quality roles for Asian actors). Eventually Banning kills all the terrorists, stops the nuclear countdown, and fulfills his earlier promise to stab Kang in the head. Although he saves his most brutal punishment for a turncoat agent played by Dylan McDermott, when he denies the avowed “Breaking Bad” fan the chance to see the final season when he also stabs him in the head.
Conclusion: While a war with North Korea will hopefully always remain a Hollywood fantasy, if it ever does come to pass you can keep your James Bonds and your Wolverines. As far as I’m concerned the one and only line of defense we’ll need is this guy right here:
Post Script: Obviously I skipped over Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s all-puppet satire “Team America” because the premise is obviously absurd. I mean think about it, a bunch of uninformed and seriously gullible Hollywood celebrities join forces with a crazed dictator to bring about the destruction of the United States? Actually now that I think about it, that might be the most realistic scenario we’ve seen so far.
Thanks for joining the discussion, and to get regular updates on all our content hit the Follow button and check us out on Twitter.