Whatever one says about the new "Point Break" remake, one statement can be made unequivocally: Those behind it are serious about the film's intentions.
Which is how on a rainy Wednesday night at a Time Warner screening room in New York, the film's director, star and main stunt figure gathered to talk about what they hoped the new version would convey.
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"We wanted to take the themes of that movie and bring it into the modern world," said the director, Ericson Core.
"We always feel the human spirit is threatened by power, by materialism, by accumulation," said the star, Edgar Ramirez, as Jeb Corliss, the BASE Jumper and wingsuit pilot who executed many of the film's stunts, nodded in agreement next to him. "The accumulation of materialism has led us to disaster."
"Point Break," which Warner Bros. releases in theaters at the end of December, is Alcon Entertainment's remake of the 1991 surf action drama that starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze and was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, cinematic proof that for all the weird ways you expect careers to go, they can always go weirder.
The new film directed by Core, a cinematographer of such movies as "The Fast and the Furious," stars Venezuelan actor Ramirez and newcomer Luke Bracey.
The group spoke amid 20 minutes or so of clips of various scenes. [Note: Some spoilers follow.] The first showed Johnny Utah (Bracey) losing a friend in an extreme-motorcycle accident; the next has him, seven years later, trying to make it as a fledgling FBI agent.
As with the original, Utah (he doesn't go by the nickname anymore, but really, who's he kidding?) infiltrates a band of extreme-sports criminals headed by a charismatic man named Bodhi. But the motivations are different: As led by Ramirez's character, the group is some kind of radical, Robin Hood eco-activist body following an Asian master in executing eight extreme stunts while also redistributing wealth to the poor.
One of the stunts is water-based; cue scenes of shooting the curl in some CG-ish moments on the whooshing open seas, among the biggest callbacks to the original.
Not in CG is the film's piece de resistance: A wingsuit-flying scene involving so-called proximity flying, in which Utah joins Bodhi's group in flinging their bodies off a mountain and flying together at great distances, in contravention of the laws of aerodynamics.
On Wednesday, Corliss was still pinching himself about how the scene had happened. "Nothing like that's been done before. Not only were you proximity flying, which in itself is super gnarly and super dangerous, you have each of them doing the same thing, so the wingsuits create a vortex, which is also really dangerous. What's amazing about the footage is that it doesn't look real. But it is." He repeated this several more times, excitedly.
Core noted that the sport was one of the world's most dangerous and claimed several dozen lives each year.
Those risks took their toll on the production, though also appears to have paid dividends via some breathtaking scenery.
Among the film's other elements: an acclaimed international actor, some very earnest-sounding dialogue ("You live off the grid. We don't live off it. We live on it ... on our own terms.") and some more Keanu-friendly mystico-speak ("Ride the flow, become the wind.").
A lot has changed since Reeves' original, including the culture of extreme sports, which both expands greatly what a new movie can do while upping our expectations for what can be done. Then there is the remake aspect. Unlike the first "Point Break," the new movie comes into a world already very aware of its existence and the campy charms thereof. (Will the audience spend more kitschy love on a new movie? If they don't, can it work as a straight-ahead actioner?)
Core said he saw politics as a factor distinguishing the two films. He noted the rise of global activism since the original, which came out during a time of post-Reagan excesses.
"In the first film, they robbed banks to surf the endless summer, to follow their own philosophy," Core said. "To do something on the world stage meant looking at the world in a very different way. This is a different time. There are very different things to rebel against."