Johnny Utah

So they're remaking Point Break, and of course -- everything about it looks pretty horrible.

Handsome foreign actors doing impossible stunts with HD video footage of huge wave surfing and skydiving and squirrel-suit flying or whatever with the requisite amount of slow mo and dubstep drops to put you in the mindset of The Fast and the Furious -- and ..wait a second, why does this suck again?

Hollywood has been doing this thing for a while -- these movies where impossible stunts and ridiculous parkour and Tom Cruise just happens and whatever stunt it is it always works. A trend my friends over at the Where's My 40 Acres/Movie Trailer Reviews podcast refer to as "impossible white man movies."

I think on the surface, that's what I'm reacting to here. This trailer might as well be for a cookie cutter horror film. There seems to be nothing here that you can't say you've already seen somewhere else.

It's also one of those movie trailers that reminds you that as much as we might not like to admit it, when it comes to schlocky genre films, celebrities and stars tend to matter. The fact that barely anyone in this movie registers as recognizable at all makes it feel all the more generic.

But of course that's only part of the story -- because the real issue is of course that Point Break is a beloved movie, a sacred cow. Half of the anger and outrage here comes from the fact that someone felt like the movie needed to be remade at all, but now that we've seen what the result is -- it's as if the legacy of the thing meant nothing at all to the executives at the movie studio who made sure that this idea was greenlit.

And I know it's sort of weird to use a word like "legacy" when you're discussing a Keanu Reeves movie -- but really, I could be making the same argument for the Robocop remake, the Wachowski's Speed Racer movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers franchise, the classic horror movie remakes that Michael Bay decides to release via his Platinum Dunes production company, or that goddawful looking Jem and the Holograms remake that somehow forgot to include the Misfits, Synergy, or you know -- any actual holograms.

The things we choose to fall in love with during formative years are hard to predict. They're also frequently quirky, steeped in the moment, and driven by personality. Point Break on it's own is a ridiculous concept -- someone is robbing banks, and the FBI is really worried about it, only they turn out to be surfers dressed as dead presidents, because WHAAAAAAA!?

But what elevates this crazy premise beyond just being forgotten is the unbelievable amount of hamming it up that literally all the actors and actresses in the movie just poured out. Swayze and Keanu playing it as if it's the most serious thing in the world, and just about everyone else in the film basically chewing up the scenery because they could clearly tell that it wasn't.

The whole thing has the energy of a made-up-on-the spot improv skit, an idea that is even further solidified by the fact that the script is so laden with plot holes that the only way this whole thing works is if each scene filmed is somehow crazier than the last. In a pre-YouTube world, Point Break feels suspiciously something that a bunch of buddies came up with in an afternoon and filmed with webcams.

The new one -- eh, not so much.

Making everything bigger and seemingly more important and dour helped move superhero movies out of the realm of kiddie entertainment and into something that people could take seriously -- but the problem with applying that model to movies like Point Break or Roadhouse or even Footloose or The Karate Kid is that it completely misses the point of what makes those movies beloved.

Because when you boil it down, what these movies tell is small stories. Standoffs between two main characters, coming of age tales -- the most basic of tropes -- dropped into different subcultures and environments in an effort to somehow make it feel fresh and different. Putting attractive movie stars into the shoes of these people and giving them supposedly life and death stakes for their stories helps idealize them, wish makes it the sort of fantasy people like to project themselves into.

So when you clean up those rough edges and switch it around so that every stunt in the movie is that much more impossible and every single one of them sticks the landing, what you effectively do is polish all of the flavor right off it it.

It's the same problem I have with a band like Green Day wanting to look punk rock without actually understanding the aesthetic. If all you're doing is packaging and branding, then all you're making is product. Nameless, tasteless foodish stuff covered in decals to make you think it's something else that you used to love.

As someone who unabashedly loves the stupidity of a bad movie, Point Break is my favorite kind of disaster on screen. But you add in the fact that I've spent time surfing, and I was steeped enough in the subcultures being tapped on the shoulder to make this film enough that I recognized all the cameos instantly -- you might as well pin a tail on me and call the movie catnip.

Which is why the whole idea of it remaking it this way makes no sense.

Because really, when you take a property like this. Something that it's easy to see has become a touchstone for aging baby boomers and 90's kids getting their first taste of nostalgia marketing -- wouldn't the obvious move be to just feed that monkey? Make an over-the-top, pandering tribute not only to the original, but to the fandom as well?

What we should really be worried about in the age of remakes is that they take something that fans unabashedly adore (regardless of how good it actually was) only to give it back to us in a blatantly cheap way that essentially slaps us in the face with exactly what we claim to love.

Oh you like McDonalds hamburgers -- all right then, lets supersize it.

But that's not what's happening. Time and time again remake properties and franchise reboots seem to be actively running away from legacy. Away from the staples of fan adoration (whether direct or iconic) that can easily be found and quantified with a few moments of internet surfing. Away from cheesy and predictable cameos from characters in the original movie. And it's hard not to wonder why?

If the hollywood studio heads are what we've been told they are -- then you'd think the lure of this easy money and marketing buzz would be irresistible. Seeing just how much excitement is happening around just trailers for the new Star Wars movie as it leans heavily on references and old cast cameos would make you think that's all we would be getting anymore.

But instead we're getting the equivalent of the prequels. Something with a recognizable name on the cover but literally nothing familiar to be found inside. Do you love swashbuckling space operas? Well here's a story of trade policy arbitrations starring a little kid.

I mean, the whole idea of the remake machine is based on buzz, right? You announce that you're remaking something early so that all the buzz gets going on the web -- you capitalize on that energy by leaking casting rumors and stoking the flame -- in the hopes you can do what all movie studios seem to care about anymore, which is to win the opening weekend.

But if you deliver a movie -- on purpose -- that seems to have nothing to do with the original property, in a world where that same internet can sniff it out and plaster all over twitter how much the finished product ignores the legacy of the original, effectively turning all your potential customers into outraged potential thinkpiece writers -- the question you have to ask is why?

And I'll admit it -- as much as I'd prefer original stories and properties, there's part of me that's not immune to the idea of seeing things I loved as a kid come back. Especially with the advances in special effects we have now, and the way that ironic humor and riffing on the excesses of past cultures has become a thing -- the potential for a totally awesome, utterly self-deprecating update to a movie like Point Break that winks knowingly at the audience while simultaneously delivering the fake-est of fake CGI stunts had my interest piqued.

But they already did that. 7 times in fact, with Vin Diesel and the Rock.

So the answer to that problem was to do the exact same thing, but with actors you'd never heard of and apparently a freaking senate hearing to decide what should be done about these extreme athletes because now the whole world is somehow at risk because of them?

That makes no sense. Like, at all.

[Now Playing:  Fela Kuti "Gentleman" ]


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