‘Point Break’ Remake Highlights a Problem with Today’s Blockbuster Films & No, It’s Not the Story


Point Break
Photo: Warner Bros.

The problem with the new Point Break remake has nothing to do with your inability to grow-up. It’s doing nothing to your childhood unless you still identify with a man and his mullet. Kathryn Bigelow‘s 1991 original is still a great film for those of us that saw it when it was released and the fact it was remade into The Fast and The Furious ten years later and is now being remade just shy of 25 years after its original release simply means they’re looking to bring a similar story to a new kind of audience, and I’m actually interested in the story they are aiming to tell.

As was evident in the trailer and described in the film’s plot synopsis, the gang of criminal rogues led by a man named Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) are killing whoever may be in their way toward “liberating” the world’s riches, sending the global economy into a tailspin. That’s much farther reaching than the original film sought to aspire and sounds like it could be a bit of fun once you mix the extreme sports angle in.

To that point, Warner Bros. released a featurette last night (see bottom of this post) examining these extreme sports from rock climbing, extreme elevation skiing, surfing, wingsuits and more. The film boasts a fleet of technical advisors including surfers Laird Hamilton, Sebastian Zietz, Makua Rothman, Billy Kemper, Brian Keaulana, Ahanu Tson-dru, Ian Walsh, Laurie Towner, Dylan Longbottom, Albee Layer, Bruce Irons, Tikanui Smith and Tuhiti Humani; snowboarders Xavier De Le Rue, Louis Vito, Christian Haller, Lucas DeBari and Ralph Backstrom; skateboarders Bob Burnquist and Eric Koston; motorcyclists Riley Harper and Oakley Lehman; wingsuit stunt pilots Jon Devore, Julian Boulle, Noah Bahnson, Jhonathan Florez and Mike Swanson, and consultant Jeb Corliss; and free climber Chris Sharma, among others. Suffice to say, there is a strong approach to realism at play, something all of us just celebrated while watching Mad Max: Fury Road. Yet, watching the trailer it felt like nothing new and watching this featurette it becomes painfully evident why.

Look at that screen capture at the top of this post from the film’s trailer. Does that look like any wave you’ve seen? They have saturated the image, cranked up the blacks and applied a teal and orange color treatment to the point it looks nothing like real life. Even worse, it looks like every other low-rent action film of the last ten years, pumping up the contrast, chroming the film out to appear “cooler”, attempting to hide the flaws in the filmmaking. Thing is, what’s hidden here is the reality they are going for with their stunts.

Just below is a picture of a massive wave from the featurette without any color correction… Now that’s what a wave looks like, though you can roll your mouse over the image for a crude, blockbuster-style teal look, and just know, I really cranked the contrast to achieve that look.

Point Break
Photo: Warner Bros.

I’m not saying they need to offer up raw camera footage, after all, Mad Max: Fury Road cranked the color spectrum, but it never lost its detail. My god, the image of the wave at the top of this post hardly looks like much of anything and then look at this shot of the wingsuit jumpers.

Point Break
Photo: Warner Bros.

These are just black blurs flying through the air. You need to see the reverse shot to get any perspective of which jumper is which character not to mention some actual color and detail. Sure, you might have a cool image that would look great on Instagram or as a part of your Facebook feed, but when your stunts begin to blur together into a mish-mash of blacks and blues it doesn’t matter if you’re climbing a cliff, surfing a giant wave, skiing down a mountain or flying through a rock chasm, it all ends up looking the same. Pump whatever dub step or deep bass grooves you want into it, but it still ends up being a music video with a little more story to it.

It’s likely too late now for director Ericson Core who, ironically enough served as director of photography on The Fast and the Furious, which was actually able to work within the idea of these dark blacks contrasted by neon at night and the scorching pavement in the day. But this, to me, is increasing evidence of just how much today’s action directors are shooting themselves in the foot by using this teal color grading to tint their images to the point not a single movie looks different than the one before it. Even worse, the scenes all look the same.

Obviously, I’m not the only person to notice it. Hell, here’s a video offering a tutorial on how to achieve the same look on your videos featuring examples from Battleship, Taken 2, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

[vimeo id=”65617394″ width=”640″]

Now if you just scanned the first bit of that video I would actually suggest you go back and watch the whole thing, it has a lot more information than merely proving this technique exists and will help you sound a little smarter if you float this concept to your friends.

But Brad, you praise Mad Max and chastise all these other films? Yeah, because Fury Road said “fuck it” and blew the contrast doors off, and after sitting third row for my second screening it’s important to note that film didn’t lose any of its detail. The contrast also made sense given the scorched earth setting. Mad Max: Fury Road was also not of this time, it was a dystopian future, all the films I mentioned above are of this time, even Battleship and Transformers even though they may be dealing with other-worldly plot lines.

It’s also sort of ironic how this has become the blockbuster trend while at the same time 3D was on the rise, adding supposed “depth” and “realism” to a movie… movies with visuals that don’t represent reality so what are we really achieving? I’ll admit, in a trailer it might look “cooler”, but in a finished product it delivers no contrast from one scene to the next.

I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure out why Core and his team clearly went to great lengths to actually make this Point Break legitimately extreme, but while I watch the trailer it all felt like more of the same.

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Weekend: Dec. 12, 2019, Dec. 15, 2019

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