In the world of filmmaking, following up on a cult classic is dangerous business. Then again, so is wingsuiting in Switzerland, charging barrels in Tahiti, snowboarding off Mount Blanc and any other pursuit carrying the well-worn label of “extreme.”
And that’s why Ericson Core, director of the upcoming Point Break remake, went to great lengths to create a realistic look for his new film. Bodhi and Utah are back, but this time the former and his band of adrenaline-minded criminals are much better athletes, able to shred snow, surf and air, and their criminality is driven by a higher cause: taking down corrupt institutions worldwide while raising environmental awareness. And Utah is out to stop them. Or join them. Or both.
“It was less like a film shoot and more like an expedition,” Core said. “We were driven by the need for authenticity. We weren’t going to stage these pursuits on the green screen to pretend like it was the Alps. A lot of the filming was driven by conversations with the best athletes in their respective sports, from wingsuiting to snowboarding to surfing. We went to the right places to present it authentically to a broader audience.”
Things didn’t start off awesome in the hype department. The first trailer was widely panned on social media as fans of the original defended its “core” sensibilities. Many compared the new version to another Ericson Core film franchise, The Fast and the Furious. And with dialogue like this it’s hard to avoid being panned: “I believe that like me, the people behind these robberies are extreme athletes,” says Johnny Utah, this time played by Australian Luke Bracey.
Questionable dialogue aside, (no “extreme athlete” would ever proclaim himself an “extreme athlete”) judging a film by its trailer is also dangerous. Especially when the cast, crew and even the stunt people were universally on board with the filming. “They were really fun to work for, respectful, it was a really good group,” says legendary Tahitian waterman Raimana Van Bastolaer, who ran the film sequences at Teahupoo for Core. “And we got insane waves.”
One thing is certain: The people working on the film were passionate about the project. And that in itself goes miles towards creating a successful movie. “If something isn’t hard, it’s not worth doing,” says Core, a former mountain guide himself. “That’s true for athletes and filmmakers.”
And for actors. Like Edgar Ramirez, who plays Bodhi, and who says that working on the film changed his perspective on life and how he approaches his own career.
“Once you’re exposed to such adrenaline and beauty it really changes you,” says Ramirez, who was deeply affected by the death of Jhonny Florez in July in Switzerland, a basejumper who helped the crew film the incredible wingsuit sequences (his death was not related to the movie). “It changes the way you perceive nature. We went to places that may be gone in 20 years, like the glacier in Switzerland. And the way these athletes live their lives. Now I want to do so many things because I know our time on this Earth is limited. I want to do something for the first time every day. It doesn’t have to be dangerous, everybody is good at one thing, but I want to work on as many movies as possible, work with as many people as I can, and that has a lot to do with the experience of working on this movie—just living life to the fullest.”
Ramirez says that he faced his own challenges in trying to bring that out in Bodhi, who in the first film is focused on living the endless summer, sticking it to the Man by robbing banks covered by rich insurance companies. In this version, the criminals are a bit more high-minded. “I’ve always wanted to play Bodhi,” says Ramirez, who first watched the original in his native Venezuela and actually discussed his affinity for the movie with original director Kathryn Bigelow while working on another project.
“We kept the sense of rebellion and freedom, but we took it to the next level and the context of the world we live in. The first ex-Presidents gang, they worked in a specific place [southern California]. Now, more than rebelling against the system, Bodhi is trying to take on the system. Preserving the Earth. These guys are Zen warriors but they couldn’t care less about Nirvana. They’re more serious and they want to make a pragmatic change. They’re not looking for the endless summer. It’s way more radical than that.”
Point Break hits the big screens this Christmas. For now, check out the new trailer released this week at SI.com.