Before any of this gets under way, one thing needs to be stated right up front: I absolutely love the original Point Break. It’s legit one of my favorite movies. I could watch it endlessly, and I would giggle with just as much delight with each successive viewing. I could put why I love it so much into 10,000 words, but to keep things short: The movie makes me happy as shit. Plain and simple. Case closed. GTFO.
So when I heard there was going to be a remake…I was a little concerned. Like, I’m pretty much OK with reboots most of the time. I was excited about RoboCop. I thought the recent Evil Dead was mad good. I didn’t even flinch when they announced the Ghostbusters reboot. But when I originally read the news, I felt…offended they were remaking Point Break.
Which, admittedly, is dumb. I’m so in love with the sunbathed color pallette, the overflowing machismo, the gritty, messy police work, the romantically filmed extreme sports sequences of the original that the idea of a film trying to replicate it legitimately (and unreasonably) nauseated me.
Until I saw the trailer, which is when I knew: The new Point Break is nothing like the old Point Break.
And yes, do note: That is a good thing.
Because why would you want them to be the same? Why would you want Ericson Core aping Kathryn Bigelow? Hell: Why would you even want the 2015 movie to follow the same storyline as the 1991 one? Because why not go for something new and different with its own distinct style and its own themes and its own unique takes on the relationships solidified in the first film?
Full disclosure, I don’t like the new Point Break more than the old Point Break. Not by a long shot. But even I have to admit that in his quest to craft a film distinctly different from the original, Ericson Core actually made some improvements, with the main one being a huge one: The central relationship between Johnny and Bodhi is much stronger and more meaningful to the story and Johnny’s arc.
^That last sentence wasn’t easy for me to type, but it’s true. The entirety of Johnny and Bodhi’s relationship in the new Point Break defamiliarizes the act of both overcoming severe loss and finding your true self, while in the old movie…well, there’s really not much there. It all feels like a lesser attempt at what the new film actually accomplishes. And the only way for me to prove it is to completely break down Johnny and Bodhi’s relationship in both films.
What We Know About Johnny
In the original Point Break, we learn very little about Johnny pre-FBI. We know he’s “young, dumb, and full of cum,” which tells us a lot about his personality (and is a key in-road to the film’s obsession with mystifying the male ego), but doesn’t tell us much about his background. In fact, everything we learn about Johnny’s background is manufactured. He made up that story about his parents pressuring him to play football and then later dying in a car accident so Tyler would teach him to surf. Maybe there’s some truth to what he’s saying to Tyler? Maybe he was pressured by his parents and wants to make his own decision for once and is passionate about learning to surf and finding himself and stuff? But the movie never lets us know what happened between his football career dying and him joining the FBI. We don’t really know why he’s passionate about law enforcement or if he’s really trying to find his true self. The old movie is much more concerned with painting Johnny’s personality, his ego (which the movie accomplishes in spades, btw).
The new Point Break actually takes the time to set up Johnny’s backstory. The opening scene isn’t just exposition-riddled dialogue that lets us know everything we need to know about Johnny—the movie actually puts you right in the shit for some high-octane thrills that actively immerse us right into Johnny’s world. During the motocross scene, we actually get a sense for how much fun Johnny has with extreme sports, how big of a role it plays in his life, and how that all defines his personality. He’s fun, fearless, and genuinely passionate about his career. But then, when his friend dies in a motocross accident, everything is put into perspective. Johnny could only evade death for so long in this dangerous sport, and then he witnessed death firsthand. Then the entire motocross sequence is juxtaposed with Johnny training for the FBI, where every obstacle is grounded, structured, rigid. It makes sense that Johnny would stick with a profession that is physically challenging, but doesn’t constantly require putting his life at risk. While, yes, law enforcement professionals accept the possibility of putting their lives at risk, it doesn’t quite equate with actively knowing you’ll be performing stunts daily that could put you in a wheelchair. This change actually makes sense for his character, setting up his meeting with Bodhi.
In Bigelow’s Point Break, there is almost no weight given to Johnny meeting Bodhi. Basically, Johnny and Tyler are talking, and then Bodhi sneaks up from behind and grabs Tyler and flirts with her and even kisses her. Then Bodhi’s friends overthrow a football and Johnny catches it and then throws a perfect spiral back. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with any of this—I like how casual and natural their meeting is, yet at the same time establishes the inundation of masculinity brimming beneath the surface. Bigelow is much more concentrated on mystifying male camaraderie and how the male ego interferes with achieving it, so this initial meeting makes sense thematically. Character-wise, though? It further establishes Johnny’s personality, but it actually doesn’t put very much weight on the importance of his relationship with Bodhi.
SMASH CUT to the new Point Break, and Bodhi straight up saves Johnny’s life when they first meet. Johnny has a plan for catching the bank robbers, and it involves infiltrating a group of extreme sport athletes attempting death-defying stunt after death-defying stunt. From what we know about Johnny and his loss, immersing himself in this world is going to be an emotionally draining task, and we can assume riding a giant wave on a surfboard is Johnny’s first extreme sport stunt since watching his friend die. Surfing a massive wave that encloses Johnny in a whirlwind of salt water before crashing over him and sucking him down to the depths of the ocean is actually a perfect symbol of the fear Johnny must be experiencing in getting back into the extreme sports world. And then, on top of it all, Bodhi saves him! We learn about Bodhi in that moment and how much he values a directionless dude who needs to find himself. That perfectly sets up their relationship: Johnny is using Bodhi to solve a case, and Bodhi (who knows Johnny is FBI the entire time) is attempting to show Johnny “the light.”
Again, all the extreme sports performed by Johnny and Bodhi in the original are meant to reaffirm the film’s obsession with the male ego. In the new Point Break, there is very little struggle that occurs before Johnny is readily accepted into the group—in Bigelow’s film, it’s a continual struggle throughout. The grittiness of the dick-tug-of-war really shines through, with Johnny constantly having to prove his masculinity to get in with Bodhi’s gang. And while I think that says a lot about Johnny’s personality and his willingness to get the job done, I’m not sure Bodhi himself plays a huge part in Johnny’s arc. Bodhi is consistently set up as an obstacle, with their personal relationship mostly being manufactured by Johnny to complete his task. Johnny isn’t really “finding himself” with Bodhi, but Bodhi thinks he is legitimately guiding Johnny to “the light.” I find that struggle interesting.
But it’s different in the new Point Break. Underneath the surface, we know that Johnny actually is looking for enlightenment, looking to get over his friend’s death, which makes the entirety of their relationship a defamiliarization of overcoming that loss. With each new stunt, Johnny continually places his trust in Bodhi and inches closer to being fearless in the face of danger and getting over the loss of his friend. While Johnny is there to solve a case, there’s some self-interest in improving himself as a human being. This sets up a dichotomy between what Johnny is attempting to accomplish professionally and emotionally, giving layers to his relationship with Bodhi.
I’m convinced the foot chase between Johnny and Bodhi in the original Point Break was created by some higher being and sent down to us from the heavens—it’s that fucking rad. It all also poetically accentuates the battle of male egos on display throughout the streets of Southern California. The best part is the end, when Johnny has his gun pointed directly at Bodhi, but then opts to shoot his firearm straight into the air instead. To me, it’s the perfect climax, showing that Johnny had injured his leg and knew he had lost to Bodhi and knew he couldn’t make the shot, leading to him unnecessarily firing his phallic weapon into the air in a display of male aggression. Fuck, I might start crying just thinking about it.
But does the firing of that weapon say anything about his relationship with Bodhi? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it’s meant to. Again, Bodhi is an obstacle in the original, and a friend in the new film. So when Johnny fires his weapon into the air in Core’s version, it’s actually a humanizing moment for their relationship. Because Johnny is on a quest to overcome the loss of his friend and Bodhi represents that possibility, it is actually gut wrenching for Johnny to consider the idea of shooting Bodhi. The scene means a lot more on a character level than a thematic one.
The ending of the original Point Break is absolutely gorgeous in the way it encapsulates the film’s thematic journey. During an initial struggle that involves Bodhi almost drowning Johnny in a shallow pool of ocean water, Johnny is able to land a pair of handcuffs on Bodhi. More than killing someone or beating the shit out of your enemy, those handcuffs represent the ultimate power move: He cripples Bodhi. Bodhi can no longer prove his masculinity by heading out into a wave that assures his death. He can no longer make his own decisions. Johnny has taken control. But then we see Johnny sympathizing with Bodhi by taking those handcuffs off. Johnny relates to the male ego and understands that this is something Bodhi “must do” to prove himself, to find himself. So when Johnny lets Bodhi go, it shows that Bodhi’s internal struggles speak to Johnny’s internal struggles, leading to Johnny achieving catharsis by allowing Bodhi to make a decision that leads to his demise.
Compare all of that to the new Point Break, and you’ll find that Johnny’s decision to let Bodhi head into the wave holds a lot more weight for Johnny’s arc. Johnny not only has gotten to know Bodhi personally and can sympathize with Bodhi’s attempt to find his true self, but Johnny is also helping himself get over his friend’s death by letting Bodhi go. In what becomes the cap to Johnny’s defamiliarized journey, letting Bodhi go represents letting go of his past. There is no machismo on display on that boat—it’s nothing but heart wrenching emotion and struggle for Johnny to accept that this is something Bodhi needs to do for himself. So then, after the storm takes Bodhi’s life, it makes sense to cut to a scene of Johnny surfing. Johnny has overcome the fear he associates with extreme sports and is now living freely.
So, in the end, it’s not really an argument of which film is better. You’d have a hard time convincing me that any film is better than the original Point Break, so why not just spend the time figuring out what works in both versions of the film? When you do that, you’ll find that even the shoddiest of reboots warrant analysis and can offer just as much insight as the original.