How does a remake live up to the first class reputation of the original? Simple. By making itself matter.
Paul Verhoeven directed Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990 Sci-fi fantasy based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. It concerned implanted memory, space travel and psychological subject matter wedged artfully inside an action genre film.
Sharon Stone, pre-Basic Instinct, co-starred in what Roger Ebert called “One of the most complex and visually interesting science fiction movies in a long time.” It polarized audiences but certainly made them sit up and take notice.
Len Wiseman (Underworld) directs Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, and Wisemans’ wife Kate Beckinsale in an earth-bound, special effects heavy fight fest that lacks the necessary interior life and power of the original. It’s not meant to be a replica. It is heavily formulaic, probably meets demographic criteria and made a splash on paper at the production meeting.
Farrell is Quaid, a married working stiff who wants a mental vacation, the kind that can be had at Rekall, a place where new memories of one’s choosing can be implanted into one’s brain. Just as he is about to go under, he is identified as a spy and security troops attack him. Strangely, he fights and kills all of them. Where did this power come from?
He starts running and keeps on. He is a public enemy, but why? Is his wife the woman he thinks she is? Another woman speaks to him as though they know each other and partners with him to fight a barrage of super powered robot and human soldiers.
He is accused of working for the boss of the city, and then for his competitors, maybe both as a double agent. One thing is clear, folks want him dead. They’re calling him Hauser, a name that means nothing but draws a lot of heat. His mission is to find a key and stay alive.
The best thing about the movie is the technology of this imagined future, the hand phone implants that interact with glass, air cars that glide around the elevated highway network, and the weaponry. There’s a wink to the past in artistic flourishes here and there. There is plenty of interesting stuff to see.
But mostly it’s a showcase for computer generated, green screen marvels, non-stop gunfire and lots of stunts. There’s a hell of a constructed future city, dystopian, desolate, yet beautiful that takes up a lot of mental space.
Farrell, Biel and Beckinsale make for remarkably beautiful eye candy, and they do their jobs, but they don’t set the world on fire, well, except in the movie.
Instead of mattering in the larger sense of the original, Total Recall is a conventional sci-fi action flick bearing the earmarks of the genre, seemingly strung together by committee and directed by the art guy. There’s nothing new here. The audacity of the original is AWOL, and after a short while, the new model is forgotten. This is one remake we didn’t need.
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35mm sci fi fantasy thriller
Written by Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, Philip K. Dick, et al
Directed by Len Wiseman
Opens: Aug 3
Runtime: 116 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language
Country: USA / Canada