Total Recall (2012)

Total Recall (2012) – I like to imagine that the following scenario happened: a screenwriter had this idea, “okay, so a guy wants to get a fantasy vacation implanted and he describes his fantasy to the implanters and they discover that he already did those things!” Then someone tells him, “yeah, they already made that movie 22 years ago.” Oh, remakes. I am firmly on record as not being anti-remake. I think there are some damn good ones (The Thing, The Maltese Falcon), and even more than are just kind of okay but people trash them because they’re not as good as the originals (too many to list). All I really want from a remake is to be a good movie. Ideally it should re-interpret the material in some new way to justify its existence (as in “why should I see this one and not just watch the old one again?”) while staying true to the themes of the original. Whatever else I say about it, I will give it credit for this: the Total Recall remake is clearly aiming for that goal.

Most of the world is rendered uninhabitable by chemical warfare and only two colonies exist, in the U.K. and Australia. The U.K. colony is rich, the Australia colony is poor. People living in Australia (which looks an awful lot like a sci fi Hong Kong) commute through a giant elevator that goes through the earth to the U.K. colony. Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker who makes that commute every day and pontificates to his best friend (Bokeem Woodbine) about how he feels unsatisfied in his life. His wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) tells him he should be thankful for what he has. One day he decides to go to Rekall, a company that implant artificial memories as sort of a budget vacation. Doug wants to be a secret agent, but his programmer (John Cho) freaks out when it turns out that Doug really IS a secret agent named Carl Hauser caught up in the battle between the Resistance and the U.K. colony’s unscrupulous overlord Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Plus the previously-American-sounding Lori is now talking with a British accent… oh, and also TRYING TO KILL HIM. With the help of Melina (Jessica Biel), a mysterious woman from his dreams, Doug seeks out Matthias (Bill Nighy), the leader of the Resistance.

Okay, let me start with the overwhelmingly positive: I love the look of this movie. It is obviously inspired by Blade Runner and many better films, but still it looks fucking cool. Director Len Wiseman (most famous probably for Underworld) previously did the movie Live Free or Die Hard, which I thought was a pretty damn fun action flick but was no Die Hard movie. That pretty much sums up my feelings on this one. It actually is a fun, albeit somewhat generic, sci fi action flick but it is no Total Recall. They do appear at times to be venturing in a different direction (the campy humor of the original is mostly gone) but then a million references to the old one pop up. Most notably, even though the whole mutant story arc from the old movie is gone, there is still a three-breasted prostitute (Katlyn Leeb). That was rather surprising in a PG-13 movie, but considering the film’s rather considerable violence is entirely bloodless I guess they cut corners in other ways. The Paul Verhoeven film was insanely bloody and had to be cut down from an X rating. An antiseptic PG-13 version of that seems somewhat disgraceful… not to mention that showing gun violence without any kind of bloody aftermath is unrealistic and best and irresponsible at worst (especially given the events of recent weeks). Total Recall is an unexceptional but fun flick, but one you can probably wait for disc on. Or even better, just watch the Schwarzenegger one again.

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