Friday, August 3, 2012
Movie review: Total Recall
An '80s remake that never should have been made.
Anyone who grew up in the 1980s would be wise to hold tight to their movie memories, as the filmmakers of today are slowly but surely trying to strip away your childhood. The Karate Kid, Footloose, and Red Dawn are among the films that have already or will soon be remade, with others sure to follow.
Total Recall is the latest ‘80s remake (yes, technically the original was released in 1990) to hit the big screen. The filmmakers, including director Len Wiseman (Underworld) and co-writers Kurt Wimmer (Salt) and Mark Bomback (Unstoppable), claim that they only have the best of intentions, that they’ll honor the Arnold Schwarzenegger film while also distinguishing their version from that somewhat cheesy actioner.
Colin Farrell takes over Arnold’s role as Douglas Quaid, a man with a ho-hum job assembling police force robots at the end of the 21st century. Chafing at the drudgery of his job – and, conveniently, forgetting that he’s married to a woman like Lori (Kate Beckinsale) – he seeks out Rekall, a company that will implant memories that will let you think you’ve lived a much more exciting life than you actually have. Douglas’ request for a spy adventure suddenly turns all too real as he gets mistaken – or does he? – as an actual spy and is forced to go on the run.
It’s a fun concept – if your memories aren’t your own, then who are you? – that was treated as such in the original version. The new one, however, has little room for any levity. Things are treated as life or death virtually from the get-go, something that would be fine if the resulting story contained the necessary suspense and excitement. Unfortunately, that’s far from the case. Douglas tries to remedy his work-a-day blues before we even get to know him, so we have nothing invested in his quest or troubles after visiting Rekall. Likewise, his relationships with Lori and Melina (Jessica Biel), who comes to his aid while he’s on the run, are supposed to be key in his decision-making, but it’s hard to care about people you don’t know.
Hardly any attempt is made to give the audience a feel for what this future world – in which only part of Europe and Australia, connected by a massive tunnel through the Earth’s core, are still inhabitable – actually feels like to live in. We’re told that Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) is a ruthless dictator who tries to keep worker bees like Douglas in their place, but without any supporting scenes, those are only words. In fact, the only part in which the filmmakers truly succeed is in paying homage to the original, throwing in a few scenes – including, yes, a three-breasted woman – that are clever without being distracting.
Farrell is decent in the role, but he’s really no kind of action star. He’s much better when he can talk more than he’s able to here, and his performance suffers accordingly. Beckinsale, who’s married to Wiseman and starred in four of the Underworld films, is much more convincing in an action setting, as is Biel for that matter. Cranston, so good as now-villain Walter White on Breaking Bad, is given the thankless role as a generic bad guy here and becomes unmemorable because of it.
By and large, this Total Recall is an unnecessary remake. It definitely isn't better than the original, and it adds nothing original to the modern moviemaking scene. Fans of Arnold's version have nothing to worry about – your memories are secure.
For showtimes for Total Recall, click here.