A Total Dud
The H-Bomb: From Hollywood super-hack Len Wiseman, he who is responsible for the duller-than-dogshit Underworld and the dickless Die Hard 4, comes the latest why-did-they-fucking-bother remake, Total Recall, which takes away all the fun, gory, campy awesomeness of the Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger classic and replaces it with pure, unadulterated blandness. Like that 1990 film, this is an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, although instead of taking our asses to Mars, this time all the action is set on Earth, which has been mostly decimated by chemical warfare.
This war was apparently so widespread that the only two inhabitable places left are, and man isn’t this convenient, England and Australia. England (or The United Federation of Britain) is where all the upper class citizens live, while Australia (or The Colony) is where the second class citizens dwell. Naturally, a conflict has started between the UFB and rebels from The Colony. However, instead of fighting for oxygen, as they did in the original, these freedom fighters are fighting for the new most valuable commodity, living space (because people needing oxygen is so 90′s… I guess).
One man who is seemingly on the outside of this conflict is Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a simple factory worker who lives in The Colony with his impossibly hot wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), and works in the UFB. Quaid commutes to the UFB from The Colony each day the same way millions do, by taking a giant elevator that goes right through the center of the Earth, called The Fall (I include this detail because it is the sole interesting contribution this remake brought to the story).
Despite having a gorgeous wife and a steady job, Quaid is somewhat discontent with his mundane life. He really feels as if he was meant for something more. The vivid dreams he has in which he and an unknown female companion (Jessica Biel) are being chased and shot at by Storm Trooper-like cops only re-affirm his feeling that something is missing from his life.
So one day, Quaid walks into Rekall, a business that manufactures fake memories and implants them into the heads of its clients. This is a pretty controversial service that has a reputation for being rather risky, but after listening to a rave review from one of his co-workers, Quaid decides to give it a shot. The slickster salesman at Rekall (John Cho) offers Quaid a number of memory packages, and the Secret Agent one is, of course, the one he goes for.
Seems like Quaid is finally going to get the exciting life he always (literally) dreamed of, but he gets more than he bargained for when complications arise, his memory implant is interrupted, and Quaid finds himself on the run for real, with everyone, including his now not-so-loving wife, trying to hunt him down and kill him. Apparently, Quaid’s entire life is a lie, as he really is a secret agent who is right in the middle of The Colony rebellion. But which side is he on? And who is he really? And is any of this real, or is it all simply being remembered for him wholesale?
Quaid must figure all of this out as people chase him… and chase him… and chase him… for pretty much the duration of this movie’s running time. Holy crap did I detest this movie! I mean, I wasn’t exactly expecting miracles from this utterly pointless remake, but when I have to try four times to get through a movie, because it keeps putting me to sleep, something is truly fucking wrong!
With this review, I really didn’t want to take the cliched, bash-a-remake-for-being-a-remake route, but this is a case where the overall negative perceptions that people have towards remakes are absolutely justified. Wiseman’s Total Recall redo is just total shit… totally. Remember the original Total Recall, the REAL Total Recall? With its cool Mars setting, its memorable mutant supporting characters, its satirical sense of humor, its cartoonishly over-the-top violence, and its wonderfully cheesy performance by Arnold? Wiseman, the creatively-challenged knucklehead that he is, filters all of that out of this new version.
What his version leaves us with is a colorless, humorless, and downright boring Sci-Fi action chase movie that is totally undeserving of the title that it has hijacked. Taken on its own terms, this film isn’t so much terrible as it is mediocre, but when you hold it up to the original, which was just so balls-out incredible and so wildly unique and original and fun, it just shows this one to be the unimaginative, unmemorable, second-rate, store brand knock off that it is. As I was watching this regurgitated pile of fertilizer, my eyes kept wandering over to my Blu-Ray copy of the original Total Recall, and I kept thinking to myself, “Yeah, that’s what I could be watching.”
Essentially, all the “character development” and “exposition” are confined to the first thirty minutes. The remaining ninety minutes are dedicated entirely to chase scenes, one after another, in hover cars, through weird elevator things, and on foot… non-stop chases, each one more tedious than the one that came before it. That Wiseman gave the movie a washed-out, desaturated look, only adds to the overall dullness of the proceedings.
Another aspect that fails to bring any life to this limp dick of a flick is the cast. Now, I’m not a Colin Farrell hater, and I certainly think that he’s a better actor than Arnold, but in this role, he doesn’t have an iota of Arnold’s charisma and he just isn’t nearly as engaging. A lot of that can be blamed on the script, as Farrell certainly is earnest in the role, but the writing is so flimsy that it’s impossible to invest in his character.
Biel, who I’ve never been a huge fan of, basically just runs and jumps around… acting doesn’t really enter into the equation with her. Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy are absolutely wasted in nothing roles that required them to do little aside from showing up on set. The only cast member with any spark, the only one who could almost be called a redeeming virtue for this dismal dreck, is Beckinsale, who brings a shit load of attitude and believability to her part of nice wife turned ruthless assassin. She’s not bad to look at, either (though the fact that she’s banging the talent-deprived Wiseman is a definite turn off). Again, she’s almost a redeeming virtue.
But, there is no redeeming this dreary, generic re-dud. I never thought a film as lively as Total Recall could be recycled into something this monotonous and uninspired. It’s got enough going against it being compared to an original, but also the fact that I just saw Looper, a fantastic and highly original Sci-Fi chase film, only makes this movie’s existence all the more confounding. This, so-called, Total Recall is totally forgettable!