September 22, 2012

Total Recall (2012)

"A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall - a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led - goes wrong and he finds himself on the run."

Due to my current Kate Beckinsale addiction (and growing disinterest in reviewing nothing but horror movies), I watched the "Total Recall" remake yesterday. It was certainly a lot different to how I imagined it would be.

While not as entertaining as the original "Total Recall" (1990), it was visually superior in nearly every way. With an estimated budget of $125,000,000, it had to be as spectacular as "Blade Runner" to look at. I was amazed at how the action scenes were done, and, willing suspension of disbelief aside, I couldn't even get my head around some of them.

I think a lot of the problems people have had with the remake were caused by nostalgia. Of course, Paul Verhoeven was at the top of his game back in 1990 and Len Wiseman is still regarded as a hack, but neither film is perfect. I always thought that the Martian terraforming stuff in the original "Total Recall" was very derivative of too many other sci-fi movies, and, if you watch it today, most of the effects haven't stood the test of time. Even the updated "girl with three breasts" was more realistic in this remake.

Having said that, Colin Farrell lacked the charisma of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his version of Douglas Quaid wasn't a character that I particularly cared about. As an action hero, he kind of sucked, and, as a top secret agent, he wasn't very convincing either. Let's be honest though, Arnold Schwarzenegger was hardly an Oscar winner, but he just fitted into the overall campiness and excessiveness of Paul Verhoeven's vision.

As an upgraded version of Sharon Stone's character from the original, Kate Beckinsale wasn't bad. Nobody could ever surpass the sexiness which Sharon Stone exuded in that role and, to her credit, Kate Beckinsale didn't even try to. She was a lot colder, a more professional killer, and, ultimately, she was just a slightly more dislikeable version of Selene from "Underworld" in a different costume.

What made the new Lori Quaid less interesting was that Jessica Biel as the new Melina really eclipsed her and everyone else. In the original "Total Recall", Rachel Ticotin's Melina was quite annoying and I really wanted Sharon Stone to beat the crap out of her. Somehow, probably by just being a better actress, Jessica Biel turned out to be one of the highlights of this remake, and I was mostly on her character's side even though she had poor taste in men.

This "Total Recall" also lacked the magnificence of Michael Ironside with its conflated version of Richter and Edgemar played by Bokeem Woodbine. That was a shame although there was a certain creepiness to Richter and Lori's relationship in the original which turned my stomach. I didn't miss that at all, but had the same thing been done here, it might have given their characters more depth.

There were no "larger than life" characters in this at all other than the "Star Wars"-style stormtroopers which just had to be robotic to get the PG-13 rating. The original Cohaagan, played by Ronny Cox (who was, basically, reprising his Dick Jones character from "Robocop"), was one of the better action movie bad guys, but Bryan Cranston will always be the father from "Malcolm in the Middle" to me. I thought he was completely miscast as the more one-dimensional Cohaagen, but his age has made him look like a politician.

With the setting changed to Earth, there were no stupid-looking mutants so Kuato wasn't needed, and, as another example of Len Wiseman's nepotism, Bill Nighy was cast as a new rebel leader named Matthias for all of five minutes. Apart from wearing Selene's RAF greatcoat from "Underworld: Awakening" to appear more "military", he might as well have just been named "Cipher" for all that he brought to the part.

I didn't completely hate this "Total Recall" remake, but it was mainly style over substance, had no depth to the characters, and simply wasn't very memorable (no pun intended). The twists and turns involved in Quaid's identity were done much better in the original, the pay-off lines were delivered better before, and it didn't have any "popcorn flick" fun to it. If anything, it was all a little bit soulless and far too serious.

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