"Total Recall" is not worth remembering
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 23:08
There seems to be a new rule of thumb in Hollywood: If a movie or TV show is more than 20 years old, it is a good bet that it will get a remake, a reboot or a sequel that no one was asking for. Sometimes, it is not even that long. Right in that range is “Total Recall,” the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and thus, the latest victim of Hollywood’s recycling process.
Like the original, the story follows Doug Quaid (played by Schwarzenegger before, now by Colin Farrell), a working stiff in the far future. Looking to spice up his boring life, he goes to Rekall, where customers get implanted with fake memories, to buy the memories of a secret agent. There, he makes the shocking discoveries that he really is a secret agent, the life he thought he lived was an implanted memory, and sinister forces are after him.
It might be a little unfair to simply compare a remake to the original instead of judging it on its own merit, but copying the original so closely just begs for that comparison. The story has shifted from Mars to a dystopian Earth, but otherwise, the movie is much the same as before.
At least the bare bones story is the same. Many of plot points occur in the same order, which makes the film predictable to anyone who has seen the 1990 version. What it lacks is the quirky, sometimes goofy tone and the very outlandish moments that made the original so enjoyable (though the famous too-well-endowed hooker appears again). The tone of the new picture is so sterile and serious, and it is not a lot of fun at all.
It also lacks the mind-blowing ambiguity that made the original more than just a typical sci-fi action B-movie. The Schwarzenegger version never actually made it clear whether Quaid was really a spy or just dreaming the whole time and leaves several subtle clues supporting both possibilities. That idea is never explored here, save for a single scene that gets swept away and forgotten in all the chaos.
The only real original element of the new version is some of the sci-fi aesthetic. The dystopian cities actually look like a frighteningly possible future, like current third-world slums with futuristic technology. Some of the technology is also clever, such as phone implants that project a video screen on glass and a giant transport that allows quick travel between Europe and Australia through the Earth’s core.
These small touches, however, seem like polish on an old idea. Otherwise all the film has is fast-paced CGI action that, despite not sinking to the level of Michael Bay, it still seems more routine than thrilling. Also, Colin Farrell is no Arnold as far as action stars go. Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale and even Bryan Cranston add little to the whole product.
The 1990 “Total Recall” is a classic of science fiction and one of Schwarzenegger’s best films. The remake is one of those bad late summer movies that no one will remember after about a month and they will not even need a memory implant to forget it.
“Total Recall” receives a 1.5 out of 5 stars.