Sunday, August 05, 2012

Total Recall

Year: 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy

Plot: It is the year 2084, and Earth is divided into two continents: United Federation of Britain where the rich reside, and The Colony, home of the poor and underprivileged. Doug Quaid is a factory worker from The Colony who has recurring nightmares. When he visits Rekall, a place that implants fantasies into their customers' minds, a sequence of events occur and Quaid finds himself on the run from people who want him dead.

Review: In case you're too young to know or remember, the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall was made back in 1990 by Paul Verhoeven, based on Philip K Dick's short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Underworld director Len Wiseman has updated that film for the present generation. The question is, is this remake necessary?

I certainly didn't think so. I wasn't a big fan of the original, but I thought it was solid enough to entertain audiences of any year. As I sat down to watch this, I felt like not enough time had passed since Arnie's version came out, even though 22 years is a long time.

I'll start with what's good about it first. Len Wiseman knows how to direct action very well. There are a chockful of action sequences here to behold. Wiseman doesn't take his foot off the pedal as he throws his cast into one action scene after another, running, jumping, shooting and brawling every time you blink. The production design is also worth crediting, as the view of the poorer Colony is well contrasted with the richer UFB, and The Fall, the train tube that ferries people through the earth's core is impressive, especially when it becomes a background to shoot an action sequence in zero gravity.

However, as much fun as I had with this film, it just feels like a near photocopy of the original. Almost everything is the same, except the original takes place between Earth and Mars. The characters have the same names, a lot of similar elements from the original are used here with little variation, even some of the lines are similar. As a person directing a remake, Wiseman ought to work harder in distinguishing his version from Verhoeven's.

Out of the cast, Colin Farrell deserves the most credit for convincingly portraying a confused Quaid trying to piece his identity back together. Kate Beckinsale is pretty good as his wife Lori, whom you'll know to be a secret agent out to kill him. But playing bad just isn't her forte, even though she really tries hard. Jessica Biel gets Rachel Ticotin's role from the original here, and does poorly. She holds one expression for 90% of the film (and people say Kristen Stewart can't act.). Bryan Cranston is okay as top villain Cohaagen, and gets a couple of fight scenes with Farrell, which was quite impressive actually.

The music score is one thing this film didn't borrow from the original, and as expected, isn't as memorable in comparison. Even now, I can still remember the original's iconic drumbeats, but I can't recall the remake's as I type this.

To be fair, this update is visually striking and a lot of fun. But it lacks meat on its script and doesn't quite hold up to the original. My guess is, if you haven't seen the 1990 version, you'll enjoy this version very much. (3/5)  

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