I might have mentioned earlier—in my Nothing Lasts Forever review—that I grew up watching action films with my Dad. Skip ahead twenty years and I’m sitting in a dark movie theatre, baffled by the previews.
They’re remaking Total Recall.
They’re actually remaking Total Recall?
And with Colin Farrell?
What the actual fuck?
I was miffed. Utterly irked and exasperated. But I was also curious.
I didn’t go to see the remake in the theatre, but did eventually get the dvd. And if I’m going to suspend disbelief for two hours I might as well refresh my memory on the original film too.
Total Recall 1990
Arnold Schwarzenegger wakes up in bed with Sharon Stone, they fight and they make up. After there’s some bad news on their wall panel tv. Rebels are causing trouble on the Mars colony and Schwarzenegger wants to move there. Sharon Stone isn’t enthusiastic. Instead of going there for real, Schwarzenegger decides to take a memory implant trip at Rekall. Something goes wrong and the bloody trip to actual Mars—or to sandpit with a red lens—starts.
The original film is a wonderful mindfuck. It really is. It makes you question what makes a person and just how important those memories are to you, what’s the real you, and can science ever override what you know to be true to make you into something more convenient.
Of the two films, the 1990 version has the stronger script. Douglas Quaid’s—Schwarzenegger’s implanted personality—marriage to Lori is stronger and more real. I’m not just saying that because we get to see Sharon Stone in a nightie, but because whenever Lori speaks to Doug, he doubts himself and what he thinks is real.
Or he would if Schwarzenegger could act. Trying to be two different characters in one film is obviously too much to ask from him, although in the short recordings of Houser Schwarzenegger comes across quite convincing. Think of what the world would have been like had Schwarzenegger played the devilish villains instead of the wooden heroes.
Naturally, this being a Paul Verhoeven film, there’s gore too. The director of Robocop and Starship Troopers seems to relish in overabundant gunfights and blood spray covering pretty much everyone.
Total Recall 2012
The film starts with an explanation. I’m guessing the passing twenty years have lowered the audience’s average intelligence enough that the filmmakers need to provide written introduction for the film. Here’s a clue: It’s set in the dark, dystopic future on Earth.
Watching this overcrowded The Colony and the exploitative United Federation of Britain all I can think is: What happened to reaching for the stars? And that thought, that humans have given up on space travel, makes this vision of future all the more bleaker.
One of the reasons I was miffed about how the promotion for this film was handled, was that they didn’t even try to keep Lori’s motivations secret. Of course as I watched the film, I understood why—Beckinsale is playing an amalgam of Stone’s and Ironside’s roles—but I can’t help but feel some sort of affection for Stone’s duplicitous portrayal. Beckinsale’s part is simple in comparison despite the expanded role.
The same can be said about Biel. Her role is bigger in comparison to Rachel Ticotin’s Melina, but also superficial. Again, I’m blaming the script, because Biel is brilliant in the short <spoiler>identity swap</spoiler> scene at the very end.
As good an actor as Colin Farrell can be, he’s no match to the women. Neither is he good enough to create a distinction between Hauser and Quaid. He basically plays one character occasionally plagued with amnesiac identity crisis rather than a man who has changed and wants to stay as he is. You could say that he loses even to Schwarzenegger in this, even if his version of Quaid isn’t as panful to watch as the Terminator’s.
The 2012 version improves on the special effects and gadgets, and I’m guessing that’s the only reason for updating the film, because the script certainly isn’t it. Alien species have been replaced with robots—which also makes this film conveniently less bloody—but they’ve kept the three breasted woman. Australia has become Asian and has been relegated back to its historical colony status.
And worst of all are the stolen and defaced scenes. For example when Cohaagen’s troops try to convince Quaid that he’s still in the chair in Rekall and hallucinating, the dialogue sounds like it was cut from the original script, put through a shredder, and pasted on the the new script. The acting’s not much better either.
If you want to watch a film called Total Recall I recommend you watch the original 1990’s version with bad acting and all. You can imagine societal criticism in the comments about the price of air, and you can revel in the childlike imagination humanity used to have. You can still dream of reaching the stars.