I resent it all the more considering it had me going for two-thirds until it dovetails into numbskull oblivion. Total Recall abandons all humor before it has begun but at least steers in the early scenes towards something intriguing. Colin Farrell has done his push-ups for his part, and honestly, he’s hardly the weakest element. The 1990 version took Arnold Schwarzenegger to Mars, it was also ever so slightly mind-bending. Up until the end you were guessing back and forth whether it was a dream or if it was really happening for Douglas Quaid, a menial worker who gets memory implants as a “vacation.” This new Len Wiseman movie is so pyrotechnic heavy that it can’t be mistaken for anything else but residual Hollywood thrill-ride / CGI-porn.
Are we supposed to be impressed over one hundred explosions at the cost of coherent storytelling? The cityscapes are remarkably dystopian, with buildings and vertical-moving platforms toppling each other on a high skyline. If the idea was to make the new “Total Recall” look like Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” then the filmmakers have succeeded.
Yet what made Schwarzenegger’s version so – dare I say poignant? – is that the world he inhabited was so sleek, so glossy, that the abundance of luxuries no doubt tamed society at large. When a filmmaker like Wiseman creates such a cesspool for a cinematic environment you wonder… Why not a revolution? Ahem, a gestation of one between the United Federation of Britain and the Colony is firing up. Bryan Cranston plays the autocrat Cohaagen; Bill Nighy plays the underground revolutionary Matthias (who lives in typical grungy revolutionary headquarters that feels not very practical to live-in).
Arnie wanted back his identity, Colin is more befuddled as to what’s going on in the remake. It’s a directing choice. But the silliest directing choice of them all are the repetitive power-walking shots of Kate Beckinsale, parading like a psychotic bitch seemingly created from an Anthony Burgess meets Roger Corman lab. In the original, Sharon Stone had more alluring power by alternating bitch-barbarity with tantalizing sexuality. Jessica Biel plays a freedom fighter, and once again, here’s an actress with zero personality – she might as well be a droid.
There are already droids in this movie, leftovers confiscated perhaps from “I, Robot” (2004). Anyway, I suggested that the movie kind of works for awhile before it crumbles into the non-sensical. I lost faith in the movie right around the time where a “friend” approaches Quaid in an attempt to persuade him to come out of his dream – like the original but abandoned of wit. Admittedly, I later enjoyed the zero gravity machine-gun ballet even if I had given up on the movie already. The last encounter, however, between Quaid and his wife was absolutely a disrespectful slap in the face towards audience intelligence.
118 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SCI-FI & FANTASY / ACTION FANS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
Film Cousins: “Blade Runner” (1982); “Total Recall” (1990); “The Fifth Element” (1997); “Minority Report” (2002).