Total Recall – Movie Review
Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall” remake feels like a reminder that newer is not always better. We get a film here that replaces the old-school trappings of the 1990 original with newer, shinier, faker CGI, and tries to use endless amount of camera tricks to make it feel new. In reality, this makes the movie mercilessly bland.
Let’s examine the old Arnold Schwarzenegger/Paul Verhoeven cult classic. Verhoeven, since Robocop, was known for doing excess like nobody else. And, Total Recall is an incredibly violent, laugh-out-loud funny, and surprisingly smart sci-fi action film. The movie is filled with hilarious social satire, and endlessly quotable dialogue (including some of the best one liners in Arnold’s career). The film almost represents the beginning of the end of an era… An era of bigger-than-big action opuses. But, what separates this from the other action films of the time is this: if you strip away the big excessive action & violence, there is actually an interesting & intriguing story at play here. THAT is what makes the film so memorable, aside from the fact that even watching it today, it still looks absolutely killer.
This one… Looks slick & new, yet surprisingly dated all at once. It’s a shame, because there is a good cast of actors here that are doing their damnedest to elevate a weak screenplay (no surprise, it’s written by Kurt Wimmer). I mean, this cast… Colin Farrell, Jessica Beil, Kate Beckinsale (aka Mrs. Len Wiseman), Bryan Cranston, Ethan Hawke, & Bill Nighy. This is a strong cast who have to act around the terrible script, but unfortunately, there is all but nothing they can do to alleviate the film’s chief problem.
The big problem is that this film is a limp-dick, pussified version of the original. Both in its violent action, AND its conceptual ideas. I mean, the original at least made a sizable effort to address the issues explored in the Philip K. Dick short story that is the basis of both films. This film pays lip-service to those ideas, and nothing more. Even the film’s attempts at paying homage to the original feels incredibly sanitized. Consider the scene from the original with the prostitute with three boobs. That appears here, except it’s totally devoid of the surprise & humor that made the scene from the original so funny & memorable. Plus, the prosthetics on the boobs has got to be some of the worst I’ve seen in a mainstream big budget film in years.
The film tries to compensate for its woeful lack of original ideas with thunderously loud & chaotic action. Now, I will admit. There are action scenes here that are mightily impressive. But, they aren’t more impressive than some of the practical action & chase scenes of the original. They’re impressive in the sense of “Oh, they can do that now”. There are moments every once in awhile that the film catches me off guard with an inventive action sequence. But, those are few & far between.
Ultimately, this film’s undoing is mostly the lack of NEW. This is indeed a remake in which no risks were taken, no opportunities were taken advantage of, and no chances to do something interesting were used. In fact, the movie doesn’t have enough originality to it to justify its existence as a remake. Immediately, I think of 2010′s “Let Me In”, a remake that took risks, and made bold choices to stand on its own and not in the shadow of its original.
Total Recall wants so desperately do this, yet ends up unfortunately being absolutely forgettable the instant one leaves the theater. No bullsh*t, I’m having trouble remembering it as I write this review. It’s a shame, because I sure as hell remember the original, a film more than 20 years old, yet can’t remember nearly a damn thing from the remake I saw 2 days ago.