Bring back Arnie! Remake of sci-fi classic Total Recall is totally forgettable
21:54 GMT, 30 August 2012
TOTAL RECALL (12A)
Verdict: Dumbed-down remake
The first Total Recall (1990), based on one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, was violent, misogynistic, and one of my favourite science-fiction films. Not many films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger could claim to be exciting and intelligent, but that was one of them.
Colin Farrell stars in the less violent but also markedly less intelligent remake as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker. He has a gorgeous, sexy wife (Kate Beckinsale) but still has a desire to inject some excitement into his humdrum life.
So he visits a company called Rekall, which offers to sell you thrilling memories. He chooses to purchase a past life for himself as a spy.
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Remake: Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid seated in the Mind Trip Chair in the new Total Recall
But the operation is interrupted by a bunch of stormtroopers who look as if they’ve wandered in from a Star Wars convention. Quaid kills them with surprising ease and goes on the run.
He discovers that he is ‘the greatest intelligence agent alive’ working against the world’s fascist dictator (that’s Bryan Cranston in a bad wig).
Quaid is rescued from certain death by a fellow agent (Jessica Biel, hardly bothering to act) and goes in search of the rebel leader (a grievously wasted Bill Nighy).
Complications ensue, and there are moments when Quaid doubts his own sanity. Are these events really happening, or are they false memories being implanted into his brain Is he in real danger, or trapped in a nightmare
The remarkable aspect of the remake is that it looks nothing like the original. Some scenes in the 1990 film took place on Mars.
Uninteresting: Jessica Biel, left, stars as a fellow agent and Quaid's love interest
The action here is strictly earthbound, with virtually all of Earth uninhabitable after a global biological war. The only places to live are a grossly overpopulated Britain and Australia, which connect with each other via an amazingly fast, super-sized lift that passes through the centre of the earth.
Sadly, there’s no attempt to generate humour or horror as London’s original sights lie beneath layers of multi-cultural, global-industrial tat. Most of it looks rather too much like Ridley Scott’s classic, Blade Runner.
The original’s director, Paul Verhoeven, may not have been Mr Sensitive, but the new one — the misleadingly named Len Wiseman — is an irony-free, soulless technician. He consistently fails to establish geography and edits action so frenetically that it’s often impossible to work out what’s happening.
The original version had a tongue-in-cheek humour, not least when Arnie killed Sharon Stone, who played the assassin posing as his wife, with the callous one-liner: ‘Consider that a divorce.’ There’s no humour this time round, unless you count the name of the company that made it, Original Films.
Tongue-in-cheek: The original 1990 Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger pictured, had humour and witty one-liners
Star cast: Sharon Stone starred as the assassin posing as Arnie's wife in the original film
Sexy: Kate Beckinsale plays Quaid's wife but lacks the allure of Sharon Stone in the original
Farrell is more versatile than Arnie and has infinitely more expressive eyebrows, but he lacks the Governator’s vulnerability, which resembled a bewildered bull rampaging through a futuristic china shop. We cared more about Arnie.
As for the director’s wife, Kate Beckinsale, she may be athletic, but she lacks the allure of Sharon Stone. And Jessica Biel, as our hero’s love interest, is completely uninteresting. The biggest failing of the original film was its third act anti-climax. The new version does nothing to rectify that, and the tactics of the villain are even more ridiculous.
The director clearly hopes that pyrotechnics will disguise the banality and implausibility of the script. They don’t.
This remake looks as though big money has been spent on it, and it’s watchable for the first hour. But the depressing realisation kicks in that this is like a series of video games, full of repetitive chases, substituting action for invention, and fighting for dramatic conflict.
The new Total Recall is entirely unmemorable. With The Amazing Spider-Man, The Bourne Legacy and now this, 2012 is the year of the redundant remake.
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