action, arnold schwarzeneggar, bryan cranston, colin farrell, dystopia, jessica biel, kate beckinsale, Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, paul verhoeven, philip k. dick, robocop, science fiction, sharon stone, showgirls, total recall
“Where is my Mind?”
Grade: C (SKIP IT)
REMEMBER, BACK IN THE NINETIES, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was gladiatorial and not yet gubernatorial, and two words, “Sharon” and “Stone,” spelled the very apex of the filmic femme fatale? They were all there in Paul Verhoeven’s “Total Recall,” based on a Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” and adapted by the writing team that gave us “Alien.” The film grossed over a quarter-million dollars over the summer of 1990 and the sequel, in true sci-fi style, transmuted itself not into “Total Recall 2” but into Speilberg’s “Minority Report” starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell.
The latter actor now leads “Total Recall,” a remake not exactly worthy of the suffix “2.0” due to its repetitiveness and lack of inspiration. The premise remains a fascinating one and something of a Lockean nightmare: what if an authoritarian form of neuroscience could reduce its enemies into a tabula rasa with just the flip of a switch? As everyman Doug Quaid, Farrell has only vague memories of being a secret agent in the ongoing war between Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan “Breaking Bad” Cranston) and a resistance led by a wasted Bill Nighy. Visiting a laboratory called Rekall, the scientist tells Quaid: “Tell us your fantasy and we’ll give you the memory.” Outside the lab, a chemical attack has cleaved the earth into the Fall, a version of Great Britain, and an imperialized Australia known as the Colony. All the Marxist animosities between workers and over-lords would appear to be in place, but are soon squandered in a film that clings to flying-car chases and endless sequences in which Farrell and sidekick Jessica Biel fall from rooftops. Even more nightmarish is the idea that in the distant future, in a decimated London-like metropolis, “Phantom of the Opera” is still being advertised on double-decker buses.
Directed by Len Wiseman, from a script by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, this “Total Recall” is a gumbo of other, better, films: Cohaagen’s synthetic drones look like the Storm Troopers of “Star Wars” and the Colony resembles the LA of “Blade Runner” (only wetter). Wiseman should have wised up to the fact that the Verhoeven’s original was full of grotesque splendors: triple-breasted prostitutes, red-hot martian sands, and a human face that came apart like a Rubik’s cube. This was Verhoeven after “Robocop” but before “Showgirls,” and he brought a campiness to the original sadly absent in the reboot.
Then again, Kate Beckinsale (also Mrs. Wiseman) goes for the throat as Quaid’s wife, but if it’s Beckinsale karate-chopping her way through a film you’re after, the “Underworld” franchise will better whet your appetite. Alongside Farrell and Biel (not so much a thespian yet but a very high pair of cheekbones), the cast is comprised of some of Hollywood’s blandest actors: poor Farrell is a hard worker, but he has an empty coolness that keeps him from truly vaulting himself into mega-stardom once and for all. Here, the cast is upstaged by gadgetry, especially a glowing cell phone implanted in the palm. Talk about keeping a phone on hand.
The best bit of dialogue transpires between him and Beckinsale with the query: “If I’m not me, then who am I?” “How do I know?” she replies, “I just work here.” Despite this, however, the sour irony of “Total Recall” is its total forgettability.
Fogs' Movie Reviews said:
Agreed, Colin. Completely disposable.
And you’re definitely right. The “Camp” element is something this movie very much could have used. It wasn’t good enough to be taken seriously, even though that’s what it tried to do.
Spot on, man.
It began with great energy but grew to irritate because of its repetitiveness; ended on a very low note. Thanks for reading
Colin I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen reviewers on the movie say it doesn’t match up to the original. I didn’t see the original but did see this and thought it was just one long chase scene that amounted to not much in the end. I’ll check out the original. Good review as always 🙂
Oh the original is fun, for sure! Thanks for reading; can’t wait for the Zack G-Will F. matchup comedy. Thanks for reading
Yes Will for Anchorman 2 as well 🙂
I was hopeful for the first 20 minutes and then it began to fall apart. (Writing my review right now). If they would have revamped (not just remake) the narrative maybe it would have worked–but unfortunately, beat for beat–the original wins.
Kate Beckinsdale was the only one that deserves a bit of love. She had the only character with clear motivation and drive. And she is a badass.
This is the second remake of an Arnold classic (horrible Conan) and it just stands as a testament on how much Arnold rocks and kicks ass!
Arnold has been called a lazy actor in terms of delivery and embodying character, but looking back, his flatness works. Farrell is flat too, but in a different way. Arnold was an odd actor, for sure, if we can even call him that.
Odd, indeed. But he has the illusive “it” for sure.
Arnold is a force–his charisma draws you in and that is what made him a mega star. Whatever “it” is…he has “it” in spades (and muscles). 😀
Nice review, I felt pretty much the same way. I thought the visuals were great; the plot, not as much. There’s so much more they could have done with this.
Only wish he stayed in the movies! Thanks for reading.
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
This sounds like a missed opportunity, but |I also wonder what they were thinking trying to reboot this film? The short story doesn’t really lend itself to a film at all. Noot sure about seeing this…especially now. Good work!
Oh save your money! What are you seeing next though?
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
I think my next venture out will be for Ted, followed by Looper which looks ace. What about you?
Just saw THE CAMPAIGN and working on my tepid review! I vaguely recall LOOPER…
Seeing The Campaign on Tuesday. Saw Hope Springs yesterday 7/10 and Ruby Sparks today 8.5/10. Write reviews later, darn shoulder sore this weekend.
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
Looper is the film I’m looking forward to most after Batman and Prometheus this year. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bounty hunter who kills people sent back to him from the future. Then he’s sent Bruce Willis, who is the older him and it all goes off! Should be a lot of fun.
Time traveling! Both solid actors, thanks for the update!
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
Sorry it took so long for me to get back on here to reply!
Great review. I agree pretty much across the board. Visually this movie was a big treat(Love the robots!). It just had a chance to be something and decided to blink. If they just made a little more effort to have Quaid question at the end if it was all real or not I think it would have been a homerun.
It definitely left the interesting philosophical dimensions unexplored; a true disappointment. What are you seeing next?