Friday, August 3

Total Recall Review

Total Recall
Dir: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel,
Kate Beckinsale, and Bryan Cranston

It takes a particular set of talent and skill, along with exceptional elements, to accomplish a successful remake; this is inherently why they are so difficult to do well. The original Total Recall, made in 1990 by Paul Verhoeven, was an ingenious combination of science fiction and the mystery of identity headed by the biggest action star of the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The remake has tackled the feat of making a unique action film but fails to adapt and enhance the best parts of the source material.

The setup is familiar to the original, but it does employ subtle changes in some key scenes. The film introduces a destroyed world where the populations have moved into two separated sections on opposite sides of the Earth but connected by a subway-like vessel that travels through the core of the Earth; this makes the inhabitable Mars of the first film seem like less of a stretch. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker who lives in a dilapidated area, in a small apartment with his beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Quaid is haunted by a perplexing dream that involves him escaping gunfire and capture with a woman named Melina (Jessica Biel). Quaid is discontent with his life and hopes to find some kind of solace by visiting the mind altering company Rekall. He hopes to add a wealth of happy and exciting memories by embodying the life of spy in the concocted reality Rekall provides, however his visit is cut short by a swarm of armed soldiers who think Quaid is an actually spy.

The struggle of identity lies at the heart of the narrative, however where it was utilized extensively in the original film it is only partially employed in this film; the mystery surrounding reality and identity is here but it's not as prominent. The interesting theme of aliens and foreign planets gets replaced with a convoluted story involving a corrupt government. The art direction is also at fault, the film is muted to such an extent that it nearly mirrors another Phillip K. Dick adaptation Minority Report, except Total Recall also employs a distracting amount of camera flare effects. Part of what made the first Total Recall memorable was the unexpected use of humor, unintentional at times, and the application of practical makeup effects to accommodate the staggering violence and composition of the aliens. Unfortunately, those are all missing from the current rendition except for one memorable scene. 

The saving grace however lies in the capable hands of the actors and the exceptional action sequences. Colin Farrell handles the emotional aspects with ease but lacks charisma, however that doesn’t hurt the performance because of the tone of the film. Kate Beckinsale is most impressive in a seldom turn as a villain; her change from compassionate wife to cold-blooded killer is fun. Another positive this film finds is positioned in the imaginative action scenes, one in particular is a great chase scene that involves multidirectional elevators and combat robots.

Though the two films are separated by more than twenty years, and Len Wiseman tries his best to offer a different perspective with inventive action and good actors, there are too many times where the narrative, along with over familiarity, keep the film from truly finding its own identity, and that ultimately hurts the film in the end.

Monte’s Rating
2.75 out of 5.00

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