Saturday, August 04, 2012

Total Recall

I loved the 1990 Total Recall. Loved it. One of the best sci fi movies ever made, except that the main actor was miscast. Imagine my delight when I found out that Colin Farrell would be in the remake.
And he does a fine job. Imagine a good actor in the role. Arnold had, maybe, one whole look -- he just couldn't look shocked at all -- but Farrell does a good job of that. And this version sticks closer to the original short story.
But, you know the problems with short stories. They set everything up, but then they're outta there. So screenwriters adapting projects like that have to improvise. As far as I know, having read the original many years ago, it looks like this version sticks pretty much to the story, and therein lies the problem: it's pretty thin.
It's run, run, run for Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), who thinks he's just a worker in the very dirty, very blue-collar Colony. Colony workers take The Fall, a big subway system, to get to the other side of the Earth in the only other continent to survive: Great Britain. The sets are just tremendous, and the Colony looks like the acid-rain endowed Los Angeles of Blade Runner.
I was glad to see that a lot of cute little things the original Total Recall depended upon were not in this version. But the new version does give a nod several times to dialogue, perhaps a moment when the plot moved, but then completely turns it on its edge. We do get to see the three-breasted woman, because apparently that's what people talk about at the water cooler when someone mentions Schwarzenegger's movie.
It's a well-imagined action movie, but there's no real substance to it. The fact that Kate Beckinsale steals the show tells you a lot. I don't think it's giving away too much to say that Quaid's wife is an actor playing a role, and more than that, she's a real bitch. The scenes where she's trying to kill Quaid are just terrific, and almost funny, as Beckinsale plays it with such zest.
There is a certain political dynamic set up, and that was very interesting. And the art direction is unsurpassed. We see what this world, at least the Colony, really looks and feels like.
Jessica Biel is the "good" girl here, a woman from the Resistance, and, as such, she has very little to do but join in Quaid's running away party. She's actually boring. There was a little part of me saying, you gave up WHO to date WHAT?
There are a few twists and turns, which, as a student of the old film I really appreciated, but it's just not as much fun, it's not as intricate or interesting as the 1990 Total Recall. If you're a sci fi fan, definitely see it, but if you like well-made movies that have the ability to reach you emotionally, skip this one.
Thumb's down.


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