(M) Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston.
Cinemas are littered this year with re-treads and sequels — Madagascar 3, Paranormal Activity 4, The Dark Knight Rises, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Men in Black 3, The Bourne Legacy, Taken 2, The Expendables 2 and the list goes on.
So in mining an ’80s classic like Total Recall, which was in turn fashioned from the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and part of the canon of Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is a fair amount of expectation that something new, even original, may be bought to the table.
Early trailers for the Total Recall reboot starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale looked promising, if a little reminiscent of Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and the Star Wars franchise. And, although Sony’s track record for reboots this year (The Amazing Spider-Man — yawn) hasn’t been great, one had expectations that this, with director Len Wiseman at the helm, may better or bring something new to the well-worn classic.
Total Recall 2012 posits that Earth is largely uninhabitable and is split between the Colony (the Australian continent) and the United Federation of Britain (UFB). Factory workers like Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) must travel through the Earth’s core on a transport system known as “the Fall”, which has become synonymous with the oppression of the UFB on the inhabitants of the Colony. It’s a wild 17-minute ride through the centre of the Earth that transports the Colonies inhabitants back and forth to their mundane lives.
Quaid is tired of his drone-like existence and wants something more. When he discovers he can have implanted memories at Rekall, he takes the chance to experience life as a Secret Agent. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong Quaid becomes a hunted man chased by the police and wanted by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world.
On the run from the life he believed was his, Quaid finds his real name is Carl Hauser and that he is in fact a secret agent. He teams up with a rebel fighter to find the head of the underground resistance and stop Cohaagen.
The first hour of this reboot feels like it may divert from the source material as it carefully reconstructs its universe. But the film quickly devolves into an overheated chase flick with expensive special effects in the second hour.
Sadly, in terms of production design, Blade Runner did the rainy, noirish Asian-inspired metropolis much better. In the ’80s. With about an tenth of the budget of this film.
Director Wiseman seems more interested in the effects, explosions and chases than worried about adding too much extra brain food to the story, which is a shame because much of the second hour of the film allows you to check out and watch the colour and movement, rather than be involved in the story and some of its third act twists.
Disappointingly, Bill Nighy puts in about three minutes work as the resistance leader Matthias, delivers a page of unintelligible dialogue about living in the present rather than reliving the past, and is quickly dispatched, making one wonder why the character was there at all.
Colin Farrell has beefed up a bit to fill the substantial shoes of Arnie and brings the physicality needed to pull off the role of secret agent — although any number of actors could have brought this to the role.
Biel has the thankless role of Melina, which is mostly running, shooting and delivering the requisite exposition that passes for dialogue.
The meaty female role of Lori (an amalgam of the Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside characters from the original) goes to Wiseman’s wife, Beckinsale. Lori is all business as she chases Quaid/Hauser through effects-enhanced sequences at a cracking pace, refusing to give up until the film’s final frames.
While the original film pondered the nature of reality in an age of technological illusions and political paranoia, this is more about the ever-present reality of global terrorism.
If you have fond memories of the Arnie original, this won’t blot the copybook; although like many remakes it doesn’t add much food for thought or even prove it really needed to be made at all.
Hollywood has remembered this reboot for you wholesale.
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