Friday 14 September 2012

Review: Total Recall

Year: 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Byran Cranston, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine, John Cho

Synopsis is here:

After finishing The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by Mark Kermode (light and witty), one of the main points that stayed with me was the chapter about Mainstream movies being better. Kermode believes that due to the fact that films no longer truly flop and merely "under perform", and that the studios that finance said production don't actually risk that much as they don't really lose money, should we be getting better quality movies? Now of course "better" and "good" are of course to the eye of the beholder, but as always I feel that the bequiffed one has an interesting point.

Kermode's words ring particularly true when it comes to the likes of something like Total Recall; an unbelievably, unremarkable and not at all daring Total Recall remake. However I would trade the word better with "stranger" for this particular entry. Reason being; if you're going to remake a Paul Verhoven adaptation of a Philip K Dick short story, you should make it stand out. Unfortunately, safe bets the talking in Hollywood, and they do it louder than middle aged bass playing critics, or live T.V producers who blog about movies for a hobby. Hence why Total Recall is a completely average footnote of the cinematic book of 2012.

The main issue is Total Recall has the used stench of other films hanging off it like burnt offal although it will smell like sweet pork to someone who may not be too bothered about their sci-fi or never got the fuss of the big dumb Arnie original. This film shows the generational gap between film-makers more than you think. We are now plunged fully into the directors who plunder and pilfer from other films and video games for no other reason than they remember it and it looks cool. Wiseman nabs all the artificial elements he can find from the likes of the original film, Blade Runner, Minority Report, I-robot and whatever Xbox games he had in the house at the time but does little else to the film to make our time with the mish mash world he's created fulfilling. This remake thinks it's a decent idea to discard the ambiguity that made Verhoeven feature such a stand out. Arnie is a naff actor, but Verhoeven is a learned director, with his original, wanting the viewer to second guess the intentions of it's lead and situation.  TR2012 cuts all this for the "simple" approach, as if the audience couldn't comprehend the identity crisis that featured in the original.

In fact, so much is hollowed out from the original film that the film becomes frustrating. For instance; Quaid's exotic relationship with Melina, the girl of his dreams/reality, was so different from his blonde haired, blue eyed wife it caused an entertaining dynamic. Melina 22 years ago wasn't just different in looks but in personality. A head strong rebellious latina, supported by a feisty performance from Rachel Ticotin. Fast forward to our remake and we get a bland portrayal by Jessica Biel whose only characteristic is to look slightly forlorn that Farrell's Quaid can't remember his own birthday. Such lazy reimagings crop up everywhere as Wiseman's film decides to take the road most travelled. Character actors such as Nighy and Cranston are wasted and the only person seeming to have any fun is Beckingsale's Lori. But then again that is the directors wife we're once again watching in tight clothing holding weaponry (see also Underworld) .

For all the arguments placed on Christopher Nolan's head for his two recent blockbusters (Inception and The Dark Knight Rises) and Ridleys Scott's hyped yet flawed return to sci-fi (Prometheous), Both directors can at least say that their far reaching influences allowed to bring more to proceeding than just the plain surface. Their films have brought months of argument and debate, but at least they have something in there to rouse such heated talk. They have the main source yet manage to bring more to the game.

Total Recall 2012 gives us nothing but gloss and sheen. Verhoeven knew the power of ultra violence and the general insanity of the whole thing. This retread however, is happy to contend with platform game pilfering and Blade Runner cloning. The film doesn't even seem to understand why it's taking certain aspects. Case in point, a three breasted cameo that find its way into the film early on. If you took away the original reason for said cameo to be there in the first place (Mars) why bother with the hark back? Nostalgia be damned, not even the slick action that takes place, can shift the annoyance.