This is one of the more pointless films I have seen since THE THING remake/sequel. Not because they are both using the constructs of their better predecessors, but because they do nothing to stand out and become their own film. They don’t take risks and they both ignore what made the originals so great; passion for the craft of filmmaking. John Carpenter’s THE THING told a compelling science-fiction story with practical effects and gripping tension. Paul Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL was an intricately plotted film that created a dangerous, compelling environment for its protagonist Douglas Quaid. Len Wiseman’s TOTAL RECALL is a completely forgettable film that lacks any kind of originality, borrowing from several films of science fiction’s past to cobble together a movie with a few hollow explosions and some good looking actors and actresses to toss into a flashy trailer and get asses in the seats. I have never thought Len Wiseman to be a great filmmaker, and unfortunately he just punctuated that point for me with this remake.
So here’s the set-up. Douglas Quaid/Hauser (Colin Farrell) is a bored blue-collar chap busting his hump for a paycheck on a robot assembly line. To make matters worse he has to come home to Kate Beckinsale… which has to be horrible(?). Doug feels like something is missing and decides to visit Rekall, a coming that implants memories of a more exciting life, but here the catch; you can’t replace existing memories. If you have a mistress on the side you can’t implant a memory of a mistress, doing so apparently creates a bad case of the lobotomies. Well, our guy Doug wants to have the memory of a secret agent but that’s when things go south, bullets fly, things explode, and the movie goes from fun to forgettable in matter of minutes. Along the way we get a few nice nods to the original, in one case three nice nods to the original, but we also don’t have a chance to get our ass to mars, and we don’t have Kuato. That’s right original TOTAL RECALL fans, no fucking Kuato. This is like remaking EMPIRE STRIKES BACK without Yoda, I just slapped myself for even thinking about that, but you get the point.
The first 45 minutes are filled with good looking, though mindless, set pieces for Collin Farrell to crash through and Kate Beckinsale (as Quaid’s wife) to shoot through but there is 76 more minutes of film left. You would think in a story about questioning what’s real and what’s not you would be able to create some natural tension but this film just constantly feels like it’s in a rush to defeat itself. It never creates the pace of the original which was so much more measured and allowed those moments to exist. Wiseman seems to be more concerned with how things look rather than how things progress. And they look great, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos does a nice job of creating a lived-in BLADE RUNNER-esque environment, but that is where the compliments end. The rest of the film is filled with an awful performance by Jessica Biel who delivers every line at the same volume, poorly developed characters, a blink and you miss him Bill Nighy who is criminally underused, and a film that seems to be okay with stealing from MINORITY REPORT, TERMINATOR, the previously referenced BLADE RUNNER, and others.
I have come to accept remakes. The water is wet, the sky is blue, and Hollywood is going to remake films. I get it. But bring something new to the table. When the audience knows how the tricks work, the magic show is a lot less entertaining, and Paul Verhoeven is the better magician in this case; he created a brilliant film and Len Wiseman created a shoulder-shrug that I will never think about after I complete this sentence.
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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