Remakes. They rarely work. Surely though, a remake of something that was so groundbreaking in terms of the use of special effects would be a success? You take a confusing plotline which had initially been clarified by the clear vocal talents of Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes that's a joke) and flip it about by providing some eye candy for the women by putting Colin Farrell in his place for the role of the factory worker who realises that he's actually a double agent. Add some double eye candy for the men with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, and throw in a whole load of action, and you have a success, right? Meh...
Everything is doom and gloom in the future. Mathias is the leader of an underground revolutionary threat, and the government's collection of supersoldiers seek him out everywhere. Simple factory worker Douglas Quaid just wants to stop having nightmares, and when a friend of his suggests the company Rekall, which replaces some of your smaller memories with much cooler stuff, he goes along. However, something flips and all of a sudden he finds himself fighting against soldiers appearing from everywhere. We quickly learn that things are no as they seem. His wife is not actually his wife, his name is not actually Quaid, and there's a whole lot more to the revolution and the evil tyrant in control of the government than meets the eye.
...or is there?
The whole premise of the original film was that not only did Quaid not know who he was but that we didn't know either, and while a great deal of suspense has been placed on this conundrum, the fact that this is a remake is plain to see. No bones are made about Quaid's memories not being what they should be, and instead of developing a sinister plotline and attempting to make things a bit more taxing on the brain, they have clearly decided that action is the way forward.
And you can't fail to be impressed by the action you get from the film. Farrell and Beckinsale engage in a 15 minute chase scene where they fight and lots of things get broken, shot up and beaten up. It's pretty impressive, and matches well within the clearly dystopian city that everything is set in. Dark and gloomy, rain and dull metal, everything is a bit miserable, and this serves to add to the murky and untrustworthy atmosphere they've created. I thought the action and visuals combined very well to give this impression.
However, I couldn't get away from the fact that this is a groundbreaking film in a world where technology is just advancing all the time. The original didn't rely so much on charisma as it already had Arnie, the action was solid and the acting cheesy. Here, the tech isn't as impressive because every other film has it. I liked some of the concepts that were included, but I didn't get a wow factor, such is the saturation of futuristic TV shows and films at the moment.
That having been said, if you haven't seen the original, then there is a certain element of mystery and you are constantly questioning whose side the characters are on and whether there is something more sinister going on. Nicely done on the whole and worth a watch, but not one to spend a great deal of money on, nor do you have to pay all that much attention. Decent remake, but disappointingly inferior to the original in my opinion.
"Total Recall" is a 2012 sci-fi film which was directed by Len Wiseman, who has also directed such films as "Underworld" (2003), "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007) and "Underworld: Evolution" (2006).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 118 minutes in length and stars Colin Farrell ("Alexander", "Phone Booth", "Minority Report") as Douglas Quaid / Carl Hauser, Kate Beckinsale ("Underworld", "Pearl Harbor", "Van Helsing") as Lori Quaid, and Jessica Biel ("Next", "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry", "The Illusionist") as Melina.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall - a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led - goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.
Just 22 years after the original came out which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin, we're given a remake. I'm not a fan of remakes at all and rarely have I liked any I've seen, so it's safe to say that I'm not going to like the revamped version of "Total Recall", right? Well, I went in with eyes wide open but at the same time, not very hopeful of what I was about to watch. Differences between the two are strikingly obvious. In the 1990 version we had the action taking place on Earth and on Mars, while the 2012 version is set in a futuristic UFB (United Federation of Britain, seemingly taking in the majority of the world) and The Colony, which appears to be Australia. Both are adapted from Philip K. Dick's short story, "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale", which was first published in 1966. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Doug Quaid works on a production line making robots which look uncannily like Stormtroopers from "Star Wars" for police use led by UFB Chancellor, Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and gets to work via "The Fall", a gravity elevator seemingly travelling through the Earth. The first very silly - and very illogical - idea of the film and we've only just started. There are other things in the film which made me yawn at the idiocy of such a thing or laugh at the lunacy of another. One of those was a scene where Hauser and Melina are attempting to escape the police and while Colin Farrell's character is visibly battered, bruised and sweaty, Melina, played by Jessica Biel, hasn't even a hair out of place without one bead of sweat on her brow. During that scene, the hand-held pistols which were being used looked like plastic toys you get for 99p in Poundworld or somewhere similar and not very convincing at all.
Other things that caught my eye for the wrong reasons included glowing tattoos which look incredibly stupid and you can't imagine anyone wanting one, now or in the future. Another scene shows Hauser using his hand as a phone and video call, which is a little too much sci-fi technology but neat all the same. And why bother putting a bulletproof vest on Harry if he's that close to Hauser and Melina. They could easily put a bullet in his head which is exactly what happened, therefore bypassing the need for a vest. Now I'm no ballistics expert, but if you spray bullets down a square-shaped corridor at two people about 50ft away, you're going to hit them before they hit the floor, right? Not in this film, because our two heroes can dive on the floor faster than it takes them to hear bullets fired from a chamber to the bullets whizzing over their heads.
I'm not done yet! If you have flying cars, why hover around roads high in the sky that must have cost a lot of money to build to get where you are going? Surely the technology must have been there to put imaginary lines or something. If they can create a refrigerator that has a touch screen for digital notes, then laser beams for 'skyroad' markings must be a doddle. Speaking of the roads you have the whole of the United Federation of Britain - which is a very expansive part of the world - to choose from, and when Hauser freefalls the car out of the shy and lands it wish a crash, we're treated to a backdrop of the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (which houses Big Ben). Can you imagine the odds on that happening? Yeah, me neither. There is a scene with elevators which are a carbon copy of the mechanisms for the cult film, "Cube", which I really enjoyed by the way, and recommend a lot more than this!
But there are good points, it has to be said. The Eyeball was an awesome tool, firing out many cameras in different places as it exploded in the room, giving many angles of vision for the breaching team. In the original when Hauser went through the scanner he was a portly woman with red hair. In this version, someone who looks like her goes through and Quaid is the guy behind in disguise. She even tells the officers that she's there for three weeks just like she does in the original film before Schwarzenegger's character malfunctions. I really wish I could think of other stand-out moments, but to be quite honest, I can't.
To cast Colin Farrell in the main role as Doug Quaid / Carl Hauser is a strange one and I'm not entirely sure he filled the big boots of Arnold Schwarzenegger who previously played the double role, but then again I can't think of anyone who could. I think the director just wanted a face to fit the role rather than go for a guy of Arnie's size and there's nothing wrong with that, but Farrell has a knack of heavily breathing after every sentence, no matter if he's exhausted from running around or not. It is believed that Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy were both considered for the role.
Kate Beckinsale would look good in tramp clothes, and in her role as Lori Quaid she excels to the limit. The main question I was asking myself was "is she better than Sharon Stone in this role?" and the answer is probably yes, she is. The likes of Kate Bosworth, Eva Mendes and Diane Kruger were considered for the role, but the British actress manages to put a little glamour and glitz into the film, even if the film itself is a little dull. Likewise with Jessica Biel, who, for some parts, made me forget what I was watching because she has that natural glow which can stop people in their tracks. I much preferred her to Rachel Ticotin in the original and Eva Mendes, Rosario Dawson and Paula Patton were all linked with the role of Melina.
As great an actor as Bill Nighy is, he just cannot pull off an American accent. In fact, I thought it might have been an idea to switch the roles of Biel and Beckinsale around and have them both speak their native tongues throughout. Beckinsale does switch once her cover as Quaid's wife is blown, though. But then again, I'm not sure Jessica Biel could have pulled off the high-energy stuff that Kate Beckinsale was doing as Lori. It was nice to see Bill Nighy working with Kate Beckinsale again as both had previously been together for "Underworld", which was also directed by Len Wiseman. Casting Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen could have been a master stroke. I'm a huge "Breaking Bad" fan and thought he'd be brilliant, but I didn't even recognise him until it was over and his role is very limited.
The score gives the impression that it is action packed, though it really doesn't feel like it half the time because of all the over-the-top tech stuff, and most of that just doesn't work. There is some good CGI but the original was much better for me. This is a little too mechanical in design and looks ugly from the onset. I'm also not impressed with the UFB nonsense either. With the potential to show Mars in a different light, the director fails in his job and the writers should have been instructed to go back to the drawing board and come up with something else. I realise this review has been a little bit of a rant but in all honesty, I'm pointing out the many things which are wrong with the film and if you take those out of it, it wouldn't be too bad. So in theory, just watch the original version. You'll thank me for it!
What the Critics Say:
Tampa Bay Times: "Farrell's diction is a noticeable upgrade from Schwarzenegger's but there's also his superior portrayal of sweaty apprehension and killer instinct."
Movieline: "The two films have the same underlying bone structure, sure, but this new Total Recall is made of more serious, more humorless stuff. It looks simultaneously lavish and interchangeable in its explosions and shoot-em-ups with a dozen other recent action movies, and in its sci-fi stylings with a dozen others in the genre."
Rolling Stone: "Since the new Recall is totally witless, don't expect laughs. Originality and coherence are also notably MIA."
Wall Street Journal: "The remake has no grace notes, or grace, no nuance, no humanity, no character quirks, no surprises in the dialogue and no humor."
The New York Times: "This premise contains the seeds of an interesting economic and political allegory, but the ambitions of the filmmakers - lie in the direction of maximum noise and minimum sense."
My rating: 2/10
Total Recall (2012) Film only review
Many of you will, and no pun intended, recall the original version of this movie that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. It was loosely based on science-fiction writer Philip K Dick's 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale' and the remake, or shall we say reboot, is loosely based on them both.
The movie went into production in May 2011 and finished in September that same year. Not a lengthy filming process for a movie of this blockbuster potential but, then again, most of the editing was concerning special effects and all the acting scenes were cut rather quickly. This may be down to the fact that the cast are all experienced actors and judging by their on-screen rapport they did not have many problems while filming; if they did then they apparently sorted them out with relative ease; at least that is the impression given with the short space of time it took to wrap this one up.
The movie hit cinema screens in the United States on August 12th 2012 and was distributed by Columbia Pictures World-wide over the next month. Costing one hundred and twenty-five million dollars to make it was a run of the mill earner considering its gross of one hundred and eighty million dollars and was panned by many critics as not delivering what was promised.
At the end of the 21st century, the earth has been devastated by a third World war and nuclear and chemical weapons have destroyed most of the civilised population. What remains is two sectors; namely 'The Colony' and 'The United federation of Britain'. The UFB is naturally situated where Britain is on the map and Australia is now known as the Colony. The Colony is not faring too well and many of its people travel to the UFB to work in order to survive. People travel between the two sectors in a tunnel known as 'The Fall' which runs through the earth. It is a huge elevator which travels at immense speed. G-force is negated and gravity is controlled in the elevator and passengers experience weightlessness at the end of each sector.
Douglas Quaid is a factory worker and while on a trip in the fall, he tells a friend that he is thinking of visiting 'Rekall', a company that can implant memories into your brain. He is dissatisfied with his life but his friend tells him it is not a good idea as he has heard bad rumours about Rekall. Quaid visits Rekall and they explain to him that he can have any memory he wants; a successful athlete, a romance, a secret agent or anything he can possibly think of. They also explain that he must undergo a test to check his mind for existing memories as they can't implant a memory that is similar to one that already exists in case they conflict and damage Quaids mind.
Quaid agrees to a secret agent implant and also agrees to undergo the test. Halfway through the test the lead technician, McClane, pulls the wires from Quaid and tells him that he has lied to him and that Quaid is a spy. All hell breaks loose and McClane and his workers are shot by a UFB Swat team and government synthetic soldiers. Quaid escapes and makes it back home to find his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale) watching the events at Rekall unfold on the news. Quaid tells her that he is the one that killed the Swat team and she reveals that she is not his wife. Quaid believes that he has been married to her for seven years but she explains that she is a UFB agent and he has been implanted with false memories while being monitored by her for six weeks. A titanic fight ensues and Quaid goes on the run, pursued by a woman he thought and still feels that he loves.
Quaid learns that he has connections to a resistance that works out of UFB to try and improve the Colony. He has always viewed the resistance as terrorists and cannot believe that he would be involved with the group. After learning of his true identity and meeting Melina (Jessica Biel), Quaid is took to meet Mathias (Bill Nighy), the leader of the resistance and he learns of a plot to take over the existing human world by mass producing synthetic robots that is being put into plan by the leader of the UFB, a man named Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Cohaagen convinces Mathias and Quaid that Quaid has been secretly working for him against the resistance as a double agent.
Quaid has to decide not only who he really is but whose side he is really on in a race against time to do what he feels is the right thing to do to either save mankind or doom them; but will he make not only the right decision, but make it on time?
After watching the movie and looking back at it now I must say that I am a little disappointed. For all its excellent effects and beautiful cinematography it lacked the 'wow' factor. It seems that I am stuck in a mini viewing trend of those sorts of movies at the minute. The original may have been over-looked as a serious commodity in moviedom due to the fact that Schwarzenegger played the lead and is well known for his explosive action movies rather than his thespian credentials, but that said, the original had a stronger plot and less political undertones. A lot of people will disagree that the original had a stronger plot but I mean as a whole package. It did not take itself as seriously as the remake does and I think that that worked a lot better overall.
The movie in its essence looks great and Paul Cameron did a great job as cinematographer. When Farrel is running through the masses in the area which he resides the place has a rusty feel to it and a golden tint tinges every building, lit up by sun-like, artificial, coruscating rays. It gives the movie a nice feel and the set looks convincing. This is partly due to the filming technique and the use of Red Epic Digital cameras and the use of anamorphic lenses. The whole movie looks tidy as a spectacle even taking into account that most of it is shot in a world gone to wrack and ruin.
The special effects are amazing and none of them look out of place. From a writing point of view I would have liked to have seen something a little more technical than a standard umbrella being used when it rained, especially as we are viewing the latter part of the twentieth century. Maybe some things will always stay the same.
It was rumoured pre-production that Michael Fassbender was in contention for the role and I for one would have liked to have seen him take it on. However, Colin Farrel had long been the top target to play the lead role and they essentially got their man. Farrel does a good job as Quaid/Hauser but I just wanted to feel like I knew him a little better. I found that I couldn't really empathise with him. That is more likely to be due to the fact that his character didn't know who he was most of the time rather than any inadequacy in Farrel's acting ability. For the most part he fits into the role well and doesn't try to over-play it as a lot of action actors would have. His scenes with Jessica Biel are believable and his fight scenes with Beckinsale must have left the two actors with a few bruises when the clapboard eventually came down on a take. I think he portrayed Douglas Quaid well but was bogged down by an overly political plot. I do like Farrel as an actor overall and can even put aside the cringe-worthy time he asked a female reporter if she 'Got a buzz' of his fresh minty breath in favour of his obvious talent as a thespian.
Kate Beckinsale plays Lori well and I was pleased that the obligatory sex scene between her character and Farrel's was left out of the movie. This may be because she wasn't really his wife but a government agent but I for one am glad that we weren't shown a sex scene just to satisfy Farrel or Beckinsale's fans or to indeed purely glam-up the movie.
Jessica Biel plays a fellow member of the resistance and Quaids love interest in the movie and I thought she played it well. She has a subtle approach to the role and comes across as a very capable actress.
In 2010, a year before the movie went into production, Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed his interest in once again taking up the role of Quaid but Miramax had already got Farrel on top of their list.
There are some similarities between the two movies in that the names of Quaid and Melina are the same, yet funnily enough the characters names were different in Philip K Dick's short story. The original movie used Mars as the second sector to the UFB instead of the Colony. The writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback had toyed with the idea and when James Vanderbilt came on board to help finish the script they all decided that having the two sectors on earth would allow the story to flow more and make it more believable. I personally think this works better as it makes the story more central to earth and cuts out all the problems that come with having to explain space travel and how the fall would've worked between planets. A lot of anoraks tore holes in the original movies plot and by staying on earth the writers of the new movie were also playing safe.
Another play-safe element of the movie was the special effects. Although they really are terrific there is just something about CGI that doesn't seem as impressive as the old make-up effects. In the original the make-up artists made exploding heads and you could see the work that had gone into it. And I am in no way dumbing down CGI as it is an incredible skill and extremely arduous work but I am just a fan of old school effects.
I will say here that I was more emotionally involved in the original movie and it also had a few humorous moments that helped lighten the load somewhat. The new movie is almost too serious and although I really enjoyed it I was still feeling like I had left something behind after the end credits. The first hour is really well put together and the story is involving but then it all seems to fall apart into a mish-mash of action scenes and a final scene that could be compared to numerous science-fiction movies. I felt that I wanted more out of the experience and the movie failed to give me that feeling. I wanted to feel liberated and actually have a smile on my face at the end but sadly I felt a little depressed by it all and as beautiful as it looked it ended up being a rather drab affair. It is emotionally bereft of feeling and does not contain the shameless fun of the original movie. Fans of this movie will argue that Farrel was better than Arnie and admittedly Farrel's acting is better but then we already knew that. Farrel's acting may have been better but Arnie wins on charisma and likability hands down. Arnie's one-liners were part of what made the original so scrumptiously delightful and the fact that Farrel doesn't utter one remotely funny one-liner speaks volumes of the gulf between the two different performances and their dynamics. I simply wanted Arnie to achieve his goal in the original movie; by the end of the remake I couldn't really be bothered whether Farrel succeeded or not.
Set in the future where two colonies remain: The 'United Federation of Britain' and Australia based 'The Colony', a power struggle between the rich and poor. All other nations have become a nuclear wasteland. Connected by a central transportation shaft called 'The Fall', workers from The Colony commute to UFB on a daily basis.
Factory Worker Douglas Quaid (Colin Farell) suffers from bad dreams of entrapment, only to be soothed by his beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) when he awakes. Bad Life? Not really.
When he questions his mundane existence and yearns to have meaning in life, Quaid heads to Rekall, a service which implants memories into the brain, allowing the masses to remember living the life they've always wanted: a millionaire? a spy? a world class athlete?
As the machine begins to whir and the technicians plug him in, a background neural scan takes place to ensure the implant does not conflict with past memories... and here, he is accused of being a spy and an army of UFB agents come crashing in to arrest him.
In a blink of an eye, Quaid takes them all out and flees back home where his wife comforts him and tells him it's OK. Until she tries to kill him. Unmasked as a secret intel agent, Lori chases him as he tries to make sense of his life and identity.
Quaid meets Melina (Jessica Biel) who helps him discover that he is in fact named Hauser and is a Resistance leader and the two of them must evade capture in order to stop UFB leader Cohaagen's imminent invasion of The Colony.
I have no idea why they chose Britain and Australia as opposing sides of the world (and the plot holes in the mechanics and science of 'The Fall' are mild annoyances if you care about factuality) but the landscape and architecture in this dystopian future was breathtaking and though not wholly original, aided in creating a dynamic backdrop to the story.
The setup to the plot was speedy and intense; once the action has begun, it doesn't stop until the end. The action includes a high octane husband wife shoot-out chase within The Colony Architecture; a flat and slightly robotic futuristic but nonetheless present car chase and the adrenaline fueled lift hunt/fight, which was probably my favourite fight scene as the comedic destruction of the UFB robots (crushed by the lift/amputated) sparked humour within this otherwise dark thriller.
My favourite scene, however, must be when Quaid's friend tries to convince him that this 'new life' he's living is just Rekall and that he needs to return to reality. What is real? What is rekall? This scene was what I felt this movie should have focused more on. Which woman should he trust? Is he being used? Is it all a dream? However, the action dominated, leaving these intriguing and mind-bending ideas on the backseat and only injected every now and again with subtlety.
And as the film reached its climax, it almost seemed fitting to return to this idea of it all being just Rekall, that it was all just a memory implanted into Quaid's brain, but despite it heading towards a more typical route, the catharsis was infused with one last action twist which I loved and kept me at the edge of my seat.
Now to tackle the issue of this being a remake. Yes I know it is a remake. No I have not seen the original. Whilst some reviews I read criticized the movie for a lack of originality and compared the films in every single way to conclude that this version sucked, I found it refreshing, and perhaps without the bias of having seen the original, it was hugely enjoyable and thrilling.
One gripe is the three-breasted lady. Carried over from the original to perhaps make fans of the first feel more at home (or attract 40+ year old men to the cinema), it didn't fit into the plot in any way and seemed a bit desperate and messy. There are all these other things I can moan about such as the London Underground stickers on a NY subway train but they didn't affect the film cinematically.
Colin Farell- Douglas Quaid/ Hauser
Kate Beckinsale- Lori
Jessica Biel- Melina
Also stars Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy and John Cho.
Colin Farell has the looks and physique to play the hero but there lacked an emotional connection, which can be said for the whole cast. Whilst we root for the lead couple, by the end we really didn't care who won, so long as the action remained top notch.
Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel look really similar which may be confusing to some of the audience if they couldn't tell them apart. It may or may not have been done intentionally but I feel like it works, to add to the deception.
Remake or not, 'Total Recall' is an edge of the seat thriller that keeps you pumped from the beginning in a beautiful dystopian world, full of action and a hint of mindbending themes on reality and identity. Though not wholly original and travelled down a typical formulaic route to reach it's intense climax, this is the perfect popcorn movie to end the Summer with.