Monday, April 8, 2013

Total Recall (2012)

Directed by Len Wiseman.
2012. Rated PG-13, 118 minutes.
Will Yun Lee
Mishael Morgan
Natalie Lisinska

In this version of the future, there are only two inhabitable places left on our great planet. To oversimplify, the more affluent folks live in Britain, also where the good jobs are, while poor people live in Australia, known as The Colony. In true dystopian fashion, the government is engaged in a bloody war with rebels from The Colony. Our focus is on Douglas Quaid (Farrell). He’s a regular joe from The Colony who works in Britain assembling automated police officers. Yes, it’s one helluva commute. He’s married to Lori (Beckinsale), a real-live cop. Despite all the chaos of the world around him, Doug’s biggest concern is the recurring nightmare he has and what it means. He decides to do something about it and finds himself at Rekall. They inject you with memories of whatever it is you want. Just about the time he gets strapped into the chair, the law bursts in shooting. Much to his own surprise, Doug manages to kill a bunch of flesh and blood cops plus some synthetic ones and escapes. Now, he really has to find out what’s going on. Yup, it’s a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the same name. Both are based on the Phillip K. Dick short story We’ll Remember It For You, Wholesale.

For those of us old enough to remember, or with a hankering for old sci-fi and/or Governator flicks, the muscle-bound Austrian in the room is that original. This one keeps the action here on Earth as opposed to Mars, does away with mutants with one three-boobed exception (one of a few homages to the first movie) and the limited oxygen supply. Vibrant and varied colors are traded in for a fairly monochromatic look. It also combines a few different characters into one and ramps up the action. In fact, there are times when it feels like one continuous chase scene. While this is fun, it’s not always filling. For starters, our hero’s motivation for going to Rekall in the first place is misguided. In Arnold’s version, it was clear. Doug dreams about Mars all the time and wants to go, but can’t afford it, so he goes to Rekall for the next best thing. Farrell’s Quaid should be walking into a psychiatrist’s office, not a place where reality is manufactured. Nonetheless, that’s where he goes. Okay, fine.

From there, thankfully, much is the same between the two films. Most of the plot points from the original are hit, sometimes in a different order, but they are there. Farrell gives us a wild-eyed, bewildered performance that serves the film well. He gets plenty of help from some pretty awesome special fx, the hyperkinetic pacing and he two ladies fighting over him. Kate Beckinsale is in her cold-blooded Selene mode, sans vampire teeth and tight black leather. Biel is her more compassionate, but equal, opposite. The two provide more than their fair share of the action including some knock-down drag-outs with Farrell and each other. If there is a clear advantage for this movie over its predecessor they are it. Together, they dwarf what Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin were able to accomplish in the original.

That said, Total Recall still falls well short of Arnie’s film. It forsakes storytelling in favor of being bigger and brawnier. The result is a movie that’s fun to sit through but seems to be lacking all the little touches that make the first movie special. Of course, if you haven’t seen the original, this is irrelevant to you and this version will probably work just fine. In fact, if you go back and watch the older movie after seeing this one, you might find it dated and think I’m crazy. Still, I’m not quite on the bandwagon with all those folks calling this a horrible picture. True, it lacks the nuance of its predecessor making it feel emptier. However, I don’t think it is a bad movie. It’s just not my Total Recall.

MY SCORE: 6/10

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