Do we really need to ‘Recall’?
MANILA, Philippines - Director Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 movie Total Recall featured Arnold Schwarzenegger, a pre-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone, a full-body security X-ray scanner, a portable hologram gadget, the ghastly sight of decompressing faces, a smorgasbord of sarcastic quips, a full-face mask that doubled as a bomb and a hooker with 3 breasts.
In director Len Wiseman’s 2012 remake, at least the girl-with-3-breasts concept got retained.
That is just about the only, er, pop-up surprise in the not-so-new flick that — just like its predecessor from 22 years ago — was inspired by “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” a short story by the late sci-fi master Philip K. Dick.
On the one hand, Underworld director Wiseman and scriptwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback deserve credit for not faithfully adapting the Schwarzenegger starre— dropping the original Mars-set premise and toning down Verhoeven’s penchant for violence, for instance.
Not without eye candy
The remake has a few replacement visual delights as well.
For starters, the set designs by Patrick Tatopoulos are rather stunning, a plausible imagining of the late-21st century as a highly compact urban sprawl.
In lieu of the previous Recall’s now primitive concept of video phones, and as a nod of sorts to the 1990 film’s notion of an in-brain tracking device, the remake presents in-hand phones, replete with press-against-any-glass video calling or sans-video, palm-only calls.
In what could be the latest Hollywood suggestion for real-world use, shown as well is a contraption that can release tiny camera balls into a crime scene to track suspects.
There is also an extensive chase scene featuring floating automobiles called “hover cars.” And then there is “the Fall,” a huge, mass-transport elevator that makes a sharp vertical turn per trip, resulting in at least two of the movie’s more exhilarating, goodbye-gravity scenes.
Dudes might also count as an eyeball treat co-star, and Wiseman’s wife, Kate Beckinsale in lace panties, then succeeding ones where she unleashes her inner b*tch. Gals, for their part, are served by a couple of shirtless shots of muscular lead star Colin Farrell, who must have put on extra bulk as if to deserve inheriting a Schwarzenegger role.
There seems to have been a conscious decision as well to populate the new Total with younger-looking faces, as witness the boyish Farrell in Ah-nuld’s shoes, Beckinsale in Sharon Stone’s tights (okay, Stone did look fresh then) and Jessica Biel in the good-girl role Rachel Ticotin had essayed. (It’s up to seasoned players Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy to lend this Recall its share of human wrinkles.)
So what’s wrong?
For the most part, the 2012 Total Recall has more minuses than pluses.
For one thing, it’s a pity that the Mars story angle was dropped, not just because it was a crucial element to author Dick’s original tale but also given the timeliness of the ongoing, real-life exploration on the so-called red planet.
While the bloody gore of the original has been dropped, so was its punchy humor. There is little in the way of quotable quotes from the remake, the flick instead studded with a (sometimes literally) dizzying succession of emotionless action scenes, as if to suggest that fanboys have nothing on their minds but vividly detailed video games.
At one point, as if to dramatize how dense his character’s neighborhood is, Farrell — a considerable actor and convincing action star, but still — does too much jumping across rooftops that it soon becomes all too monotonous. In fact, much of the action is rather dull as to make viewers’ hearts jump even a bit.
And not only does it have an overload of mostly firepower action, the latest Total Recall is far too infused with familiar references to earlier sci-fi flicks.
The metropolitan landscape alone recalls the likewise PK Dick-inspired Blade Runner (in the tight, ground-level shots) and the more recent The Dark Knight (with its city-light panoramas; even musical director Harry Gregson-Williams’ score occasionally recalls Hans Zimmer’s own Dark Knight symphony).
The said hover cars are but sleek iterations of the flying DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies. And the new Recall’s men-like machines, dubbed the “synthetic police force,” are but glossy updates on the Star Wars series’ Imperial Stormtroopers and the inhuman, anthropomorphic army in I, Robot.
Cinematic brain freeze
But the biggest letdown about Total Recall is that it got stingy with its story’s mind-bending facet, a narrative detail that the 1990 movie at least toyed with amid its sadistic mayhem.
Sure, the remake has its allusions to tyrannical colonization and the imagined existence of a company (once again named “Rekall,” though in Dick’s opus it was “Rekal”) which traffics in virtual pleasures by way of memory implantation.
Yet the redo hardly gives a damn about the more cerebral aspects to its tale, Wiseman and company preferring to drown the audience with fake adrenaline and thus deliver what amounts to a big-budget video game preview.
So overall, Total Recall is no more than exercise for our eyes, blowing the chance to exercise our brains instead.
Not yet far into the movie, Farrell’s character says, “Maybe I need my mind messed with.”
So do we, Len Wiseman, so do we. - Rappler.com