Sunday, August 05, 2012

Total Recall (2012)

What is it the last few years with this glut of remakes and reboots? I know Hollywood has consistently re-made and rebooted things over the last 50 years or so but it seems even more prominent now. From Casino Royale to Total Recall, the reboot has become the easy way out for studios. The amazing thing is 9 times out of 10 it works out. Casino Royale is a great example of a successful reboot, while crapfests like Footloose (Paramount) fail to make big enough box office. For some reason though studios are obsessed with recreating the 80's and 90's.  Fox has the reboot of Red Dawn coming out soon and along with Total Recall Sony has Robocop & Evil Dead on the way. And I'm sure they aren't going to stop there. It's a shame that no one can get a string of original ideas going but that's what happens when finance people try to dictate entertainment it's all about fast, cheap and easy.  I will say that fast and easy seem to be the key factors here in the new Total Recall but cheap is certainly not one of them. I've heard estimates between 200 and 250 million for this flick and you can definitely see it on screen. Between Colin Farrell colony hopping between massive sets chock full of automated soldiers and flying cars, it is impressive even though it looks like a cross between Blade Runner and Minority Report.
Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) seems to have an average blue collar life in the not to distant future. Apparently our world has been devastated by biological warfare and the only inhabitable parts of the world are Great Brittan and Australia. They are the last areas with air clean enough to live in. Quaid has to travel between colonies in a pretty cool tunnel elevator that goes through the core of the earth to his job at the automaton factory where he works on the factory floor making soldier bots for the government. Quaid feels trapped as he wishes his life were different. Which is a little strange given how extremely hot his wife Lorie (Kate Beckinsale) is. Yet he is having weird nightmares about being an action hero and being with another hottie Melina (Jessica Biel). So he finally builds up the courage to act on his dreams and reaches out to this company that makes dreams come true called Rekall. If you've seen the original you know what happens after he goes to Rekall and the adventure opens up.
I really wanted to love this I really did. Visually it's pretty fantastic and the action sequences were fun but overall it just felt like a clinical exercise treading over well known ground and in the end proving to be anti-climactic. To start the cast was pretty great from Colin Farrell to Bryan Cranston as the evil Cohaagen. Bokeem Woodbine as his best friend Harry really tried to ground this thing a bit and enhance the element of what is real and what isn't. The problem is it's Total Recall if you know the original film from 1990 then all the twists and turns in this new one are not going to be new for you. In fact you'll be able to predict exactly when each twist is coming. Yes there are some changes for one this isn't as goofy or bloody violent. Secondly they don't go to Mars so that whole plot point is gone. They do try to make an effort to focus on Quaid and his attempt to understand who he is and what he is supposed to do and this is an improvement from the first film but the problem is we've seen all of this before and done much better in the Bourne Trilogy. The three breasted chick is in this one, but since we aren't introduced to Mutants in this new one, it sort of feels out of place and more of a wink to the much better original. Which begs the question why remake this film if you don't have anything new to say? The first Recall is a classic action flick why toy with that unless you want to take a risk and change things up which unfortunately they didn't do enough here. The frustrating thing is they seem to be on the verge of speaking to something that could be relevant to today with the separation of the working class and the rich elite but it's only touched upon briefly and never really fleshed out.  The main appeal of Total Recall is the Inception like quality, what is real and what isn't and if it was in front of you would you be able to tell the difference. The problem is I never felt almost the entire film that that was an issue for the audience to understand. It was very clear from the beginning what was and what wasn't real. For Quaid maybe it wasn't so clear, but when you always seem to be ten steps ahead of the protagonist and are able to predict what is happening next with precision then something is definitely wrong with the narrative.
Why the hell was Bill Nighy in this movie. He appears to be a pivotal character and then he has a meaningless speech and then he's done. What a colossal waste of time for such a great actor. This issue plays into the overall problem with the film there isn't enough backstory to this world and how it functions. I wanted to understand Cohaagen's motivations rather then think of him as just some evil dude. I felt like the movie was trying to give his character more but either they didn't know how or they cut a bunch of stuff that may have helped to flesh him out and make him a more rounded character. Instead you are left with stock characters; Cohaagen is evil and Melina is good. I mean hell even in the original Total Recall you get to see a different side to the protagonist, Quaid/Hauser, as he shows he may not have been such a good dude and it was good thing he lost his memory. In this new film it's not entirely clear that's the case because he is a spy and is able to play all the angles. We never see the other Quaid/Hauser in this new movie so we have no reference to what Cohaagen is talking about when he says he wants his friend back. And trust me this isn't a spoiler cause it's in the trailer but Quaid's wife Lori suffers even worse from this problem. She of course pretends to be the doting wife and it turns out she is also a spy and has been merely portraying his wife through the film. Through the remaining 80% she is attempting to track her hubby and his girlfriend and kill them.  Director Len Wiseman had an opportunity here to make Lori interesting rather then some frenetic evil bitch. Sharon Stone's Lori from the original was pretty bland as she just wants to kick the shit out of Quaid/Hauser and put him down for the count. In this new film, again it looks like they want to give Lori more development but then they just gloss right over all of that so she can manically kill Quaid/Hauser and his girlfriend, just cause she can. It's just disappointing because this is an interesting story and can be told in many different ways while still being true to the themes of the previous film. It unfortunately just doesn't quite get there.
If you are looking for a relatively harmless film that you may have already seen before in a different incarnation then sure go and see Total Recall but if you are a fan of the original I'm not sure you're going to get what your looking for in this remake. I give Len Wiseman credit for making a decent sci-fi action film with truly solid action set pieces and visual effects but the story has nothing new to offer and it left me disappointed.
Grade: 2 and half Buckets

No comments: