Now Playing: Deja Vu All Over Again

The trailer for Len Wiseman’s new ‘Total Recall’ update left me wondering why anyone would remake this movie. It looked scene-for-scene identical to the original film, just with newer visual effects and different actors. Indeed, the segments shown in the previews are almost exactly the same as the previous movie. Fortunately, seeing them in the context of the big picture, those bits are integrated into a mostly different story.

Set in the future, a guy (Colin Farrell) feels down and out, trapped in a melancholy state of mind. To escape from his worries, he goes to a parlor named Rekall that implants contrived memories into his mind. Just as the Rekall folks are about to begin the process, however, the facility is raided by police and robotic cops that kill everyone in sight and want to arrest him. Suddenly, as if awakened from within, our mundane hero starts kicking ass. Of course, the question that we’re left asking is whether this is real or just a Rekall-created dream.

That much of the plot is identical to the original, but the story that takes place within the premise is quite different. Lots of small tokens from the original film pop up here and there. For example, our hero uses a face-altering technology and there’s a hooker with three breasts. (Yes, the film manages to get away with triple-boobed nudity in a PG-13 remake.) Some of these require you to pay close attention and be well-versed with the original.

Some things work better than the original and some do not. What doesn’t work as well? The pacing. Almost every single scene in the remake feel longer than it needs to be, as if every single shot should cut before it does. This is even the case during the action scenes. Shots tend to lag on screen much longer than they need to.

While the new story works just fine, it’s completely void of any and all originality, which the original definitely featured. Without spoiling anything, the motives of the villain (played by Bryan Cranston) are identical to that of a certain bad George Lucas movie (which I’ll refrain from mentioning to keep it under wraps).

What works better? Obviously, the visuals. Wiseman has made another very good-looking movie. The well-polished look adds a great new level to the action-filled sci-fi world.

My favorite addition to the new ‘Total Recall’ is Wiseman’s wife, Kate Beckinsale. Truth be told, I have a major celebrity crush on Beckinsale, which this movie only furthers. Beckinsale plays a ruthless villain. If you thought that she was a bad-ass chick in the ‘Underworld‘ movies, you haven’t seen anything yet. She’s a gorgeous killer who steals every scene she’s in. When she’s not killing us with her looks, she’s simply killing – and boy is it fun to watch. ‘Total Recall’ also co-stars another beautiful actress playing a tough female role, but Jessica Biel has nothing on Beckinsale here.

When going to see expensive action movies like this, all I expect is to be constantly entertained. In that way, ‘Total Recall’ is not a disappointment. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s all-around summer blockbuster eye candy.

Rating: ★★★★☆

23 comments

  1. Sounds fun, at least, which is what I hoped. The biggest problem is of course Beckinsale is so much more attractive and a better actress than Biel, so I know who I’m going to want to survive and probably won’t. 😉

    Looking forward to this, even if only as good old action popcorn fodder.

  2. JM

    Kate Beckinsale should withhold sex until Len Wiseman gets his metacritic above 85.

    Whatever level of box office failure the crippled PG-13 theatrical version is, I’m saving my first viewing for the real film, the uncensored extended cut they shot for the blu-ray.

    Killing robots is boring, but bloodless human violence makes me sick.

    Since I’ve never seen the original and don’t have to carry that baggage, as long as ‘Total Rekall’ is less boring than ‘Blade Runner’ I’ll be a happy clam.

    I do think it’s racist that they reduced the breast size of the three-boobed prostitute just because she’s Chinese/Irish.

    But my only real concern is this. Was Bill Nighy the Science Guy able to explain why the elevator through the center of the earth is scientifically less stupid than it sounds?

  3. Drew

    Jane,

    The ‘Blade Runner’ comment was only included as an experiment to see what types of responses you might get, right?

    Luke,

    I attended the midnight screening last night. I probably won’t rate it quite as high as you did, but I do agree with practically everything you wrote. It was a lot of fun. A solid B movie, without a doubt. I still prefer the original, but the slicker look and better aesthetics of this one make up for what it lacks originality-wise.

  4. JM

    The only people who like ‘Blade Runner’ are old dudes and posers.

    Show these two movies to virgins under 30 and guess who gets spanked.

    • M. Enois Duarte

      Well, I’m an old dude who adores anything and everything ‘Blade Runner,’ and the only posers in my eyes are the under 30 virgins claiming to be nerds or sci-fi fans who can’t appreciate and instantly love Scott’s cult classic.

      • JM

        If you aren’t a subscriber to Heavy Metal, your opinion has no gravitas.

        And where’s the love for Paul Cameron, cinematographer of ‘Collateral’?

    • M. Enois Duarte

      Or better yet, you’re not into sci-fi. You’re into action and big, loud CGI spectacles of nonsense.

        • M. Enois Duarte

          touché. But that has more to do with my geekiness for Westerns, not sci-fi. 😉

          It’s okay to turn off your brain once in a while. Just write yourself a note reminding you to turn it back on afterwards.

  5. Drew

    Show which two movies to virgins under 30? The two ‘Total Recall’ films? Or ‘Blade Runner’ and the new ‘Total Recall’?

    I’m under 30 (Barely), and I’ve thought ‘Blade Runner’ is one of the all time greats since I was 15, and still a virgin.

  6. JM

    I was thinking yesterday about my inexplicable love for dumb sci-fi.

    Box Office Mojo puts ‘Total Recall’ in the Sci-Fi Chase category.

    $519M – Terminator 2
    $433M – Terminator 3
    $400M – Tron Legacy
    $358M – Minority Report
    $347M – I Robot

    $264M – The Fifth Element
    $263M – The Incredible Hulk
    $261M – Total Recall
    $245M – Hulk
    $245M – Face / Off
    $222M – Jumper

    $173M – In Time
    $163M – The Island
    $127M – Predators
    $96M – Paycheck

    $78M – The Terminator
    $69M – Children Of Men
    $58M – Demolition Man
    $38M – The Running Man
    $32m – Blade Runner

    Did Sony really give ‘Total Recall’ a $200M budget?

    How much of that money made it onto the screen?

    • Quite a bit of the money can be seen on screen. I liked the look of the film and the high-tech sci-fi ideas they came up with. The movie is a bit stale though, but it looks great.

      • JM

        From the screenwriter of ‘Sphere,’ ‘Equilibrium,’ ‘The Recruit,’ ‘Ultraviolet,’
        ‘Law Abiding Citizen,’ ‘Salt,’ and coming soon… ‘Salt 2: Hypertension.’

        Was anybody expecting a great script to be handed to Mr. Underworld?

  7. Drew

    Unbelievable that 3 of the ‘Terminator’ films are in the top 4 “Dumb Sci-Fi” films of all time.

  8. Nick

    If you plan on seeing Total Recall this weekend, don’t.
    If you know of someone who plans on seeing Total Recall, talk them off the ledge.

    I can honestly say that was one of the singularly worst experiences I’ve ever had at a movie theater. For those worried about spoilers it doesn’t matter; you can’t re-spoil expired meat, the same applies to this film-like substance. I did not see a remake tonig…ht. To clarify it was in fact an UNmake; remake denotes a filmmaker’s attempt to alter the original source material in such a way it offers a potentially fresh perspective. This doesn’t happen; in fact, nearly 70% of the movie attempts to pantomime the original Verhoeven film. The alterations to the script; the merging of certain characters, the endless loose ends, the extra characters whose sole purpose is create a means of escape for our hero only to die so they don’t have to explain their motivations in the first place… all present. The one or two nods to the original film only serve to remind us how much better it was; THAT movie was fun and charming (largely because it always had this air that it wasn’t taking itself seriously, that and the one-liners), I laughed and rooted for Arnold, I cared what happened to the characters, I despised the villains… I felt nothing for this film; an all consuming pit from which no emotion escaped. Not once during all of the useless action sequences did I care what happened to anyone, good or bad (though they were all bad to be honest). The paper thin romance between the leads did nothing except keep the characters in the same scenes. The antagonists never divulged any real intent to lend credibility to their actions, they were just bad “because”. What followed was a weak “copy-paste” approach to scriptwriting that risks nothing and inspires likewise. Honestly the use of a robot army only reminded me of The Phantom Menace (which is not a compliment). On a personal note I feel bad for Bill Nighy, who clearly didn’t know what he was getting into and attempts desperately to infuse some weight into the five or six lines he delivers. Also shame on Len Wisemen for following a rather disturbing trend of letting your man-parts do the directing (I’m looking at you Paul W. S. Anderson and Tim Burton). Yes Kate Beckinsale is pretty, but that in no way gives you the right to pervert a film by subjecting us to countless banal scenes featuring your wife.
    When looking at a film you should remember WHY you see films to begin with; is it to escape, to enjoy, to feel something? Even bad films have redeeming qualities; something you enjoy about them and sometimes that is enough to excuse its faults. This movie on the other hand has nothing to offer you, if it inspires anything it would be disappointment. Should you choose to see it don’t say you weren’t warned.
    And Bryan Cranston beats out Bruce Willis for worst use of a wig in a film.

  9. Ted S.

    Saw this film Friday night, it bored me to death. Wiseman shot a beautiful looking film but it lacks originality, wit and humor. Seriously, he must’ve copied the look and feel of other sci-fi films that came out before this.

    I recommend seeing the original instead of this train wreck.

  10. David

    I saw the movie. I liked it. I agree with the review.

    The movie was too similar to other movies, I hoped for a more drastic vision.

    That being said, the movie was action-packed, and looked great. The sets, technology were all believable. I would like to see more in this environment, maybe a prequel?

    And, as a fan of the original, I loved the three-breasted prostitute!