Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Total Recall Review


Total Recall is a 1990 film directed by Paul Verhoeven starring Arnold Shwarzenegger based on the short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Phillip K. Dick. So basically the King of Science Fiction, the man who directed freaking Robocop and Arnold Freaking Schwarzenegger made a movie...and yes it was pretty awesome. Seriously, maybe its a bit silly at points, but its an inventive movie and its a hell of a ride. So when I heard they were going to remake it I wasn't all that excited. But then they announced Len Wiseman was directing and I got kind of interested. Then they announced it was going to star Colin Farrell and Kate Bekinsale and I was even more interested. But then the kicked...Bryan Cranston as the bad guy? I'm sold.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is an everyday common man factory worker...except for his rouge handsome features...oh and his smoking hot wife Lori (Kate Bekinsale). He finds his life boring and uninteresting and wants more out of it. So he goes to the company Rekall to have false memories placed into his brain despite the warnings of his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine). The procedure is done (or is it?) and its revealed that Quaid is a spy (or is he?) and therefore implanting spy memories in his head would be bad. Robots come in, Quaid kills them all and what follows is and hour and 45 minutes of chase scenes, action, and plot. Along the way a new love interest is introduced in Melina (Jessica Beil) who knew Quaid before Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) covered up his memories and gave him the false life he was leading.

This movie isn't really a remake of the 1990 version. Its more of an adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick short story. It cuts out the Mars thing and instead substitutes it with two colonies on Earth, United Federation of Britain (UFB) and The Colony, which is Australia. Strangely, with a movie who's two primary locations are England and Australia almost everyone speaks with an American accent.

The action scenes in this movie are awesome. The chase scenes are extensive, but not in running time. They don't last too long to where they get old and boring, but they're not too short. They're just the right length and boast some pretty impressive stunt work. The action scenes, again, boast impressive stunt work and have great visuals. There's a particularly cool one in a zero gravity environment. The visuals are awesome with the futuristic city looking cool and there's alot of neat future technology. It has several callbacks to the 1990 version, usually by just a couple lines of dialogue, but the three titted prostitute does make an appearance.

Roger Ebert mentioned in his review that he liked the first film more because Arnold has a stronger screen presence than Colin Farrell and why I do think that's true, I think Farrell works in his role. He's unassuming and lost. He has very little of an idea what's going on most of the time and as an audience we can relate to that. While I agree that Arnold has a much stronger presence I think Colin Farrell is a better actor and portrays the character with more subtlety. Personally I like Bekinsale in the role of Quaid's "wife" more than Sharon Stone and Jessica Beil  does a decent job as well. The big kicker is Bryan Cranston. Bryan Cranston is a beast, anyone who has ever watched Breaking Bad knows this. He's not really in it a whole lot which completely works because he doesn't overstay his welcome and when he is there he's excellent.

There's a few scenes in particular which I think this movie did better than the 1990 version, the biggest one being the scene where Farrell (or Schwarzenegger) has to figure out whether what's happening is real or not. While the 1990 version did a fine job at it I like this one more because the way it's shot and acted out displays a much bigger sense of urgency. You can see Farrel figuring it out in his movements and expressions. Another scene I like more in the new one is the scenes were Farrell finds recordings of himself. The first one being on a laptop in a safety deposit box and the other being in his abandoned apartment. Again the laptop scene in this film is done with more urgency the filmed Farrell doesn't have alot of time to make his message and its clearly rushed. The second scene in his apartment where he finds like a per-recorded hologram that can only answer certain questions (like out of I,Robot) is one I really enjoyed because I am, if anything, a sucker for beautiful piano. I also think the action and chase scenes are done better in the new film if only because they're bigger and more amazing to watch. Also Len Wiseman is, if anything, a great action director. He utilizes editing very well with shots lasting long enough so you know whats happening,but not too long where the choreography looks fake (a problem that plagued The Last Airbender like cancer).

Overall I can't really say which film I liked better. They're both good in their own rights and again I would argue that the new version (despite the references to the 1990 version) isn't really a remake, but a stand alone adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick story both films are based on. I would argue that Len Wiseman is a better director than Verhoeven (at least where action is concerned), but there's a certain charm to the Arnold and Verhoeven film. Either way this movie was alot better than I expected. The acting is good, the writing is good, the direction is great. The action and chase scenes are pretty exceptional and the visuals are fantastic. Its not a perfect movie, but its a great action movie and as far as summer blockbuster movies go its above average.

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