Total Recall – Pointless Remake

Country: United States
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Director: Len Wiseman
Year: 2012

Rating: ★½☆☆☆


Remaking Total Recall is an iffy proposition at best; the original director, Paul Verhoeven, is a tough act to follow. Why risk comparisons when they’re unlikely to be favorable?

There are two reasons I can think of to remake Total Recall. One is purely financial. The material drew in the crowds once; it might again for a new generation. That’s a lousy reason to make a movie. The other reason makes some artistic sense. The star of the original, Arnold Schwartzenegger, isn’t much of an actor, and was miscast in the bargain as a secret agent. The star of the remake is Colin Farrell, who can act, and might conceivably be a spook.

Verhoeven was forced to make a pop science fiction movie because of his star. A more realistic thriller might have been possible with a better actor in the lead.

If that was director Len Wiseman’s reasoning, he blew it big time. First off, the emphasis is so much on big loud action sequences, they didn’t need a real actor. In fact, having someone with Schwartzenegger’s curious charisma would have actually helped. Colin Farrell may be able to act, be he isn’t the star that Arnold is. In fact, none of the actors in the remake has the star wattage of the original actors. Other than Arnold, the original Total Recall had a marvelous cast: Michael Ironside, Ronny Cox, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin. The new actors barely register against the noise of the set design.

Oh, about that set design. It’s a straight up ripoff of Blade Runner, except less logical and much more busy. The action sequences don’t seem like they’re happening in a real space; they feel much more like a video game. In fact, I never felt like I was seeing a real world.

So, the characters feel like ciphers because the film is all action all the time, like the director is afraid that the dolts in the audience will get bored if a gun isn’t being fired every five seconds or so. The set design isn’t convincing AND derivative, so we don’t have the satisfaction of visiting an unfamiliar world.

The action sequences don’t seem real, so there is no feeling of jeopardy.

The new screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback lacks the wit of the original by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, and Gary Goldman.

Frankly, the new Total Recall is just terrible. They should have left well enough alone.

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