Sunday, August 5, 2012

Total Recall (2012)

Colin Farrell doesn't get his ass to Mars in the remake of Total Recall
**1/2 out of ****

When I first found out they were making a new version of Total Recall with the PG-13 rating, I was like 'How are you ever going to show the prostitute with three boobs? It won't be allowed. This is going to suck!' But then it turned out that it's okay to show bare breasts in a PG-13 movie as long as they're prosthetic. So I got my three boobs and that makes it a good movie.

Not really. One of the worst things going for this needless remake of a bad-taste masterpiece, is the references to the original. The hooker with the three breasts didn't belong in this version of Total Recall! Like a lot of reboots and remakes of recent years, most movie-goers won't get the references to the original and everyone who does will more likely groan than chuckle. Okay, one reference in this movie made me chuckle, but it still removed me from the story and what was going on at that moment.

What's good about this movie? Well... actually, it has quite a bit going for it. To start off, you'd have to be a pretty bad filmmaker to screw up a plot this good. Just like the original, it draws inspiration from a short science-fiction story by Philip K. Dick set in the future with a man who goes to a clinic for a fake memory implant and doesn't know if the experiences that follow are real or not. And just like the original, it's a state-of-the-art special effects-driven action movie with the same characters, mostly of the same names, but the setting is different and the film's attitude is much more sincere. This had my eyes glued to the screen because even though it was following the passage of a story I knew, I wanted to see how it was executed this time around and for the first half, this movie was pretty cool to watch.

Then it took a nose-dive into the earth's core with an action finale that could have been predicted at the mid-way point when new plot material started making it's way in and eventually lead to sci-fi action at it's most boring. Yes my friends, an army of robots. Yawn.

Check out Kenneth Turan's review.

It gets worse when the movie is wrapping itself up and becomes confusing -and not in a profound science fiction way. The last couple scenes are so vague, that I can't help but suspect that this was due to last-minute re-writes and re-shoots. 

The screenwriters, Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback miss some great oportunities with this remake. Like maybe repairing the biggest failure of logic in the original: Scenes that are taking place outside the main character's experience.

In the original, there were several scenes with the villains talking about how they were going to capture the main character, Quaid. Unless you are assuming that Quaid could be dreaming about events he isn't witnessing, it kind of kills the ambiguity on whether he's dreaming or not. In the beginning of this version, every scene is from Quaid's perspective. Even when he visits Recall, he doesn't fall asleep while the technicians come to a scary realization about him. He's awake the whole time. But then the subjectivity is broken and it plays out in the same flawed way the original did. This story would have thrived on a subjective perspective! It could have also turned the original story on it's head in so many ways! Is there a creativity drought in the screenwriting world?

Director Len Wiseman has always struck me as a high-tech-action-director-for-hire. His perception of humanity seems a bit superficial, but he's no Michael Bay. He brings a similar style lacking the obnoxiousness with gorgeous women (one his wife) and the design of the futuristic environment in this film is just as sensational as Minority Report, The Fifth Element, or even Blade Runner. If you're a sucker for that kind of stuff like I am, it's worth seeing the movie for this element alone. Even though the plot device of the robots is pretty lame, the robots look great. They also invent a really cool concept for this movie called "The Fall": A skyscraper-sized elevator that takes Australian commuters to England through the earth's core! 

Ultimately, this is a remake that entertains with great sci-fi sensation until it falls flat on it's face leaving you wondering who's dumb idea it was to make it. 

Excuse me, I'm going to watch a cool movie where people's heads blow up on Mars.

Also check out Scott Tobias' review on The AV Club 

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