‘Total Recall’ remake totally unnecessary

Article Published: Aug. 9, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 9, 2012
‘Total Recall’ remake totally unnecessary

Colin Farrell stars in ‘Total Recall.’

“See you at the party, Richter!”

“Come on, Cohaagen, you got what you want. Give those people air!”

“Get your ass to Mars!”

“What about the guy you lobotomized? Did he get a refund?”

You know, I could spend a whole 90 minutes reciting Arnold Schwarzenegger lines from 1990’s “Total Recall,” and it’d still be more fun than the 2012 remake.

Director Paul Verhoeven’s original sci-fi classic packs quite an entertaining punch – an R-rated, ultra-violent, gore-infused, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, thrillingly fun and surprisingly cerebral Arnold flick (as far as cerebral Arnold flicks go).

Director Les Wiseman’s (“Live Free or Die Hard”) take on the story, loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” is the neutered version.

Sitting comfortably in the confines of a safe PG-13 rating and surrounded by slick — and rather decent — special effects, the 2012 effort lacks any semblance of character, wit and originality.

Google “unnecessary remake,” and you’ll find this. Wiseman’s “Total Recall” doesn’t just acknowledge that it’s based on another film – it blares it in the audience’s face, shedding any identity of its own for more than a few references to the original. While Wiseman has changed the setting a bit – nobody gets their ass to Mars – the storyline follows all the same plot points of Verhoeven’s film, offering no surprises and, subsequently, no thrills for anyone who’s seen the 1990 version.

For those who haven’t, these plot points seem arbitrary at best, more like an afterthought to pass the time between multiple high-tech chase scenes, some of which could have been exciting, had the film’s writers crafted characters worth caring about.

The whole mind-bending “is it real” concept takes the backseat, as Wiseman assaults the senses with special effects – pulled liberally from other Philip K. Dick-based features, like “Blade Runner” and “I, Robot” – and watered-down action.

Like its protagonist, the film suffers from an identity crisis and feels more like a vehicle for Wiseman’s wife, Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld”), who fills the Sharon Stone role, only expanded to include more Kate Beckinsale.

It’s actually about her character’s husband, Quaid (Colin Farrell, “In Bruges”), who works a dead-end job in a dystopian future.

In the late 21st century, the Earth is rendered mostly uninhabitable after some devastating chemical warfare, leaving only two safe zones in which humans can survive. As such, living space has become the No. 1 commodity, creating a class struggle between those who live in the country formerly known as Great Britain – now a haven for the privileged and upper class – and the denizens of former Australia – now called “The Colony” and home to the underprivileged, everyday joes.

Each day, workers commute to Britain via “The Fall,” a sort of high-tech subway that short-cuts through the Earth’s core, where they slave away the hours, building robots intended to eventually replace them.

Quaid, however, dreams of something more and pays a visit to Rekall, a company that creates artificial memories for those who can’t afford to make their own. Choosing a package that would have him remember an adventure as a super-spy, Quaid begins the procedure, only to be interrupted by a squad of well-armed police officers and their robot counterparts.

Apparently, his memory had already been erased, prompting the authorities – led by the crooked Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston, TV’s “Breaking Bad”) – to contain the situation before Quaid can discover his true identity, something that might have to do with helping out a band of revolutionaries led by the enigmatic (or so we’re told) Matthias (Bill Nighy, “Shaun of the Dead”).

Without knowing how, Quad singlehandedly disarms and kills most of his assailants, only to learn that his wife, Lori (Beckinsale), is also in on it – and on the wrong side. Wearing a perpetual glower, she relentlessly pursues him throughout the city – from rooftop chases to flying car chases to elevator chases to giant subway chases – only for Quaid to wind up with Melina (Jessica Biel, “The Illusionist”), a freedom fighter who fills him in on the situation.

But is this real, or is it all part of Quaid’s memory implant? The movie doesn’t seem to care, content with following the necessary plot points in order to feature another Becksinsale fight scene.

She delivers, though, at least having some fun in her role, whereas Farrell seems to have shed any semblance of charisma for his. It’s not entirely his fault, though, as his character was written without any character. Schwarzenegger’s take on the role was not only bulked up, but fleshed out, giving us a hero to root for and cheer on through his interplanetary quest/rampage for the truth.

Verhoeven brought the 1980s action movie archetype into the ’90s, proving that action needn’t always be mindless. In many ways, it’s a tent-pole film for that decade-straddling era, representing a time when movies of its ilk had cojones.

Wiseman’s “Total Recall” is also indicative of an era – the PG-13-ification of Hollywood, which boils down to marketing to the widest audience possible, never minding the filmmaker’s vision or source material.

“Total Recall,” rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 12-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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