Saturday, 9 February 2013

Total Recall 2012: or "We can dumb it down for you wholesale"

2 Out Of 5 Stars

Clearly Len Wiseman wanted to remake another P.K. Dick story turned film, Blade Runner. Instead he remade Total Recall. Maybe he got the stories confused? Maybe he couldn't get the rights to remake Blade Runner. Maybe he thought better than to risk remaking a better directors film? Who knows, but he remade Total Recall and now we must all suffer. The odd thing of course is that 1990's Total Recall isn't as good a movie as film fans memories or nostalgia for late 80's kitsch movies staring the ex-governor of California, and general misogynist, Big Arni make it out to be. Like many of P.K.Dick's weird and wonderful stories, it has yet to filmed adequately.  So Wiseman's job, and with a budget of  $125,000,000, should have been made easy. But no. Even after hiding it in enough lens flair to make J. J. Abrams  blush, he still manages to make a flat, unintelligent and simply boring mess. Oh, well.

Guess what? At the end of a 21st century a global war devastates the earth, leaving much of it uninhabitable. Honest! But, not to worry, for some strange reason both the UK and Australia are OK. Maybe the orchestrator's of the final world war just liked "Neighbours" and "Coronation Street"  and felt that destroying the homes of both series would leave them with only re-runs to watch?  Or maybe they had holiday homes in both countries? Your guess is as good as mine but there you have it.

Most of the jobs and economic wealth are in the UK. Sorry, I mean "The United Federation of Britain - UFB). This means those poor sods from Australia - sorry I mean The Colony -  must travel to the UK each day to mindless and dangerous jobs working in factories making robot policemen that the UK then uses to suppress Australians further. Why? Again who knows. Maybe Coronation Street is more popular than Neighbours?

One of those working stiffs is  Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell). He has to travel from Australia to the UK every day on a device known as the the Fall", a "gravity elevator", which travels through the Earth's core between Australia and the UK - very quickly. Sadly, "The Fall" (not to be confused with a rather interesting British indie band)  seems to have little purpose but to set things up for a rather standard action sequence in the third act. Handy that.

Not surprisingly, Quaid is rather bored of this commutator run everyday, his equally boring job and one assumes his economic suppression by those evil Brits (who oddly are all American and speak with American accents - as do all of the Australians). So he visits an outfit called Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories. Its owner tells him that he can implant any memory he wants and whatever memory is implanted Quaid will believe he has had and experienced.  Now he will have some happy memories while taking that commutator ride every day and screwing robots together that are at the same time part of the cause of his economic repression. Who wouldn't? You? Well, you clearly don't star in a film scripted by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback who have taken an intriguing short story and idea, originally carefully crafted by Philip K Dick and turned it into the drivel you have been reading about so far. Anyway, back to the plot.

Quaid wants to remember being a spy. Not any old spy mind, but a double agent super spy - as you do. Easy, says Rekall and they make it so - or do they? As he is being injected for his memory implants he discovers he is a super-spy, his memories having been erased, that his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is also a spy but an evil one set to keep an eye on him by  UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston - who camps it up wonderfully and is clearly the only person aware of the nonsense he is in). And so, as they no doubt say in the publicity material somewhere, a journey for one man to discover the truth and fight for justice begins. There is also the possibility that none of it is real and Quaid is suffering from a psychotic delusion caused by a misfire in the Rekall process. Alas, this is handled more poorly than in the original movie and no one really cares - least of all the audience by the end.

So how do I know that Wiseman really wanted to remake Blade Runner? Because "the Colony" is a big budget, faithful and rather convincing re-imaging of Scotts future LA from that movie.  Its rather good actually. And makes the first act rather interesting. It thus  makes it so much worse when,  in the second act we travel to the UK which looks like the UK now - but with the odd hover car. Its boring, flat and so is the script, acting, art direction and directing in this, long, oh so long, section. Not only does it look like a different movie but it looks like Wiseman lost interest in directing it and left it all-up to a poor second unit director to manage. Maybe he did - the lens flare, certainly becomes conspicuous by its absence in this act. And alas the script follows the same pattern. The final act - and return to "the Colony - improves things a little but things never return to the opening acts far better realized conception.

If you must watch this movie then walk out after the first act, go for a bit to eat and at the very most return for the final act. You'll be less disappointed. Alternatively don't go back, but watch the first act, go to Rekall and ask them to implant the memories of a decent second and third act instead.  Clearly I couldn't afford that last option - or did I???


Directed by Len Wiseman
Produced by Neal H. Moritz
Toby Jaffe
Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer
Mark Bomback
Story by Ronald Shusett
Dan O'Bannon
Jon Povill
Kurt Wimmer
Based on We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by
Philip K. Dick
Starring Colin Farrell
Kate Beckinsale
Jessica Biel
Bryan Cranston
John Cho
Bill Nighy
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Paul Cameron
Editing by Christian Wagner
Studio Original Film
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • August 3, 2012
Running time 118 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $125,000,000[2]
Box office $198,467,168[3]