Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Totally Missed Opportunity

A decent cast and outstanding visual effects can't save this remake of a Sci-Fi classic from itself. 


ARTH VADER (AV): This movie was fun to watch, Pontificator. I say it that way because after I say that, this movie deviates so dramatically from the original short story it is based on I have to cry foul. It barely references the VERY good (and memorable) 1990 film starring action titan, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sad.

Originally published as a short story in 1966 in a science fiction magazine by author Philip K. Dick , under the original title; "We can remember it for you Wholesale", so even the title is a detraction. Since the original story (1966) was about a construction worker on Earth who wants to have a (false) memory of a trip to Mars implanted into his psyche. When we fast forward to 2012, this movie looses all sense of the story's original plot. It also looses it's way by losing the off-world direction by keeping the story on Earth. In fact, 'losing it's way' is a good way to summarize this latest movie.

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): You are treasure trove of information Vader! I had no knowledge of the original short story, so the only continuity discussion for me has to involve the first film of the same name. The only question that needs to be asked is if it retains the same story and/or elements of it’s predecessor. The short answer is yes, it contains many elements of the first film, but the story has been slightly altered. Well... by slightly I mean they’ve swapped out Mars in favor of staying on Earth and traveling through the core. On second thought... that’s a significant story change since that made the goal of the antagonist completely different in each film. Sigh... this review is going to get complicated.


The cast of Total Recall was impressive, Ponty. In as much, I gotta' give a nod of recognition to Sci-Fi movie maven, Kate Beckinsale. This of course makes this movie infinitely more watchable for me! Unfortunately, that is where the attraction stopped for me. Even the addition of villain extraordinaire, Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame, the always intelligent and lovely Jessica Beile and even hunky leading boy Colin Farrell couldn't really make this movie matter. Flat characterizations, shoddy dialogue and poor story progression made this movie one heck of a shoulder shrug.

TP: I think Colin Farrell has hit or miss performances depending on the subject and script, and this film was s definite miss... although I don’t think his performance was all that bad. Kate Beckinsale is always a pleasure to see and I found her performance to convey an aura of lethality and menace as she was relentless in her pursuit of Quaid. Jessica Biel wasn’t a stand out, but I think much of that has to do with the script. Bokeem Woodbine is always fun to watch for me, and although his role was cursory, he had the one scene that seems to stand out in the minds of fans (from reading many of the movie fan sites). The directing was at blistering speed, and I think this hurt the movie more than help it... and although the cast wasn’t bad, if you’re going to remake a Schwarzenegger classic, you’ve got to do better than this.

I couldn't recommend a better-looking Sci-Fi movie–from a visual effects standpoint–than this film. The stunning near-future cityscape is some of the best I think I have seen onscreen. The best robot-android effects seen since "I Robot" (2008) and some compelling near-future technology. Even the grossly unrealistic "Fall" ship was expertly rendered onscreen. I really felt I was viewing a futuristic London with hover ships and magnetic freeways. I wish the same could be said for the actual story and characters…although it did have Kate Beckinsale!

TP: This is the one area that the movie totally excelled in. The special effects were great. There was so much here from the look of the world to the phone embedded in the hand, that I scarcely know where to begin. The CGI was excellent also, and this film was a perfect example of taking all that has been done before, and doing it flawlessly. There need not be any new ground broken with effects if all the lessons have been learned, and the final product looks like a fantasy come-to-life. Almost every shot was laden with effects of one type or another... and try as I might, I can’t lodge a single complaint in this department.


This movie was ultimately doomed to failure, Pontificator. The original published short story unveiled a troubled and bored mind that wanted a memory of a Martian adventure. This movie completely ignored that original concept and instead shared some half-cocked story about a random, converted terrorist guy who gets his memories re-activated. Lame. Also, can we discuss this whole "Fall" business? I mean, really? A commuter rail that connects the English Isles to Australia…uh, I mean "The Colony"? So in 90 years after a CHEMICAL war devastates the Earth (because we apparently forgot about all the nukes) humans can only live in two places that are magically untouched by this 'chemical' devastation. And those two place are accessible to each other via a giant subterranean tube. Oh and don't worry, weather doesn't effect the contamination from these deadly toxic poisons. If the chemicals traveled with the wind, why… that would just be RUDE! Good thing we didn't go with the whole Martian storyline guys, I mean, it's not like NASA has sent working motorized robot probes and satellites there or anything. Good call, there!

TP: There seems to be a trend forming of remakes to Schwarzenegger films... with dismal results. Conan was a flop, and this film follows suit, despite the effects, for the same reason Conan failed. You just can’t do Arnold better than Arnold.

Gone are the one liners, gone are the colorful and bigger than life characters (anyone remember Benny...he had five kids to feed?), gone is the careful care taken to make a decent script, and therefore a good movie. The original has plenty of action and comedy to keep the audience dazzled and laughing. This film had special effects at every turn, and not much else. A devastated Earth where the upper class take advantage of the less fortunate...hmmm, I’ve seen this one before, recently (Hunger Games). At least the first film had the intrigue of going to another planet, and the curiosity of the alien machinations to build technology that would make Mars livable. If I were discussing this film in the context of just it’s presentation, I could be kinder, but my hand has been forced since they chose to follow in the footsteps of one of the sci-fi greats... and their feet just don’t measure up.

I’m still on the fence about if the original is a dream or real... and that was great writing. In this film I’m convinced it was real since Farrell had been dreaming of Biel in a specific way, long before he ever set foot in ReKall... whereas Arnold picked his fantasy on the spot at Recall, and then events unfolded per those specifications. The argument made through the film was much more convincing in 1990 than in 2012.


This movie isn't bad but ultimately it's quite forgettable, even though it stars Kate Beckinsale. What would be cool is for someone to use a ReKall machine and extract the memory of having ever watched this train wreck. Then when someone wants to make a serious re-make of this story, I will be able to say "Oh, nice idea, maybe it could even rival the Arnold version from 1990. Sweet idea!

TP: No need to make one...and very little desire to see one from the general public I’d suspect. In truth, this film should have went in another direction with the elements they had in place than a remake of the original. To mess with a classic was their first mistake, and I see no reason to compound that with another go at it. Here is a hint to all that would seek to remake anything Arnold Schwarzenegger has done: Don’t.


Arth Vader rates Total Recall (2012):
This movie is nowhere near as bad as my critique indicates. It is certainly worth a viewing, but you certainly don't need to see it on the big screen and by no means do you need to bring an analytical–or functioning–brain. The movie looks good and is certainly jam-packed with terrific action scenes. Just don't search for cohesive thoughts that make sense or a sense of meaning to a meaningless story. Total recall is a total disappointment that is not a total loss (Kate Beckinsale). After all is said and done, I still feel compelled to offer this film five busted blocks, though for the life of me, I can't seem to recall why.

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Total Recall (2012): Apart from the special effects, there is very little about this movie I’d like to recall... and think it totally missed the mark for a great movie or even a good remake. Special effects does not a movie make, and this one only busted five blocks... totally.

Total Recall (2012): 5/10 Busted Blocks

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