Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Movie Review – Total Recall 2012

  I went to see this movie the day I got back from the Jackson Open 2 weeks ago. Normally I would have waited until this film made it to DVD before seeing it but I was curious how one of my favorite films would fare in its remake.

  I consider the 1990 Total Recall one of the best movies ever made. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a timeless performance as Douglas Quaid, a man not knowing whether he is: a) who his memories say he is, b) is a rebel who has been brainwashed to hide the information he has stored in his mind, or c) a government agent who has been brainwashed into believing he is a rebel that has been brainwashed. Quaid’s trip to the Rekall center to have the memories of a ‘dream vacation’ implanted into his consciousness leads to an action packed movie in a glittering Earth of the future made possible by the colonization of the people of Mars. The movie contained lines and characters that became iconic (Johnny-Cab, ‘Consider this a divorce’, ’Two weeks…two weeks… Two weeks’, etc…). Even the mutants were unique with the rebel leader Kuato as a gelatinous half man who rises from another man’s stomach, the tri chested girl, and the cyclopean one-eyed man with his cyclopean one-eyed daughter. The action was non-stop and uniquely suited to Arnold’s movie persona as the strongest guy in the galaxy.

  The 2012 version of Total Recall is set in a post-apocalyptic world where chemical warfare leaves England and Australia as the only 2 habitable areas left on the planet. England is building an army of robotic soldiers and hatches a plot to invade Australia as soon as they can find the proper pretense. Into this mess steps the 21st century Douglas Quaid, played by Colin Farrell. Farrell commutes from his impoverished quarters in Australia to his job in England by the only mass transit available, a tunnel through the center of the earth called ‘The Fall’. Farrell travels to the Rekall center just as Arnold did 20 years ago and the movie is on with many of the same characters, all the action, and much of the plot with a few new twists.

  Part of Schwarzenegger’s movie greatness is that he is so cartoonishly massive that gets laughs just by being forced to put a towel around his head or holographically disguising himself as a woman. Farrell has none of Arnold’s bulk and is written and played in a much more serious tone for a much more serious earth. Instead of leading the chase to Mars to find the rebel mutants, Farrell unwittingly leads the English shock troops to a toxic France to Matthias, the non-mutant resistance leader who hopes to recover the secret ‘kill’ code in Quaid’s brain that will shut down the robotic army.

  Aside from Farrell and his ‘wife’ played by Underworld’s leather-clad vampirella Kate Beckinsale, the other main characters came from the cast-off bin. Chancellor Cohaagen is played by ‘Malcolm in The Middle’ dad Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel is Quaid’s dream girl Melina, Matthias by the guy who played Davy Jones in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, and the mysterious agent helping Quaid out is John Cho from Harold and Kumar fame (as well as Sulu from the new Star Trek).

  Cranston is surprisingly physical and active for the leader of a country with an army at his disposal, but Beckinsale steals the movie as the agent who was forced to play Quaid’s wife and live in their dirty apartment in Australia in order to keep tabs on him. She tries to kill Quaid in every way imaginable (fists, feet, guns, flying cars, and trickery) except by killing him with kindness. Beckinsale looks more weathered than in the ‘Underground’ films but is heartless and vicious and plays the best villainess I’ve seen since Kate Nuata as Lola in Transporter 2.

  This film is so completely different from the 1990 version that I’m sure they only bothered to keep the names of the characters or any of the basic plot elements in order to lure devotees of the original film like me to go see it. There were 2 homages paid to the original film (the tri-chested girl and a ‘Fall’ traveler saying ‘2 weeks’) but if the movie wasn’t called ‘Total Recall’ and the memory implant parlor was given a different name other than ‘Rekall’, I doubt I would have found the movie very similar to the original.

  As its own movie, I think ‘Total Recall 2012’ is very attractive and marginally worth going to the movie theatre instead of waiting for Redbox. The plot has plenty of twists and turns, Beckinsale give a great performance, and Farrell is a passable action hero. Since the creators of the movie gave it the same name to make a few extra dollars, they must risk comparison to the original movie and in my opinion it doesn’t hold a candle to it. As far as action heroes go, Arnold is in a class by himself - the only modern day actors that can come close to him are Jason Statham and Vin Diesel (in my opinion). The action and special effects are modern day, but there is nothing to compare to the freakish mutants of the original and the Martian landscape and alien machines. The only area the new version surpasses the original is in the amount of profanity (both versions have plenty). If you’ve seen Total Recall 2012 without seeing the original, I recommend heading to the Wal-Mart or Family Video, picking up a copy, and treating yourself to a true classic.