Total Recall

First, forget Mars. I'm not trying to be cute; there's just no Mars in this version of the story. I found that kind of a letdown. The first part of the movie is still much the same as the original 1990 version, since they didn't get to Mars right away, and Colin Farrell does say once that he'd like to go to Mars, but it just isn't the same.

Colin Farrell (Phone Booth) here plays Douglas Quaid, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original, and yes, that is an odd juxtaposition. Sometimes you can see two actors playing the same part, but not so much here. The character was Douglas Quail in the short story that inspired both films, "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale," by Philip K. Dick, but in 1990 there was Dan Quayle, hence the name change. There isn't much of the original tale in either film, of course, except for the basic idea that in this world, memories can be artificially implanted, and that sometimes, this isn't always a good idea. I'd say it was never a good idea, but whatever floats your boat.

Quaid (he doesn't look like a Doug, but then neither did Schwarzenegger) wakes from a nightmare that has nothing whatsoever to do with Mars to find Kate Beckinsale of the Underworld series sleeping next to him. He doesn't tell her that his nightmare featured Jessica Biel of Planet 51 as his love interest, which, considering the temper Mrs. Quaid displays later is probably a wise move. She's still named Lori and Quaid's dream-girl is still named Melina, though she's in a different line of work.

She seems to be a professional resistance fighter, in fact, though I'm not sure how much money there is in that. Her boss, Bill Nighy from Wrath of the Titans, is Matthias, who's fighting the oppression of the United Federation of Britain. In the future, you see, after some sort of biochemical war, only two places on Earth are still habitable: what used to be Great Britain and what used to be Australia, which is now The Colony. Both are hideously overcrowded, unsurprisingly, though the UFB is still nicer. They have some trees. The Colony is a slum, and those who live there often work in the UFB, doing menial jobs that no one else wants to do.

Heck of a commute, right? Sadly, no one's invented transporters. Instead they have "The Fall", which sounds like an amusement park ride, which it sort of is, multiplied by a factor of a million or two. It's this giant cylindrical spaceship sort of thing full of seats that people strap into. Then the giant magnetic clamps holding it let go, and you drop neatly through the center of the Earth to reach your destination.

This is utterly impossible, of course, though I'm sure someone's already tried to patent the idea. Say you find a way to deal with the heat of the molten core (it's at least 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit). You've still got the problem of all that molten stuff spinning around at 1,000+ mph. Maybe they deal with that by moving even faster? The helpful computer voice informs passengers that their trip will take 17 minutes, which means they travel at about 464.7 miles per minute on average. That's 27,881 miles per hour, which is a lot higher than terminal velocity, so The Fall isn't just falling; it must also be accelerating. This doesn't seem to create any g-forces like a shuttle launch, so maybe they've got artificial gravity in the future, I don't know. Just don't invest your money in this great new travel possibility, that's all I'm saying.

Oh, the plot. Sorry. We still have the evil Cohaagen as the big bad guy, this time played by Bryan Cranston, who was also something of a bad guy in John Carter as Powell, Carter's captor on Earth, though he's much more evil here. There isn't any Richter equivalent; as you may have guessed from the trailers, Lori gets to do most of her own beating up and shooting and such. The best friend at work isn't an exact copy, either; he's Harry, played by Bokeem Woodbine, the guard from Devil. And none of them get to go to Mars.

Work, by the way, is making police officers. No, really. Police officers are slowly being replaced by synthetics, basically the robots from I, Robot, though here I think it might be possible to order them to kill. It's kind of a pastiche of a lot of sci-fi movies, actually, and at times it reminded me more of, say, Blade Runner than Total Recall the first, despite the fact that they made an obvious effort to include several of the most memorable parts of the first film. The setting is pure Blade Runner, certainly. I kept looking for Harrison Ford in the background.

Maybe effort is the problem here, because try as I might, I don't think I like it as much as the original, which almost doesn't make sense. Colin Farrell's a better actor than Arnold -- the prerecorded stuff with his character in the first film is almost painful, for instance -- and the 1990 special effects are doubtful, yet it's more fun to watch. I think the science is better, which can't hurt.

So three out of five, I think. That looks good. Three for this one, three and a half for the original. The acting here is top-notch, even when people have to do weird things like talk to their hands -- that's how people in the future avoid losing their phones -- and the effects are stellar, but something in the script or maybe the directing just doesn't work. I know, that's terribly vague. A real critic must have a better description of it somewhere out there. It wasn't a disaster, that's the point. I was entertained enough not to wonder when it would just end already. But I still wish someone had gotten to go to Mars.

Image: 
Quaid v. Quaid, past and present. And future, sort of.

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

There's something about 90s

There's something about 90s movies that makes them better than newer films. People still relied on massive sets, creature effects, and old school camera tricks to make fantastical scenes look believable.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

  • Allowed HTML tags: <abbr> <acronym> <address> <bdo> <blockquote> <del> <hr> <img> <ins> <pre> <q> <sub> <sup> <dl> <dt> <dd> <ul> <ol> <li> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <table> <caption> <col> <colgroup> <tbody> <td> <tfoot> <th> <thead> <tr> <b> <big> <cite> <code> <dfn> <em> <i> <kbd> <samp> <small> <strong> <tt> <var> <u> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options