As you may recall, or even Rekall, the troubled hero of the original “Total Recall,” played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, goes to a brain-bending establishment called Rekall Inc. to buy a virtual vacation, one that’s all in the mind. Now it’s Colin Farrell who goes to the same company, where he’s told, in the same spirit of dangerously genial salesmanship: “We’ll provide you with a complete set of memories all your own.”
For those of us who saw the original, the problem with watching this totally dehumanized remake, which was directed by Len Wiseman, is that we, too, have a set of memories all our own: specific memories of the 1990 movie—which was clever and playful, as well as exciting and hugely impactful—and general memories of a time when going to see an action adventure could be giddy fun.
The basic plot has been retained. (So has the hooker who flashes her three breasts, in case you were wondering.) After something goes horribly wrong during the memory-implant session, the hero, Douglas Quaid, finds himself caught up in an epic battle he doesn’t understand at first, and struggles to figure out who he really is. Unlike the original, which was set in the future both on Earth and on a Mars that’s either real or a dream, the new one takes place entirely on an Earth that’s staggering under the load of overpopulation and really bad weather—”Blade Runner” meets Malthus.
To give the new version its due, the visuals are great, especially if you’re partial to oppressiveness: a Londonesque megalopolis thrust skyward in a jumble of shifting platforms and seemingly infinite tiers; a spectacular—though also interminable—hover-car chase; multilevel leaps, preposterous crash landings, soulless interior spaces that make Hong Kong’s malls seem warm and cozy by comparison. (The production was designed by Patrick Tatopoulos, and photographed by Paul Cameron.)
But alas, this movie wasn’t made for us. The state of the movie business has been transformed by globalization. Foreign sales are now where the main action is. International moviegoers respond more reliably to action, and the bedazzlements of production design, than to character or dialogue, let alone to humor, which translates chancily, if at all, into other languages. In that context, the new “Total Recall” is not only instructive, but possessed of a perverse purity. Almost everything but the action has been distilled out.
Total Recall opens this weekend, the first in August.
For the full review READ HERE.