Speculative Fiction Friday: Total Recall, the 2012 Colin Farrell version

Total-recall-titleLast summer, When I heard that they had made a new version of Total Recall, my first thought was “why”? I then did a video search of scenes from the original 1990 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I can see the reasoning.

The original 1990 version looks very dated now. It looks like a lot of early nineties TV shows, like Babylon 5, and looks far too…colorful. The effects have not passed the test of time, like Arnold’s classic Terminator 2.

Total Recall has a pretty high concept for an action film. Both films feature Douglas Quaid, who is an ordinary man who wants to go on a “virtual vacation”. Apparently in the future, they can implant a memory of a vacation without you actually going somewhere. Not only that, this company Recall can implant a memory of some spy thriller where you are the hero.

The hero of both films, Douglas Quaid, is an ordinary working man who goes to this Recall place for his virtual vacation, and this somehow triggers a new set of memories. From there, everyone, including his wife, is after him for some reason, and Quaid has to find out why by following whatever remnant of memory is left, along with clues his past-self left behind.

Total Recall is essentially a high-tech, science-fiction amnesia story, which is quite popular in most video games. The advantage is obvious for video games, as the player enters the empty head of an individual who must go through a series of trials to find out his/her true identity. The original Total Recall came out before this type of storyline had been done to death, and the future it showed was imaginative back then. Sadly, dystopian futures have also been done to death, and they can be done easier with computer graphics.

The original film was done by Paul Verhoeven, who also directed Robocop, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man, Basic Instinct, and the NC-17 classic, Showgirls. As you might have guessed, Verhoeven favors scenes of sex and violence in his films, and I would have to say that he probably overdoes it. Mix that with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it is pretty easy to forget that the original Total Recall actually has a very intelligent premise, especially when the main character goes to Mars.

In the newest Total Recall, the main character doesn’t go to Mars, but the premise seems almost harder to believe. In this version, the air of Earth has been polluted except in two places, Great Britain and Australia (or “The Colony”). I don’t understand why these two areas are somehow safe, and I don’t think anything short of force-fields could do that. By the way, these two last cities are connected by a train that goes through the Earth. Well, I have to admit that I have never seen that before in a movie.

Yeah, I will have to admit that there are some things that the new Total Recall does right. I have a hard time believing that Arnold can play an ordinary guy as he does the barbarian and robot really, really well. Colin Farrell really feels like an ordinary man who would want to a virtual vacation, and therefore feel the need to go to Recall. Now, when Farrell goes crazy at Recall, he ends up looking like Jason Bourne. Eventually, Farrell realizes he has to get his memory back and this leads him not to Mars, but Great Britain.

I like the way the future world looks in this film, and if you see the image, you’ll see how the city is kind of stacked up on itself. This leads to a great chase scene, and then there is another chase scene with magnetic cars that is a more high-octane version of Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Considering that Total Recall and Minority Report are based on short stories by the same author, Phillip K. Dick, it is a little more than coincidence. The tech in both movies also looks very similar.

For the first hour of the 2012 Total Recall, I actually thought I was seeing a superior copy of the 1990 version. Then something bad happened in the last half-hour of the film as it tried to explain itself far too much. The plots of either versions don’t really make sense to me.

I always felt that Total Recall, either version, has the potential to be as deep as the movie Inception, but Total Recall kind of blows it with pointless action. My impression of the movie Inception is that if you start created realities for yourself, you will eventually lose track of it. This is somewhat similar to Total Recall, but anything deeper in theme must be somehow inserted in by the viewer.

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