May 07, 2013

Live-Tweeting New TOTAL RECALL Gives Me Moronic Deja Vu

"The past is just a mental construct."
Hollywood is littered with sub-par adaptations of Phillip K. Dick's written work.  While I'm rather fond of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, the cream of the PKD crop has always been Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Paul Veerhoeven's Total Recall, based on the Dick stories Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, respectively.  Maybe some of these adaptations wouldn't suck so hard if they properly embraced Dick's amazing penchant for titles.  I'll be watching Blade Runner soon enough, but Total Recall is a longtime favorite of mine, as my dad happened to own it on VHS when I was a kid.  Recall came in the midst of a decade of incredible success for director Paul Veerhoeven.  Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers...holy crap what a streak.  Some people would dispute my inclusion of those last two movies.  Those people are wrong.

Not only is Total Recall full of great performances from Arnold, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside and Ronnie Fucking Cox, but it features all kinds of badass practical effects courtesy of the infamous Rob Bottin.  Decompression Face, Ping Pong Nose and Fake Lady Head (not to mention Kuato himself) absolutely sear themselves into your brain pan.  There's also a great collection of memorable supporting characters like Benny the cab driver ("I've got five kids to feed!") that really help build out a distinctive impression of Mars.  Plus I dare you to watch the movie and not find yourself compulsively shouting in your best Arnie voice, "Come on Cohagen, GIVE THOSE PEOPLE AIR!"  This is Veerhoeven at his lunatic best.

Last summer's remake from director Len Wiseman commits two cardinal sins: it doesn't bring anything new to the table, and it's fucking BOOOOOOORING.  Actually, the two sins really merge into one huge sinkhole of terrible.  Not only is the basic plot exactly the same, but characters are constantly going out of their way to spell everything out for you ten minutes in advance.  The film makes one major change and it's a terrible one: the Martian backdrop has been abandoned in favor of a post-apocalyptic Earth in which the only habitable areas are the United Federation of Britain and The Colony, a.k.a. Australia.  The only means of transportation between the two locations is The Fall, a sort of subterranean bullet train that flips its gravitational field when it passes through the Earth's core.  Sure, there are flying cars and robot stormtroopers, but the rest of the moving parts are effectively identical.

The cast is full of people I genuinely like giving "I'm getting paid by the scene, right?"-caliber performances, including Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston.  Since we're not on Mars there aren't any mutants* which means that Matthias, the rebel leader played by Bill Nighy (who's barely on screen long enough pick up a SAG meal voucher) tragically does not have a tiny person growing out of his stomach.  I'm also pretty sure that all of his dialogue was transcribed from fortune cookies, for whatever that's worth.  Since this is a Len Wiseman movie, Kate Beckinsale takes over the Sharon Stone role, although she gets loads more screentime than Stone ever did.  Perks of being married to the director I guess.  I'm using the term "perks" very loosely here.

Much like the prequel to The Thing, I remain baffled as to the thought process of those who gave this movie the green light.  There's simply no way you're going to improve upon the original, so the only advantage here seems to be the guarantee that marketable stars and a familiar title will put asses in the seats.  But there's clearly no artistic or intellectual inspiration at work here, so the idea of remaking Total Recall seems misguided at best.  The finished film does nothing to dissuade me of that notion.

Live-tweet rantings follow below:


Don't bother with this mindless dreck.  You can buy Veerhoeven's original work of genius for $10 on blu-ray right here, right now.

You have no excuse.

*although there is a three-breasted lady, BECAUSE OF COURSE THERE IS!

Title: Total Recall
Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine, John Cho
Year Of Release: 2012
Viewing Method: Starz HD

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