I usually like remakes. I give them a chance, and they automatically don’t get shat on just because the original may be a classic or personally beloved. My point is that I’m always open to any remake, whether it’s been two years, ten, or in this case, 22. One of our most anticipated movies of the year, Total Recall is director Len Wiseman’s redo of Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi classic, not only one of my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, but one of my favorite movies of all time. I didn’t expect this remake to be anywhere near as awesome as Verhoeven’s violent version, but the trailer did look visually promising. I had hoped that the remake would actually remake something important, e.g. the plot, and throw something mind-blowing or twisty to separate itself from the original and imprint its own identity. I guess I was dreaming.
Although not an outright nightmare, the new Total Recall is totally unnecessary. Besides the updated but somewhat generic visual makeover and special effects from the original’s Oscar-winning visual effects, I can confidently say that there’s nothing profound in the remake that’s done better. Nearly everything that was memorable in 1990’s Total Recall is unexceptional and/or forgettable in 2012’s. The plot, the protagonist, the mastermind, the resistance leader, the setting… all boring.
The remake’s opening sequence was forebodingly unremarkable compared to the original’s terrifying introduction. I’ve already forgotten every bit of Harry Gregson-Williams’ music; all I can remember is a short part from the trailer and Jerry Goldsmith’s award-winning score from over two decades ago. Making both women brunettes dulled the remake’s already neutered construction of Doug’s spy fantasy, which should have been more of a key factor in the suspenseful and mind-f@%&ing paranoia that defined the original. The remake barely played around with this; it seemed like it was simply a bullet point on a to-do list that was checked off. Finally…
… the anticlimactic conclusion was such a letdown, especially compared to the original’s Inception-like ending. The remake dropped the ball here because it had a golden opportunity to make the entire mind-rewind-trip worth it. After all that neat Rekall viral marketing, they could’ve (and should’ve) topped it off with a “IS IT REAL? IS IT RECALL?” stinger, but they didn’t.
Colin Farrell (seen recently in Horrible Bosses, our pick for 2011’s best comedy, and the Fright Night remake, one of 2011’s biggest surprises), tries to step into Arnold’s huge shoes and leads a could’ve-been-anybody cast that includes Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, and John Cho. Fresh off Underworld: Awakening, Kate Beckinsale may be the hottest living 39-year-old, and I love listening to that accent (a nice change in this movie by the way), but she’s not nearly as menacing or deadly as Sharon Stone’s femme fatale.
The new Total Recall is as forgettable as the original is memorable. Despite the remake feeling uninspired overall, what I loved most were the allusions to the cinematic source material, especially the triple-tittied girl, a pleasant surprise in a PG-13 movie. The synthetic cops looked cool, but I wish the film had taken advantage of this and had featured them more, like in I, Robot. I realize that despite what I said in the beginning, my thoughts on the remake are undoubtedly biased by my strong feelings for the original, but even my friend who had never seen the Arnold of Mars version didn’t like the remake, which was aiiiiight. Still a waste of $34 (my fiancée fell asleep, of course) though, and I wish I had rewatched The Dark Knight Rises instead… and really hope they don’t muck up the next Paul Verhoeven film to be remade, Robocop, also one of my all-time faves. Total Recall gets 2 out of 5 stars or C or Okay.