JESSICA BIEL AND COLIN FARRELL IN TOTAL RECALL'Total Recall' is totally forgettable
A story by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick is credited as the basis of this new movie, the same story that was the source of the eponymous 1990 effort directed by Paul Verhoeven. The earlier lacks the seeds of Dick-adaptation greatness that inhabit the likes of Blade Runner, Minority Report,
or A Scanner Darkly
, but it's better than this one. Thanks to the orotund delivery of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it contains some memorable lines, and it has Sharon Stone as the female interest. This Total Recall
in contrast has the power to wipe out all memory of itself from your mind before you exit the cinema.
We get the wife of the director, Kate Beckensale, as a treacherous female (the Sharon Stone role), along with a brawny Colin Farrell, whose only distinguishing features, since he's been stripped of his Irish accent, are his dark eyebrows and a pair of black button eyes wearing a justifiably wary look. The cast is rounded out in part by Jessica Biel, as the good-cop female, and Bryan Cranston, the star of the top rated US TV series, "Breaking Bad," as forgettable as everybody else here as Corrigan, the leader of an empire.The
empire, actually, since this planet Earth has been made uninhabitable by chemical warfare except for Britain and what used to be Australia, once settled by ex prisoners, now a kind of drone colony with some overlay of Asian cities and Asian population. Workers are shunted back and forth through a giant tunnel cut through the earth. Like any Dick story this one has resonant philosophical and political elements and contains the seeds of a dozen other fascinating stories. Total Recall
vintage 2012 starts out suggestively with an intricate puzzle about the consciousness of the hero, Quaid (Farrell), a humble factory worker in The Colony. Is he just having bad dreams, or remembering traumas? When he goes to a "Total Rekall" salon to have new memories implanted, does he suddenly reveal he has hidden memories of being a secret agent, or is that just the "Total Rekall" illusion working? We get boxes within boxes of memory and illusion -- except there's no time to think about them. This movie is shot as an actioner without the charm of characterization or richness of setting you get in Blade Runner
, or Spielberg's ability to inject moral and psychological meaning into a story. Wiseman's Total Recall
is just a bright, shiny, noisy toy, with a big emphasis on the noisy part, and a great deal of running around through unreal spaces.
The Colony's grubby, rainy, semi-Asian street scenes seem like a watered-down copy of Blade Runner's
, which at the time were as wonderfully original as the quirky sets of Terry Gilliam's satirical sci-fi classic, Brazil.
And Wiseman and his multiple writers (which seem to include some of those who toiled on the Verhoemen-Schwarzenegger version) have not allowed their movie to stop for breath. Except maybe when Bill Nihy appears briefly as the leader of a rebellion in The Colony. Only he's been smoothed down and robbed of his jaunty movements, British accent, and flair so we can forget him too, even if it takes a few minutes longer. It's just barely possible to tell the two slim, shapely, black-clad babes from each other, the one who's the fake wife and the other who's the true. . .something: partner, cohort, lover?
It's a juggling act at which the movie fails: to manipulate an elaborate plot of mind-alteration, identity-questioning, and shifting political loyalties and keep non-stop action going all the while. The plot becomes even more confused than it's meant to be and the action makes less and less sense. There are echoes perhaps of Israel and the Occupied Territories (did anyone think of this though?) in the new Britain's decision to fake an insurrection in The Colony (though a real one is brewing, in which Nihy and Farrell may play key roles) in order to justify annihilating the servile population because they want to take over the land for themselves. Likewise there are echoes of the Bourne series in the dilemma of Quaid, now told he's Hauser, a master spy, with martial arts and lots of other skills that pop up and surprise him, and forced to use them while figuring out who he is.
The comparison is unfortunate for the present motion picture, because we remember the interesting use of real world settings, Goa, Berlin, Moscow, Langley, New York and realize Wiseman's CGI-generated citiscapes, far below the skills of H.R. Giger, are relatively colorless. Why even compare? If even Verhoeven's film is far superior, enough said.
Theatrical release of Total Recall
was August 3, and in the UK August 20, 2012.