I’ve seen the future and it is dull
Despite all its convolution, bad hair and, well, Schwarzenegger- ness, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall remains an endearing slice of big budget science-fiction 22 years on.
For many movie-goers of my generation who had been too young to really ‘‘get’’ Blade Runner, Total Recall was an introduction to the notion of unreliable perspectives. We didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t – we couldn’t trust what we were seeing.
For a 14-year-old reared on the imaginative, though narratively straightforward pictures of Lucas, Spielberg and Donner, it was quite a novelty.
The idea that world- saving super spy Doug Quaid – and the audience – couldn’t be sure if he was experiencing reality or a fabricated memory was as mindblowing as the three- breasted hooker on Mars. It was also half the fun of the movie – and I don’t
Total Recall. think Len Wiseman gets that.
The director has crafted a remake/ reboot/ redundancy that isn’t much fun at all.
In fact, it’s bloody dull.
Due to chemical warfare, in the year 2100, only two continents remain inhabitable: The Federation of Great Britain and The Colony, in other words Australia.
The former is a prosperous, industrial mega-city; the latter is a grim, overcrowded labyrinth of futuristic favelas.
A giant elevator runs through the centre of the planet, transporting people from The Colony to their blue-collar jobs in Britain.
By day Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works in a factory, but at night he dreams of adventure, fighting the oppressive Federation. When he visits Rekall, a business which implants false realities in the minds of average joes thirsting for a better life, all hell breaks loose.
It turns out Quaid may have already been under the influence of Rekall – a top spy captured and hidden from his comrades in a new identity.
I’d like to say this is where the line between reality and Rekall becomes blurred, but it really doesn’t. The second that Wiseman decides to show events from the perspective of Quaid’s ‘‘wife’’ Lori (Kate Beckinsale), any sense of ambiguity is swiftly drained from the picture.
So what does that leave us with? A dystopian action flick that bares closer resemblance to the previous output – meaning crap – of Wiseman ( Underworld series) and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer ( Ultraviolet), than the twisted, thoughtful visions in Philip K Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale which they were charged with adapting.
Farrell’s Everyman hero owes plenty – including his dirty white T- shirt – to Bruce Willis, but there’s very little for him to do beyond trying to look cool while discharging weapons.
Beckinsale, Wiseman’s wife, gets an insane amount of screentime for an actor only capable of two facial expressions – openmouthed contempt and beadyeyed contempt.
I guess she looks OK in tight pants though.
Jessica Biel, likewise, lacks any inkling of charisma, while Bryan Cranston at least has fun hamming it up as dastardly High Chancellor Cohaagen.
Here’s hoping the remake of Verhoeven’s other action behemoth, Robocop, fares better.
Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy. Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, directed by Len Wiseman. 118 minutes, Rated M (violence, offensive language, nudity), showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua. Head case: Colin Farrell goes looking for a better reality, or perhaps just a better movie, in the lacklustre new version of