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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Total Recall | Colin Farell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston | Review

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Total Recall

I have come to the conclusion that there should be a set rule when it comes to a film remake.  Don't even think about making one unless you can do it right.  There have been way too many remakes out of the Hollywood factory that wound up being disasters.  For example, I am not the only movie lover who considers 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still one of the best sci fi movies of all time.  It aches me to report that the highly anticipated 2008 remake which starred Keanu Reeves (in the late Michael Rennie's role) was not only a major disappointment and dreadful, the story was unnecessarily tweeked with so many of the best elements and plot devices removed, that it barely resembled the awesome original.

The re-imagined version of The Day The Earth Stood is a true example of why it is better to leave well enough alone.  Comparatively speaking, 2012's Total Recall is very loosely based on and can't hold a candle to Paul Verhoeven's far superior 1990 flick set on Mars, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger which was inspired by the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale".

Directed by Len Wiseman (who helmed the Underworld film series) from a script by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, the reworked story now takes place on a post apocalyptic Earth, as opposed to Mars, in the late 21st century   As a result of chemical warfare most of the planet has been left uninhabitable (called No Zones – as in, don't go there) with only two regions livable for the survivors.  The United Federation of Britain (USB) run by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston, hamming it up in evil mode) is home to the ruling, upper class, and an island called the Colony (formerly Australia) a dark and gloomy cityscape  is where the lower class, subservient workers reside in stacked housing units and commute to UFB via a gigantic elevator type structure called 'The Fall' that travels through the Earth's core.

One factory worker on an assembly line building robots known as “synthetics” is Douglas Quaid (Colin Ferell, in Schwarzenegger's role) who lives in the Colony along with his beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale in the role originally played by Sharon Stone).   Discontented with his life and haunted by dreams of being chased and trapped, Doug is drawn to an ad for ReKall, a company that promises to turn your most wishful dreams or fantasies into real memories.

In a “be careful what you wish for” scenario, the implant procedure goes terribly wrong after Doug was  warned that fantasy memories can not be given to those who already have the real thing.  Before you know it, Doug is confronted by police who break into the facility.  That's when Doug realizes he possesses powerful abilities to defend himself and is able to kill his attackers.  More than curious about his newly realized powers and clueless as why he has suddenly become a wanted criminal, Doug makes his way back home only to discover his wife is a fake.  Lori is not who he thought she was and is now part of a plan led by the controlling Chancellor to see him dead.

Stuck in the middle of an identity crisis, Doug is forced to go on the run but is soon rescued by Melina (Jessica Biel) a rebel fighter who is working for the underground resistance, led by Mathias (an underused Bill Nighy), who swoops him up in her hover car, just in the brink of time.

What follows is basically a cat and mouse chase after chase, in which the relentless, frenetic action includes falling down mine shafts, windows and roofs, repetitive close calls, shooting, explosions and fight sequences.

Sadly, what starts out as an intriguing premise fails to eventually live up to expectations. When not evading or fighting off the villains, Farrell who has proven to be a fine actor spends most of his time looking bewildered.  It comes as no surprise that Beckinsale who is married to the director is given a role that has been expanded from the original and she seems to relish (as in her lead in the Underworld flicks) portraying a hot chick who can kick ass.

Wiseman's attention is obviously on making an action movie fueled by CGI effects and less on delivering a well structured, creative, imaginative storyline. There are elements reminiscent of Blade Runner and Minority Report (another Philip Dick adaptation that also co-starred Farrell), but what stands out as most impressive is the visually dazzling production design by Patrick Tatopoulos.

I am not nit picking. However, I would like to know why Irishman Farrell and his British co-stars (Beckinsale, Nighy) spoke with an American accent while Cranston, an American didn't put on a British accent although he portrayed the leader of the United Federation of Britain. Mind you, this just is an example of the lack of logic in this movie, and it bugs the heck out of me.

I clearly recall the original which was an entertaining mind trip.  That was memorable, unlike like this flick which is easily forgettable.

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