Zombos Says: Good
Watching the action unfold in director Len Wiseman's Total Recall, I couldn't help but compare it to the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone star vehicle of the same name. But that movie was in 1990, when writers could play around the science fiction edges with cheekiness and guile and directors couldn't overplay their hand with computers and saturate us with non-stop action hurtling through uber landscapes filled with mini and mega structures moving with tantalizing, but numbing, techno-complexity and velocity. But now is now, after all, and cinematic now is filled with the heat of global meltdowns, the incessant beating of warring drums, a tiresome fusillade of political bull dung flying in all directions, and a lot of sour and dour events preoccupying our thoughts. So it's only natural science fiction movies, super hero movies, and movies formerly filled with imagination and inspiration, now, have tuned down the inspiration while hustling us faster, and very predictably, through a patented and familiar imagination.
Instead of becoming involved with characters through association or taking wild rides to Mars and having our eyes comically bug out from the lack of oxygen, we're enveloped by hover car chases--albeit breathtaking hover car chases--evocative, rainy, cityscapes dotted with dreary hanging apartments that seem to sprout out of the congested city's concrete megastructures like weeds thriving in the incessant rain, and homogeneous huddled masses yearning to find a free space in all the hubbub or, at least, a cool palm phone. So yes, this Total Recall's production design by Patrick Tatopoulus is stunning and easily runs away with the film while leaving its script a tad short on wit and gumption, but tall on action of the bullets flying, people dying, and big send off explosions kind.
The Fall figures heavily in all this pyrotechnic destruction and sets up the Metropolis-like dystopian dynamic for the two class structures--the wealthier United Federation of Britain and the poorer Colony--both vying for habitable land after Earth is decimated by chemical warfare. The Fall is a gigantic gravity elevator that travels through the planet between the two nations, bringing Colony workers to and from "below," to toil at building synthetic police (THX 1138 anyone?) for the UFB. The Fall provides the film's more intense moments and thorough special effects, but the plausibility factor is nil and a pivotal (I'm being literal here) standoff borders on the periphery of silliness: elite commandos conveniently fail to realize something important about the daily commute and they lose their advantage because of it.
Plausibility wobbles again when factory worker Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), plagued by a violent dream with a mysterious woman and dissatisfied with his assembly line life, heads to ReKall, the happy memories franchise. He gravitates to their secret agent memory product, but implanting fake memories over real, similar ones stops the process cold and sends Quaid on a bumpy and lumpy journey to discovering who he really is. In-between all his huffing and puffing as he runs from his wife (a guns-blazing and hips hugging typecast Kate Beckinsale) and UFB President Cohaagen’s (Bryan Cranston) police force, he stops long enough to find clues to his past in places I thought the police should have gotten to first, like his safe deposit box and his former apartment, since they know who he really is even if he doesn’t.
The woman in his dream, Melina (Jessica Beal), much like Maria in Metropolis, provides the romance and the reason for his actions. Unlike Maria, she also wields a mean handgun, drives a hover car better than Mike Mercury, and kicks ass more believably than the wispy Beckinsale. Melina helps Quaid find Matthias (Bill Nighy), the leader of the resistance against Cohaagen's political meanderings. Unfortunately, Matthias is not as interesting as his namesake in the original and doesn't have a mutant humanoid brother living in his belly.
With the main storylines of both Total Recall movies being similar, what's the difference here to warrant a remake? If blazing action, dispensed heavily through computerized imagery and wild futuristic technology is your bag of popcorn, than this movie is definitely for you.
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