Good visuals don't make 'Total Recall' remake memorable
Published: Friday, August 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05
To describe the latest “Total Recall” (2012) as Jason Bourne let loose in Blade Runner's dystopian future, would give a pretty good idea of where this remake fits in.
The story departs from the original in ways that don't necessarily destroy the story, but they don't improve it either. The setting no longer involves Mars and there are no more mutant/alien-like creatures on screen. Odd seeing how a movie made 22 years ago ventured into those possibilities more boldly than one made today with a hefty budget to back it up. Other than that, the film covers its source material quite well and does a good job in going over the memory loss plot line nicely.
Colin Farrel steps in to play the role of Douglass Quaid, famously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original, but he comes up short. Farrel is a talented actor, but the direction his character is taken in makes him feel muted while he tries to respond as realistically as possible. Even Bourne (played by Matt Damon on the early Bourne trilogy) responded better when dealing with amnesia and a deadly skill set. Jessica Biel plays Melina, Quaid's real lover and side-kick. She effectively brings the most emotion to the screen with her presence.
Bryan Cranston plays Cohaagen, the evil Chancellor set to take over the limited real estate in this dystopia. He plays the role well enough to warrant a beating, but feels secondary to his right hand girl. The real scene stealer here is Kate Beckinsale, taking over Sharon Stone's role as Quaid's wife Lori, who goes into overdrive after Quaid's memories return. Beckinsale is in top form as a total ass kicker, a role she has fit in nicely from her “Underworld” series. She makes the best antagonist in the movie and deserves what's coming to her in the end.
The new “Total Recall” implements impressive visual effects and set design that blend seamlessly with live actors, creating an astonishingly believable look. The use of visual effects kept me wondering if it was an actual set with digitally rendered multi-level planes below or above it. Its artistic direction lies somewhere between the classic streets of “Blade Runner” (1982) and the sleekness of a reality based future of “Minority Report” (2002). Both are used to contrast the poor citizens of the worker nation and that of the richer United Federation of Britain.
The action sequences are more like action set pieces that attempt to impress with their complex staging and sophisticated visual and special effects. In the end, they all felt very trying, as if they knew they had to make up for the lack of stronger content. It's true, some may be satisfied with the video game like violence and action found here, but there's a feeling of it being watered down from its original vision. But all this only covers up the lack of emotion attached to the violence on the screen like a pretty dressing covering up a burnt cake.
“Total Recall” is entertaining, it's just missing some real star power and the visceral quality of the original. Director Len Wiseman (“Underworld,” “Live Free or Die hard”) assembles a nice product cutting and pasting elements from various classics in the science fiction genre. His aesthetic direction is pleasing in his very vertical oriented set design (by Patrick Tatopoulos) but it distracts from the emotional element of the story. Otherwise, there is nothing here but pretty effects and eye candy.
Three out of five picks.
Mario Simental may be reached at email@example.com.