M, 2hr 10min
Reviewed by Jonathon Howe.
There are times when you watch a remake of a good film and think "why did you bother"?
Total Recall circa 2012 is a prime example of this. Sure, it has impressive action sequences, good-looking leads and a fast pace, but it is a film completely bereft of anything approximating originality.
The 1990 original starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was a fun science fiction romp, complete with intergalactic locations, a mind-bending storyline, and the much-loved three-breasted woman.
The original's director, Paul Verhoeven, was known for pushing boundaries. His vision of Philip K Dick's story was an entertaining and violent romp complete with smatterings of trademark social satire.
Other than having its own three-breasted woman, the remake bears little resemblance to the original, which may have been fine if handled properly.
Based in a post-apocalyptic society ravaged by chemical war, the Earth has only two populated areas - the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony. The UFB employs cheap labour from The Colony by transporting its residents through the centre of the Earth on a machine known as The Fall.
When assembly line worker Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to liven up his life by going to Rekall, a company that installs fake memories into someone's mind, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous world that may or may not be in his mind.
The film looks suitably futuristic with its beautifully drawn cityscapes, stormtrooper-like synthetic police force and array of hover vehicles.
It also has plenty of action sequences designed to keep the heart pumping.
But director Len Wiseman, of Underworld series "fame", has done little to rejig the film's premise, and makes what should be a fun film quite grim and dull.
Screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback could have done so much more with a storyline that plays with notions of reality. But there is nothing particularly clever about their script, and don't expect the laughs of the original, as you'll be disappointed.
There isn't much for the talented Farrell to do here but he looks the part of an action hero with his rippled physique and stubbly appearance. The casting of Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel as the women in Quaid's life appears to be a pointer to the duplicitous nature of his life, as both look quite similar. Unfortunately, they also both give quite banal performances, though Beckinsale, having fought her way through the Underworld films, isn't the most horrible of action heroines.
Total Recall 2012 is a truly average effort that probably didn't need to be made. But rather than sully the legacy of the original, it acts as a reminder of the dangers of trying to better a classic using lesser talents.
- © Fairfax NZ News