Struggle to recall sci-fi remake

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2012
total recall
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FORGETABLE: Total Recall

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TOTAL RECALL

Director: Len Wiseman
121 mins

Don't let your memory play tricks on you - the original Total Recall was more a misanthropic mess than an actual sci-fi classic.

Yet Paul Verhoven's 1990 adaptation of the Philip K Dick novella had brilliant set-pieces, a deranged sense of humour and Arnie at his peak. That's more than enough. In contrast, Len Wiseman's new version struggles to justify itself.

Sure, it slightly alters the original source material: it's set in a future where ''the United Federation of Britain'' is the dominant super-power over the ''colony''- no one gets their ass to Mars. But the premise remains basically the same.

Shift-worker Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is troubled by recurring nightmares where he's some kind of super-agent trying to save a mysterious woman (Jessica Biel). But maybe they're not nightmares after all, but memories that he can't comprehend. It would explain why his loving wife (Kate Beckinsale) is acting so strangely.

Ironically, the new cast could have been a decent fit, particularly Farrell, who has form with Philip K Dick in Steven Spielberg's excellent Minority Report. Beckinsale is also a tough, sexy action actress in the otherwise mediocre Underworld movies. Meanwhile, Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston - as the leaders of the resistance and the United Federation of Britain respectively - should be able to ham on command.

Yet everyone merely reminds you of their better performances and movies. Similarly, Wiseman's dystopia, with its giant flickering screens and oddly Asiatic touches, feels like a facsimile. His attempts to muse on ideas such as geo-political oppression and the falseness of memory also fall flat, because they're without context. How can we care about the people when everyone acts like a machine?  Even the body count is unremarkable.

This Total Recall will be wiped from your memory as soon as you leave the cinema. A missed opportunity.

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- The Timaru Herald

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