Fond memories of Paul Verhoeven’s “Total Recall” kept coming back while watching this remake. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s screen presence was also an added plus in the 1990 film, as well as the one-liners, Mars and of course heaps of bloody violence. If you’ve seen the original, then you know how it goes.
Len Wiseman’s remake of the same name replaces Arnold with Colin Farrell, in his first lead action role in years, while eliminating Mars as the backdrop of the action and replacing it with an overpopulated Earth where transportation from one corner to another occurs, literally, straight through the center of the earth. The rugged subterranean mazes of the red planet is replaced with dizzying skyscrapers and lots of sleek, flying cars, not unlike Philip K. Dick’s own “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report”.
Farrell can act and is definitely a strong action lead and it shows here, as per the beautiful ladies Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel who both show off brawn over beauty here. Alas, everything is taken way too seriously in this version. I have fonder memories of the Verhoeven/Arnold version where one-liners come post-Arnie-kill. Gone. Certain characters are trimmed or even cut completely from the original. Bryan Cranston’s Cohaagen makes me miss Ronny Cox even more, and Bill Nighy’s resistance leader doesn’t stand out compared to the 1990 film. The best thing the screenwriters did is to combine Sharon Stone’s and Michael Ironside’s characters from the 1990 film into one, and as portrayed by Kate Beckinsale, she kicks serious ass here.
The script is a near complete rehash of the original, save for the setting and the final act of the film. The scene where Bokeem Woodbine’s character tries to convince Quaid (Farrell) where he’s still in a dream is certainly a standout scene which was very well done. Alas, the majority of the movie is laced with action sequences and sensational special effects (seriously, this is CGI porn) that may get this film a nomination for Best Visual Effects this year. No kidding. While the editing is fast-paced and the cinematography sleek (with a little too much lens flare ala J. J. Abrams), the music score by Harry Gregson- Williams was kind of bland in my opinion. It was just there, does its job, and I didn’t care. Where’s Marco Beltrami; or even for that matter his legendary mentor, the late, great Jerry Goldsmith when you need them?
Director Wiseman has a knack for action sequences (“Underworld”, “Die Hard 4?) and it shows aplenty here. Sadly the script could’ve been a whole lot better, but then again, if they had set it on Mars it would’ve been a shot-for-shot remake with better characters, but still I would’ve loved to see action on the Red planet once again. The PG-13 rating is justified, and there are indeed little homages to the original, but overall this remake is nothing more than a fast-paced, popcorn munching good waste of time, with some really nice CGI to chew on.
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