Total Recall 2/4

August 23, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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It’s a hard thing for a filmmaker, even an accomplished one, to make a project “his own” when the original is well remembered as a vehicle for a star as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger…writes James Beradinelli.

A mere 22 years have passed since the Schwarzenegger/Paul Vehoeven sci-fi/action collaboration, Total Recall, reached screens, yet it remains as vivid as ever. The difficulty for Len “Underworld” Wiseman and his screenwriters is to recreate the essence of Total Recall while giving it more than just a facelift. To do this, they keep many of the key moments intact while changing a myriad of details. One significant failure, however, is an inability (or unwillingness) to rectify the last act anticlimax. The biggest flaw of the 1990 Total Recall was how disappointingly banal the endgame was. Wiseman adds some special effects and Michael Bay-style pyrotechnics, but the result is similar. It’s doubly deflating because one of the great advantages of remaking a movie is being given the opportunity to correct problems – something not attempted here.
Colin Farrell’s interpretation of the protagonist is, predictably, much different than Schwarzenegger’s. It’s a less tongue-in-cheek approach with no flippant one-liners (“consider this a divorce”). About all they share is the same name: Douglas Quaid. At the time when the 1990 Total Recall came out, Schwarzenegger was near the height of his popularity; Verhoeven understood this and gave him an extraordinary amount of latitude to please his fans. The result was Arnold being Arnold. Farrell’s interpretation is more low-key and introverted. One senses that, had Wiseman wanted to take the story in a different direction, Farrell could have embraced the mind-fuck aspect that is only hinted at. But, since Wiseman sticks to the original trajectory, there’s rarely much serious consideration that significant portions of the movie could be implanted memories. Too bad Spike Jonze wasn’t at the helm. That would have been a wild ride.

 

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