So the Hollywood remake machine officially moves into the 90s with this new take on the Paul Verhoeven/ Arnold Schwarzenegger film from 1990. Soon they’ll be remaking films I remembered coming out the first time. *
While the original ‘Total Recall’ is undoubtedly just as much an action movie as a Science Fiction one, there is a fascinating SF idea behind it (implanted false memories), originating from Philip K. Dick. It’s an idea that could easily spawn another very different film, but this, (despite initial reports that it would be a more loyal adaptation of the book and not a remake of the 1990 adaptation), is not that film. It is far more concerned with expensive action scenes than plot.
Indeed one very major plot element is removed for this new take, which often makes it feel like more of a remake of the first part of the original. It also lacks the ambiguity as to what may or may not be reality, and the humour.
Like him or not, there’s no denying that Arnold Schwarzenegger was, and still is, a unique cinematic presence, who could absolutely sell a corny one-liner after dispatching a bad guy in a violent but humorous manner. Thankfully, Colin Farrell goes a different direction (and doesn’t attempt any kind of impression), but doesn’t leave much of an impact.
There is also the issue of remaking 18-rated material for a 12A rating. There are 2 memorable moments from the original recreated in ‘Recall’ 2012 that exemplify this. Firstly the infamous 3-breasted mutant prostitute. People were questioning whether she would be included (after all, she’s hardly central to the plot) but she is, only the tri-nipples are out of shot. Likewise the highly violent death of Michael Ironside – limb amputation via falling elevator (‘See you at the party Richter!’) – is recreated, only this time with a robot to avoid any actual violence. It does feel like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too, to appeal to both crowds, but you just end up producing a lamer, watered down version of what came before.
There will probably still be a number of people who will see this ignorant of the original, for whom it may seem like a solid if throwaway yarn. Judged on its own merits, it’s fairly average.
There is some very impressive set design in its future world, and Bryan Cranston makes a good villain. But aside from that this new take has nothing much to offer.
*’Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans’ was originally announced as a remake of Abel Ferrarra’s ‘Bad Lieutenant’ from 1992, but the finished product bears little resemblance other than the corrupt cop central character, and director Werner Herzog denied it being a remake. Besides, the original ‘Bad Lieutenant’ is a low-budget independent film, not Hollywood fare.