‘Total Recall’ - decent re-imagination, but falls short (IANS Movie Review)

August 4th, 2012 - 8:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Arnold Schwarzenegger Film: “Total Recall”; Actors: Colin Farrell, Kate Bekinsale, Jessica Biel; Director: Len Wiseman; Rating: ***1/2

Before there ever was a Jason Bourne, or even a Neo (”Matrix”), there was the super-spy Douglas Quaid, who jumped out of paper, borrowed flesh and blood from a world champion body-builder in an attempt to figure out who he was.

His quaint search of his memory and purpose in life endeared him to the masses and ensured he stayed etched in their memory.

Now 22 years later, though a remake makes a decent attempt to replace old memory with new ones, it does not succeed as it could have.

After going to a travel company providing fake memory implant, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) realises he is more than a low-life factory worker. As he runs, surprised by his lovely wife Lori (Kate Bekinsale) trying to kill him, he encounters a girl he has literally been dreaming about, Melina (Jessica Biel).

Together they must find out what is there in his mind that has both the authorities and resistance fighters seeking him out.

To be fair, this 2012 reboot did not have to be loyal to the 1990 film, just like that film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t completely loyal to the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember For You Wholesale”.

What both the films took from the short story, were its ideas on identity, totalitarianism and resistance. Yet, the 1990 version was more heartfelt as far as emotions go, and seemed much more ‘real’ than this one despite its setting in Mars, mutants and alien technology.

The current version, as with most modern retelling of past films, sacrifices a good story and build up of emotion and suspense for a brilliant set design aided by corresponding camera work, spectacular visual effects and some great action sequences. In the older version, with air supply being turned off for ‘mutants’ you felt the pain and agony of those not like you, unlike here, where the ending seemed a let down despite a decent build up.

The representation of the perspective of those not like us, was the greatest strength of the 1990 version.

Secondly, this version omits Mars and sets it entirely on earth with it being divided into two sections, the rich United Federation of Britain and the poorer colonies - Australia, where all the ‘workers’ live in one large, endless ghetto travelling back and forth on ‘The Fall’.

However, the characters of this ‘ghetto’ and their population were not built up well enough unlike the plight of the working mutants in the original. This was its major flaw.

Then, the 1990 version was much more subtle both in the story and in its message against totalitarianism. The freaks and mutants in it were a statement against the evils of everything nuclear considering that the affects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was well known by then.

The major problem with this version is that it becomes too literal, and though you have characters making statements against all the evils in the world, the ‘telling’ of it instead of the ’showing’ of it by a better script, lets the film down.

Yet, lovers of sci-fi and action films will have a lot to cheer as the three lead stars pack quite an action-packed presence. The gadgets, including the interesting concept of a mobile phone implanted in the hand, will give you a lot to cheer about.

These elements make it a worthy watch despite the disappointments.

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