Saturday, August 4, 2012

TOTAL RECALL




Saw TOTAL RECALL yesterday and I'll admit right up front that I enjoyed it. I thought it was a serviceable "B" movie, lots of action, great special effects.

I went into it with very low expectations so if the film was reasonably entertaining I would be pleased. The fact that it was a remake didn't bother me although I'm usually the first to decry any and all remakes of classic and/or older movies. The fact is, I don't think the original version of TOTAL RECALL was a very good movie, certainly not a bonafide genre classic and I didn't mind seeing what a fresh set of eyes (and vastly improved special effects technology) could bring to the table.

The story is roughly the same. A working stiff (Colin Farrell), is haunted by dreams in which he's a secret agent. He lives a dull, routine existence as a factory worker and he yearns for some excitement in his life. When he goes to Rekall to have a false memory implanted, it's discovered that his memory has already been tampered with and all hell breaks lose. From that point, TOTAL RECALL is one extended chase sequence with several killer set pieces involving flying cars and elevators that travel both vertically and horizontally.

The future world of TOTAL RECALL is the early 22nd century. Following a world wide chemical war, there are only two habitable places left on the planet. Great Britain, the capital of a European Federation and Australia (the Colony). The working class lives in the Colony and travels to work in Great Britain via a planetary long express elevator through the center of the Earth called the Fall. It's a clever concept that figures into the climax of the film. It's also a future in which paperback books still exist (especially James Bond novels, yay!) and cell phones are surgically implanted into people's hands.

One quibble. It seems to always be nighttime and raining in the Colony while it's always bright and sunny in Great Britain. The set design and art direction of the Colony borrows heavily from BLADE RUNNER and there are bits and pieces of the film that recall MINORITY REPORT (both of which were adapted from original material by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick).

But let's be crystal clear about this. The 2012 version of TOTAL RECALL has virtually no resemblance to "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", the sf short story by Dick upon which it's very loosely based. Dick was an extremely cerebral writer and he never wrote anything that had even a whiff of the type of action seen onscreen here.

Colin Farrell is okay as the lead. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife and Jessica Biel is a resistance fighter who knows the truth about the implanted memories. Attention Joss Whedon! How about casting Beckinsale as the Scarlet Witch in the next AVENGERS movie? I think she'd be great in the part.

Finally, if I thought lens flares were overused in last year's overrated SUPER 8, this year's Academy Award for Most Conspicuous Use of A Visual Gimmick will certainly go to TOTAL RECALL. The damn things are so ubiquitous that I began to wonder if the cinematographer used some sort of software program that allowed him to drop them into the scenes. They're remarkably uniform in size, shape and colors and they are virtually everywhere in this film no matter if the action is taking place in broad daylight, nighttime, indoors or outside. Enough already.

Despite these minor quibbles, I enjoyed the film and give it a thumbs up. Don't go in expecting a brilliant masterpiece of thought provoking science fiction. TOTAL RECALL is a thrill ride and it succeeds in delivering those goods.

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