Written by Films

Total Recall

I was at university when the 1990 “original” version of Total Recall came out in cinemas, with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a somewhat unlikely worker who had dreams of being a spy. Unless, he was a spy anyway.
Over the years, the film has become something a classic – albeit a camp classic. The fact that it’s mostly filmed in studio is pretty clear, and the gags are laboured. The effects weren’t stellar – think of Arnie’s eye-popping scene on the surface of Mars. And for goodness sake, don’t think about the physics of it too much. It was trashy fun at the time, and to an extent, it’s still trashy fun today. It’s one of those films that you can end up watching a chunk of when you stumble across it on ITV2 or wherever.
But there were problems with the original film, and the plot never entirely held together. You just went with the flow because the action continued.
And that brings us to the new film. The director and producers are keen to frame this as a reimagining of the original film. But in truth, it’s not. It’s actually very close to the original film. Certainly much more so than the original Philip K Dick short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Certainly there’s no longer any mention of Mars, and instead we have the United Federation of Britain (aka Western Europe) and the Colony (aka Australia). But aside from that it’s pretty much the same.
At the beginning of the film we’re told that the UFD and Colony are the only bits of the Earth now habitable, and for some reason the best way to get from one to the other is via a tunnel through the Earth! But to be honest, it’s really not worth labouring on the plot. There are still holes a plenty.
We get a somewhat more believable everyman/spy in Colin Farrell, who’s married to Kate Beckinsdale (the Sharon Stone role). I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Beckinsdale is evil, and she does it very well. Her role has certainly been amplified from the original even if her character is occassionally evil for evil’s sake.
Jessica Biel plays a new character who runs around with Farrell a lot and is also a spy for the resistance which is led by Bill Nighy. I’m not entirely sure why, but all the Colony-dwellers (which is Australia, remember) speak in American accents. Whereas all the Brits speak in clipped tones, and they’re all evil.
The film is popcorn nonsense – nothing more, and nothing less. There are some chases, lots of CGI, and it flies along. But it’s nothing special. It’s certainly not terrible. But it’s not good either.
This film also has lots of robots, but I have a bit of problem with that. Why do all robots look the same now? These robots look basically the same as those in the latter-day Staw Wars sequels. They’re really similar! Couldn’t someone design something a bit different?
The set designer has probably spent a little too much time watching Blade Runner, but I suppose just about everyone has been influenced by that. Having phones in your hands is an interesting idea, although I’m not sure how you cope with upgrades (Farrell does have a solution mind you). You do have to wonder why a vehicle that has gravitational challenges (don’t even think about the loopy physics) would have so many precipitous walkways. Wouldn’t it have been better to pad all the floors and ceilings? And yes, we got a triple breasted prostitute as we had in the original (hence the mild nudity BBFC warning).
There’s not a great deal of humour in the film, and I think it could have done with a bit. Instead we get the odd unintentional laugh such as during the kiss when the clock in ticking.
In summary, a harmless fun. But check your brain in at the door.