Friday, 17 August 2012

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

New Vs Old: Total Recall 

Released: August 3, 2012
Len Wiseman
Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback

Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid/Hauser
Kate Beckinsale as Lori
Jessica Biel as Melina
Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen
Bill Nighy as Matthias

     In the near future man kind destroys itself in a chemical war, leaving the only survivors to form two factions - each with very limited space and resources: The United Federation of Britain (UFB, located of course in Great Britain) and The Colony (located in Australia). The poor working class of The Colony travel to the UFB via "The Fall" an elevator through the Earth's core in order to work. There's tension between the two factions, elevated by terrorist attacks by The Resistance.
     Enter Douglas Quaid, a simple factory worker from The Colony - or so he thought. Quaid begins having violent vivid nightmares and decides that the solution is to go to Rekall - a business that specializes in implanting fake but generally pleasurable memories. But during his visit to Rekall, the implant doesn't go as expected and soon Quaid's dreams become a reality as he races to figure out what's real and what isn't.

      I went into this movie with zero idea about the original. I mean the original came out in 1990 - I was just a wee baby still, I can't be held accountable for having not seen it. That being said - after seeing the new version I felt that I should go back and see the old one before making this review.
      So I sat through Total Recall (1990), through Arnold Schwarzenegger's cheesy lines, the corny special effects (eye balls popping out during depressurization should not take that long!) and the clothes (*shudder*). I've been spoiled by high definition and whole movies generated with precision by computers. So going back and watching this was a little bit painful for me. 
      While Total Recall (2012) was a remake, it has become its own movie while taking its essence from the original. It kept the basic idea that Quaid was having nightmares that ultimately lead to him discovering some shocking secrets about his life and his memories, the basic path of discovering the truth and ultimately the decision he has to make; as well as staying true to the characters of Melina, Lori and Cohaagen. But where it differs greatly is in the main plot. In the original the whole plot centers around a colony on Mars, they've taken that completely out of the picture and replaced it with a story based more heavily on the tension between the two factions, stripped some unnecessary characters, updated all the technology of this futuristic world and changed Cohaagen's motives. 
      The end result: we get an action packed adventure full of intense chases, fights, drool worthy gadgets and plot twists that will make you wonder how real your memories are. 
      While writing this review, when I looked up the director (Len Wiseman) - he seemed familiar. Then I realized he directed all the Underworld movies. Which is probably why I felt like I was having deja vu when Kate Beckinsale and Bill Nighy both showed up. True to Wiseman's style, the movie is visually stunning, plot wise - it's not going to win any Oscars but you will be entertained, which is the purpose of movies isn't it? 
      Colin Farrell in this role was pretty standard for him, I mean he delivers his sullen lines, gets confused and then goes through some really kick ass action sequences - it doesn't exactly take a master actor to get through this story. So while the acting is pretty "eh" he makes up for it in the fights, like when he takes down a whole group of soldiers all by his lonesome.
      In the original Total Recall, the role of the wife Lori was much more minimized. While she still had deadly skills, she was pushed to the back burner while her male counterpart, Richter, took over. In this new version, they cut Richter and made Lori both the wife and right hand woman for Cohaagen, which was much more effective. Looking at the two movies now, I realize that Richter was pretty useless when there's an equally effective female version. Kate Beckinsale as Lori, was awesome though! She's still stuck in her usual action roles, but she managed to play the innocent adoring wife and then she slips into this really terrifying "she's got a crazy look in her eye" action character. What utterly pisses me off though is how these people do action shots with long hair, it's impossible, I can barely walk without my hair getting in my face let alone run, jump and shoot at the same time at mach speed. 
      Jessica Biel did earn some brownie points as Melina, she tied her hair back, but then it magically starts flowing in the wind partway through. Biel did an awesome job as a tough resistance member, who could hold her own, but also as this affectionate love interest of Quaid's. Plus, with Kate, they provided probably one of the most epic cat fights ever.
      Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen was kind of a bust to me. He will always be Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, and as a result I don't think I'll ever be able to take him seriously. I just wanted to giggle every time he shouted an order. 
      I'm really glad this remake managed to keep the suspense of the original where you wonder which life of Quaid's is the real one - there's some really heart stopping and tense moments that had me questioning whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. This movie is also much less grotesque mutants, and more slums of Asia (because in every futuristic imagining apparently Asian culture is the sole survivor of a global annihilation). They also managed to drop some nods at the original, like the three breasted woman. But it seems the directors just wanted to flood this movie with familiar faces and that ended up dropping the ball a bit. As soon as I saw John Cho - bleached blond, and like Cranston, I could only think of Cho has Harold (from Harold and Kumar), which resulted in more giggling. 

Overall: 4/5 Hot Cups of Tea!
 While the older Total Recall is a "classic", I just can't get past the cheesiness. I ended up preferring the new to the old. I really enjoyed it, mainly because once in a while I enjoy a mindless action movie. This version definitely had a clearer and more hashed out plot than the original. I loved all the gadgets, there were some really cool car chases, fist fights and "The Fall" was pretty spectacular. All in all, you'll be entertained as long as you go into this for the action and not expecting an award winning - break your heart kind of story.  

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