I am often surprised at the loyalty people display towards the 1990 “Total Recall.”
It is a film with some great ideas embedded in it, many of which were either lifted from the Philip K. Dick short story, and some of which were created by Gary Goldman and Paul Verhoeven during the film’s lengthy development process.
It is also a film that is bogged down by the baggage of its star, and there is no one on Earth who is ever going to convince me that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the right guy to play that part. And as much as I adore the Verhoeven of “Robocop,” I sort of hate the Verhoeven of “Recall.” I think it is one of the flat-out ugliest blockbusters of the ’90s, fake and garish and dated the second it was released.
Looking at the trailer for the new “Total Recall,” it’s obvious that they started with the movie when building this remake. This is not a new adaptation of the same story, no matter what they say, because so many of the elements that we see here were created for the film. That’s fine. Even the title is a nod to the fact that they are directly remaking the film.
There’s already one moment that they included here that plays more as it was originally intended, and that’s the moment where Quaid, a normal guy with a normal life, suddenly goes into killing machine mode and destroys everyone in the room without even knowing how he did it. That moment sums up the most appealing idea in the film for me, in which a guy starts to suspect that his programming, buried beneath the personality he believes is his, is asserting itself and his real identity is starting to emerge. Colin Farrell may be a movie star, and he may be in good shape, but he’s not the superhuman cartoon that Schwarzenegger was. When Colin Farrell snaps and kills everyone in the room, that’s surprising. When Arnold does it, that’s just Wednesday.
I have not been the biggest fan of Len Wiseman’s work, but I don’t dislike him actively. I just think the “Underworld” films are sort of silly and forgettable. I like a lot of what we see here, and if he makes a fun, slick, smart action movie out of this, I’m excited. I think the idea still has untapped potential. I like Bryan Cranston as this movie’s Ronnie Cox. I like the ladies he’s cast opposite Farrell, and there’s something fun about Wiseman casting his real-life wife as this awful murderous fake wife that Farrell has to fight.
As trailers go, I think this one gets the job done. It doesn’t put this at the top of my must-see list, but it at least suggests that they’re making choices that justify the remake.
“Total Recall” arrives in theaters August 3, 2012.