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Total Recall: "It's not a too-mah!"

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Tim Wilson
Total Recall: "It's not a too-mah!"
on Aug 5, 2012 at 6:00:42 pm

The theater I saw this in is owned by Bryan Cranston. That's cool on its own, but especially because he plays a large-ish role in this one. I also noted that Bryan was featured in TWO of the trailers. I'd seen one of the trailers already (the Denzel as a pilot thing I've already forgotten the name of, even after seeing the trailer twice), but that would be a gas to have a theater that only ran movies with you in 'em.

Anyway, I wish people would stop calling it a remake. It's not. It's going back to the same source material, Phil Dick's short story "We Can Remember It Wholesale For You," and comes back with an adaptation no more or less faithful to the story than Verhoeven's 1990 flick..

For example, the short story never goes to Mars. And it ends when, after REKAL (neither movie uses that name) tried to insert the Mars memories into QUAIL (not Quaid) and fail because the memories are already there and they're real, Quail asks for his REAL secret wish to be implanted: that he saved the world from an alien invasion when he was 9. Cool! Oops, except THOSE memories are already there too, and they're real. Roll credits.

You already know from the trailer of this one that the three-breasted hooker is in there. Director Len Wiseman confesses that this wasn't in the script - he added it because as a junior high-schooler seeing the first one, it really made an impression on him. Hard to argue with.

(Just one year earlier that actress, Lycia Naff, had been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in an AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL. She had a bunch of other roles that you probably don't remember, you little pervs, and is now a journalist.)

Also hard to argue with: Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel are definitely an upgrade over Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin. And if Len Wiseman has learned anything from directing his wife Kate in all those Underworld pictures, it's how to make her look gooood when kicking ass. Her fight scenes in this are some of my favorite movie fight scenes EVER. Really remarkable stuff.

I laughed really hard at Kurt Loder's review -- "A two-hour-long chase scene that leaves you breathless. I wish I could say that's a recommendation. Please note that I don't." Well, I do. It had energy to burn -- great fights, explosions aplenty, and far more compelling "is this real?" twists than the first one, which frankly I never really bought. The whole Arnold on Mars thing, eyes bugged out, pulling that giant thing out of his nose -- Kindergarten Cop came out the same year, and I swear I kept thinking of him saying, "It's not a too-mah!"

Among the many ways that Farrell is an upgrade over Arnold. He's a great fit for the energy here -- fast and quick (two different things) rather than big and strong.

I also love how they played with that, like when Kate Beckinsale tries to persuade Colin that he's living a fantasy and says, "What makes you think that a guy like you could EVER wind up with someone like ME?" She then proceeds to kick his ass AGAIN. I found it really credible that he was never able to outfight her. She was relentless. He just found a couple of clever ways to run away.

Instead of the visuals being sunny and intentionally cheeseball like in 1990 (who's better at sunny, cheeseball futurism than Paul Verhoeven?), here, they were harder and more realistic. I've seen other people compare the cityscapes to Blade Runner, but for the forseeable future, that's both a) a given, and b) lazy and sloppy analysis. The vertical dynamics remind me more of Fifth Element, and overall owes as much to Underworld (surprise!) as Blade Runner. A bit reflexive on my part I know, but I really did vastly prefer this world to the 1990 one in every way.

So look, even though this isn't a remake of the 1990 pic, I'm talking about it in terms of that one. This one tips its hat a couple of times. Farrell actually says, "If I'm not me, then who the hell am I?" which sounded better coming from Arnold. But other than that line, I preferred everything about Colin.

The user reviews at Tomatoes put it around 50% fresh, meaning that half the peeps liked it more than they didn't. I'd put it higher: I think that 75% of you will like it more than you won't.

The fact is that for the first 100 minutes, I'd have given it an A-. Fast, fun, the right balance between action and talk, just a grand old time at the movies. But LIKE EVERY DAMN MOVIE RIGHT NOW, it was just too long. I feel like I'd have gotten MORE of my money's worth from ALL of these things if they were 20 minutes shorter. I'd only peg TR at 10-15 minutes overlong -- hey, maybe THAT should be the new ratings system!! Top score of "I wish it was longer," then down from there.

Seriously, I didn't even glance at the time before then, and added to the 20 minutes of trailers for movies I don't want to see (not one of them! Not even for Bryan Cranston!), I can't remember another movie that has held me this long in forever. I'll wait until I'm watching in jammies, but it's also the first movie in forever that I'm really looking forward to seeing again.

So even counting the 20 minutes of B to B- where I was ready for it to wrap up, I'd still average it out at B+. Higher than Avengers, Spiderman or Batman for sure, the highest of which I'd rate a B, and up to 30 minutes too long.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW Magazine
Twitter: timdoubleyou

The typos here are most likely because I'm, a) typing this on my phone; and b) an idiot.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Total Recall: "It's not a too-mah!"
on Aug 6, 2012 at 6:43:03 pm

But did you see Richter at the party afterwards?

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Scott Roberts
Re: Total Recall: "It's not a too-mah!"
on Aug 6, 2012 at 8:08:53 pm

I don't really have any plans to see this movie in theaters. Because I'm sure I'll just complain about it.

Nothing against Tim's review, because I haven't seen the film so I can't really agree or disagree on anything he's said about it, but I just read this other review by Angie Han of /Film that said exactly what I *assumed* would be said about this new Total Recall:

Basically, it's a safe action picture that was made simply to just be made. There's nothing to hate about it, but there's no good reason to love it. Mindless popcorn fare. And that's why it's so bad: it's just sort of... there.

But again, I say all this without ever seeing it. But seeing as though I love the original Total Recall for its violent charms; and hate glossed over, dark action stuff... I think I'm going to pass... To me, the Total Recall remake looks about the same as the Rollerball remake from several years ago. Take a film that has been pop-culturized (is that a word?) as a representative of a certain era of time, then darken everything and make it ultra serious, followed by briskly making everything generically over-futuristic. Oh, and please tone down the violence and nudity... we can't handle that as a society anymore... :/ PG-13 or bust.

People can *like* the original Total Recall for its sci-fi story and its twists and whatnot. But people *LOVE* the original Total Recall for the space mutants, stylized violence, hilarious one liners, Sharon Stone attacking people in stretch pants, 80s Mars set pieces, and for Arnold Schwartzenegger being Arnold Schwartzenegger. Do you think there will be a discussion about 2012's Total Recall (or, at least, a positive one) 22 years from now? I'm guessing it will be mostly forgotten about 22 days from now.

Side note... Can you believe that Snow White and the Huntsman came out only two months ago...? I forgot I saw it so hard that it felt like it came out two years ago! Forgettable movies be forgettable.

And again, I'm aware it's horribly unfair for me to say such negative things about it without having seen it. But I've also never seen an entire Resident Evil movie or Underworld movie (to which the Total Recall director has helmed several of), and I know that they look like the same glossed over, generic, bland dialogued action crap I don't particularly enjoy.

If I watch Total Recall on DVD in 3 months and I like it, I'll give Tim a huge apology. :)

Not for me right now though.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Total Recall: "It's not a too-mah!"
on Aug 6, 2012 at 9:59:38 pm

That's exactly what I'm talking about - fond memories of a movie whose appeal was campy at best, leading people to pass on a movie that's better in nearly every way. I don't blame you, or blame the people who see it and don't like it, but it still makes me sad for reasons I can't yet articulate.

Maybe it's that I really didn't like the first one all that much, a lesser film in both the Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven filmographies imo, and that I prefer sleek action to chunky action. I'll also give the first one credit for being the comic book movie that I wish every comic book movie was as good as...but whatever the new one is, for all its faults, it tries to be a real movie.

and do note that I said that my guess is that no more than 75% of the people who see it will like it...and among you folks I'm thinking it's closer to half...but other than an Arnoldism or two (I really do like the guy's movies), I really can't think if a single way that the new one doesn't kick the old one's ass. I'm tellin ya, Kate Beckinsale us a huge, huge upgrade over Sharon Stone.....

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