Total Recall (2012)
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Total Recall (2012)

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Remakes are abundant in any genre represented in cinema but there is anecdotal evidence that the practice is more prevalent in the realm of science fiction. It might be that as special effects techniques move forward at an exceedingly rapid pace which permits the filmmaker to attempt to properly capture the soaring imagination present in the original stories. Undoubtedly a major factor is that the authors of these tales frequently cut to the heart of the problems in our society and the foibles that reside in the nature of every human being. This affords a certain timeless quality to a story crafted by a Master of Science fiction. Among the Parthenon of these giants of imaginations eternally resides Philip K. Dick. His specialty infused tales of personal tribulation against the setting of megalithic companies controlling the world though advances in the technology we depend on. Many of his novels and short stories were concerned with how the inevitable march of science pervades our lives so completely that it invades the very core of our individuality and humanity. Many of Dick’s stories have been used as the basis for movies; many of which would become genre classics. While ‘Blade Runner’ is frequently cited as one of the best known of the Dick based films a short story published in 1966, ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’, is an excellent example of Dick’s infatuation with humanity, corporate dominance and technology that pushes past the oversight of the legal system or the morality of the society. In 1990 the story began the Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle, ‘Total Recall’ recanting the struggle of an individual against a dystopian future where you are unable to trust the memories deeply seated in your mind. Like the short story the original film took the protagonist to Mars in search of reality both in his mind and the world around him. The film was well received and honored for its imaginative special effects stand as a popular favorite among many fans of the author’s works. Now twenty two year later the favorite contrivance of the Hollywood studio, the reimagined flick, has once again taken over the brand name. The new ‘Total Recall’ attempts to reformulate the themes present in the story to form a down to earth rendition.

The setting for this incarnation of the story is pulled in, no longer ranging to the red planet Mars but remaining tied to Terra Firma. This has the collateral provision of diminishing the opening year top one closer to our own time, described as following the cessation of the third World War. Much of the planet is in complete ruin no longer inhabitable. The two remaining powers are the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and on the other side of the globe, Colony (Australia). This replaces the colonial relationship provided by Earth and Mars in earlier renditions. That is critical to the development of the plot; a colony comprised of a disenfranchised population. Workers in The Colony hoping for a better life immigrate to the UFB through ‘the Fall’, a gravity powered conveyance through the planet. There is an informal caste system that exploits a significant portion of the population which gives rise to an underground resistance, another key element for the tale. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker in the Colony who has a seemingly happy life. He has a beautiful wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), and his job is steady a reasonably well paying. Doug decides to visit Rekall, a high tech company that will implant artificial memories of a dream vacation or exciting adventure without having the danger and expense of the real thing. Doug wants to experience an espionage adventure signing up for such memories. During the pre-procedural preparation the technician McClane (John Cho) uncovers real memories indicating Quaid is a spy. Later Quaid and his co-workers are surprised by a SWAT squad who commences to gun everyone in sight down. That is with the notable exception of Quaid who displays the reflexes and innate skills to kill one of the gunmen and escape. Soon Quaid is lead to a briefcase containing a recording from his former self leading him to an apartment in the UFB. He slowly pieces things together that he is an UFB agent Carl Hauser and his mission concerns protecting the code embedded in his mind that can disarm the offensive robotic forces acting against the Colony. On the run Doug encounters, Melina (Jessica Biel), a woman he has been seeing in the recurring dreams that brought him to visit Rekall. As it plays out Quaid was working directly for FB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Time quickly grows short as Quaid has to realign his loyalties to prevent an all-out invasion of the Colony. That will eradicate freedom.

One thing that seems to be mandatory in reimagined movies like this is the inclusion of numerous homage scenes to the original movie. Of course the director, Len Wiseman had to find a place for the three breasted woman (Kaitlyn Leeb), somewhere along the way and he does. IMDB will expound upon all the little ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ shots that refer back to the 1990 flick. He does cast his wife in the pivotal role of Lori, a trademark from his ‘Underworld’ horror franchise. While this does manage to give a bit of extra fun to watching, picking out the references, it does not make up for a looser script and loss of much of the story’s original intent. True, some of the key plot point survived the re-envisioning but the integrity of the fundamental themes that Dick so expertly wove into the fabric of the story. It felt like the fact that the government could alter your memories, the touchstone of our reality and definition of our identity took a back burner to what comes across as a fairly mundane international espionage flick. Depicting an imperialistic invasion loses the intensity generated by a totalitarian government that controls the very air the population needs to breathe. Much of the urgency is lost reducing the efficacy of the plot device; the ticking clock or the always popular, Sword of Damocles. While the cast does well; all experienced in this sort of action movie, the intensity of Dick’s dystopia is diluted here unable to fully engage the imagination of the viewer. The original conveyed the paranoia and dread of technology detrimentally reshaping mankind while this movie can only offer up some special effects. There is more sizzle than steak here.

Posted 12/15/12

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