By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
To answer your first question, no, there was no particular reason to remake “Total Recall,” a movie that seemed swell the first time around. In just about every way, this film is inferior to the original.
The first one, released in 1990, was an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, directed by the extremely naughty Paul Verhoeven from a Philip K. Dick story. Its cynical attitude is replaced here by a thoroughly mechanized approach.
Once again, a very confused man named Quaid (played now by Colin Farrell) begins to realize his memory might be an artificial construct, and that he is somehow positioned in a deadly place between a late-21st-century dictator and a rebel uprising.
Mars is no longer in the storyline; here, the action all takes place on a blasted Earth, where people can travel between the two remaining habitable patches of land (in Britain and Australia) by means of a subway that passes through the core of the planet.
The director, Len Wiseman, made the first couple of “Underworld” pictures with his wife, Kate Beckinsale. She plays Quaid’s wife here, and Jessica Biel is the rebel fighter who comes into Quaid’s puzzled path.
Although Wiseman gets off one good action sequence, which has Quaid defending himself against a dozen or so attackers in a single wacky shot, he’s mostly a director of the slice-and-dice school: lots of noise and flashing lights, set against the “Blade Runner” brand of sci-fi hardware.
The opening reels are actually pretty good, mostly because we’re in the early stages of figuring out what Quaid’s true identity is. And I have no problem with spending a few minutes being dazzled by a futuristic landscape, even if things look pretty bleak.
But the tinny style is grating, and the movie has no room for even fleeting moments of poetry, no pauses for any consideration of the actual panic of what being stripped of one’s identity (or memory) would entail.
And even with the 1990 movie available to be ripped off, this version cuts out many of the choicest ideas and jokes. Aside from a couple of references to the Schwarzenegger film, and a throwaway gag about whose portrait might decorate money in the future, the remake is parched for inspiration.
It’s so pared down, you wonder whether there’s a longer version (especially given the relatively brief appearances by people like Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy, whose characters are important to the plot).
On second thought, maybe you don’t wonder; it’s fine if this is the last we hear of “Total Recall.”
“Total Recall” (1½ stars)
A pointless remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger picture, this time with Colin Farrell playing the futuristic man whose memory might not really be his own. After a decent start, it’s all mechanics, and director Len Wiseman hasn’t even bothered to steal some of the best stuff from the original. Co-starring Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, nudity.
Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Stanwood, Meridian, Sundance, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall and Oak Harbor.