Total Recall

Australia usually wins a buckle load of medals at the Olympics, but in London the Australian team failed to get more than half the haul of Beijing gold. The media were ropeable. Swimmer James Magnussen was a “failure,” with the team coming fourth in a “disaster,” when the first four placing were separated by less than two seconds! Magnussen goes on to win silver in the 100M freestyle, missing out on gold by 1/100 of a second and it seemed like the world had come to an end, if the media reports were to be believed.

The “failure” to win gold had at least one commentator who should know better calling for a “royal commission” to investigate the tragedy, questioning the team’s “work ethic.” In reality, just getting to compete in the finals at that level is an astounding achievement, to win a medal is outstanding, regardless of its chemical composition. Silver is not a consolation prize for the first loser, it is a recognition that the competition is so fierce placings can be separated by a fingernail.

And people wonder why I have no interest in the Olympics. It’s not the Olympics, its the hype that does my head in. Anyway, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with the remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic Total Recall. It has everything to do with it, because both the Australia Olympic team and Total Recall have been unfairly savaged by armchair critics.

Being a writer, I know a thing or two about unfair criticism. Some of the cheap shots I’ve been subjected to are so blatantly false they’re laughable. They’re electronic vandalism, graffiti I can’t paint over. So I feel for the Olympic athletes and the makers of Total Recall as consumers will make decisions based on these reviews, trusting them when, for whatever reason, they’re unduly biased against them.

Total Recall is savaged by movie reviewers, and unfairly so. OK, it’s not Gone with the Wind, but that’s not what I went to see. I wanted to watch an science fiction action/adventure and that’s exactly what I got, heart-stopping, adrenalin pumping action.

Total Recall isn’t perfect, but to call it “bloated” and “should have asked for… money back” and “lackluster” is disingenuous.

  • There’s a few minor plot holes, but nothing of any significance, certainly nothing on the scale of Prometheus. I doubt whether most people will even pick up on them.
  • Colin Farrell doesn’t have the presence of Arnold. But that’s a good thing, at least Farrell can act. As much as I love Arnie, he’s more of a special effects prop than an actor.
  • The omni-directional elevator scene is unnecessarily convoluted and would never work in real life, but, hey, it’s fiction. I can understand the pressure the writers/producers feel under to come up with something new and innovative. If they had have gone with something safe, they’d have been criticised for that as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
  • The movie follows all the classic tropes, with caricatures rather than characters and the obligatory car chase scene, but what action movie doesn’t?
  • There’s a few minor scientific points that are stretched for the sake of the story, but they’re well executed and fun to watch.
  • Somewhat predictably, the bad guys and robots can’t shoot straight, but audiences have been accepting that since spaghetti westerns
  • My only criticism would be the two women have essentially the same hair colour, making them hard to pick out in fight scenes. Blone/brunette would have worked better, but how minor is that? And Kate Beckinsale steals the movie with her sultry mood.

Comparing this remake to the original is a mistake. Yes, there’s obvious similarities in that the story line is essentially the same, but there’s plenty of variety and intrigue woven in as well. The cinematography is brilliant. Any comparison is going to fall short, simply because the original aspects of the story can’t be repeated and remain original. I can’t help but wonder if this was the first rendition of Philip K. Dick’s novel whether it would rate higher.

Both versions of Total Recall are great. The remake, though, is more gritty, deliberately reminiscent of Blade Runner, and unfolds on a grand scale. Even though you have a pretty good idea how the classic scenes are going to unfold, the script writers have pushed themselves to come up with subtle differences and a nice twist at the end that gets you to question everything you’ve just seen.

As action films go, I rate Total Recall as 9/10. Perhaps all those negative reviews lowered my expectations, leaving me pleasantly surprised.

4 thoughts on “Total Recall

  1. How did I miss this post? Nicely done.
    (Excuse all the spelling errors, not on my pc with the safetynet of spellcheck.)
    This society tends to marginalize and compare everything. Whether it is a movie or a new basketball rookie being compared to michael jordan or kobe. No one enjoyes talent for what it is until its passed and then it becomes a new benchmark to weigh the newest talent.

    This happens with sequels, myself including, people can not help but compare it to the previous version. But you are right we should try to give it an indepenent fair share.

    This also happens with franchises and Star Wars got it the worst. The new prequel trilogy is not horrible, infact the Sith film is on the level of Jedi. Had those films been washed of all referrences of star wars or better yet show to a society of n alternate dimension with no star wars people would love the 3 films as a stands alone.

    People love nostalgia also. Had the comic critics had the internet in 1978 superman would have been crucified for its non-cannon view and representation of the man in blue as much so as superman returns. Now reeve was a much better superman and the films were better, but what they held over superman returns would have been done to the classic.

    And since I am on a roll let’s bring up war of the worlds. People love the classic film and despise the new cruise edition. I personally love the first just on the story, but the movie is nothing like the book and cruises film was not praised for its faithful nature. to h.g. wells classic… but no one reads classics anymore. I personally. disliked the remake solely for the simple fact tom cruise makes my skin crawl.

    Sorry for venting! But yes I agree.

    • Yeah, I enjoyed the Star Wars prequels. I don’t like George Lucas’ fascination with childish characters (Jar-Jar Binks, Ewoks, Anakin flying a podracer, etc), but overall it was a captivating story arc. It’s always a big ask to follow up something that’s as epic as Star Wars (sorry, I can’t bring myself to call it IV New Hope). My mother took me to see Star Wars for my tenth birthday, pulling me out of school for the day, and I was off soaring among the stars in the Millennium Falcon 🙂

      I’m no fan of Tom Cruise. His trade mark “money shot” smile is just too much for me, breaking any suspension of disbelief, but I really liked him in War of the Worlds (most of the time). Having read H.G. Wells book, I was fascinated to see how well they portrayed the basement scene where his buddy becomes unhinged. That was five star.

  2. I’m a big fan of Arnold movies and of sci-fi in general, so I was really looking forward to this. I never expected it to even be “just as good” as the original, never mind a better movie. That’s the problem for everyone else, I think a lot of people held that expectation and that’s why they thought the movie sucked so much. I personally liked the original Philip K. Dick story, and I thought this was closer to that than the first movie.

    I was disappointed they didn’t go to Mars, though. 😦

    • …me too… the “through the centre of the Earth” thing was a bit of a plot device, a substitute for Mars. There’s other things they could have done, but I think they secretly liked the floating weightless, reorienting to gravity concept, which was nicely done.

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