Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Total Recall, dir. Len Wiseman, scr. Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, st. Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy

Glossy remakes of old favourites will always be the hardest of sells. News this week wafted around the internet of discontent from Jose Padhila as production gears up for his new Robocop movie out next year; earlier this month film journalist Drew McWeeny allegedly obtained a copy of the shooting script and took to twitter to lambast the project, and now Padhila's friend, City Of God director Fernando Meirelles has weighed in saying, "For every ten ideas he has, nine are cut." Admittedly, a grit-truck load of salt should be taken with these reportings, but if there's one thing experience has taught us, it's that all this sounds wearily plausible. 

And so step forward Total Recall,  remake of the keenly satirical and violent 1990 original by director Paul Verhoeven. Shorn of Philip K. Dick's wacky Martian narrative thread (a thread Verhoeven built his film around), this only succeeds in becoming yet another quasi-dystopian futurist receptacle for the same old twinkly Blade Runner-hacked cityscape backdrops. When coupled with the trailer for the new Judge Dredd film Dredd, the effect is tiresome indeed. Insultingly, Colin Farrell (playing the Arnie role of hero Douglas Quaid) is bestowed with a throwaway reference - quite literally "I'd like to go to Mars." Yuck. It's not all bad. The schizophrenic production design visually confounds as well as making little practical sense (I know, it's science fiction, but an inter-planetary elevator that goes from Australia to the UK via a lift-shaft cut through the Earth's core? What now?) but the tech's occasionally imaginative enough to be mildly diverting. And there is one cool little homage to the original that takes place in a space-port queue in which a red-haired lady, when questioned about her stay, replies in monotone, "Two weeks..." that brought a smile to my curled lips despite myself, but then there's the tri-breasted prostitute - a product of mutation in the first film, a product of complete incomprehension here.

Liberally thieving from better material seems to be de rigueur these days, so much so, that as John Doe might say, we tolerate it because it's common; more and more one feels ones pleas for a little bit of vision, a little bit or originality, are lost, echoing soundlessly in the great Hollywood money-making abyss. I for one would love some implants of my own. And by that I mean, of course, memories of better times in the Cinema auditorium, not a third tit.