Sunday, August 23, 2015

Total Recall (2012) Review:

Hollywood is criticized countlessly for rebooting various popular films from the past in the forms of remakes. Unless the project is given to people with the right skill set, many remakes end up paling in comparison to the original material they spawned from. A big cause of these foul-ups is that it's a remake alone. Many fans feel there is nothing to re-invent about what was made prior. Another issue is how sensitive the rating system has become. With more and more studios believing that PG-13 rating is the best way to get a mass crowd of viewers, less and less fans become interested. During the last half of the 20th century, many films were made with R ratings just because. However, more PG-13 ratings are given and that mindset is still taken into account when it comes to redoing certain properties. Unfortunately, this lesson hasn't been entirely learned yet. For director Paul Verhoeven a lot of his late 1980 and early 1990 films have not been given enough leeway.

Colin Farrell & Jessica Biel
Although in some ways the original Total Recall (1990) has not aged nicely, its narrative, hard R rating and Schwarzenegger's memorable acting made it a sci-fi classic. Skip 22 years later and you have this remake, which like many studios claimed was "introducing it to new audiences". It is watchable but is probably only worthwhile once. The story is fairly similar to that of Verhoeven's version. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is an average guy married to his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) who works at a factory with Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) where they make synthetics (robot cops). Yet every night, Quaid keeps having dreams where he's trying to escape with some girl named Melina (Jessica Biel) and he feels like he knows her. In the background, there's a "civil war" occurring between Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the man behind the Synthetics and Matthias (Bill Nighy) a man labeled as the "leader of rebels". Among all this, there is a giant elevator that transports people from one side of the earth to the other passing through the earth's core and it's called "The Fall". It is this that people believe the phrase "The fall enslaves us all".

For writing, which was penned by Kurt Wimmer (Salt (2010)) and Mark Bomback (Unstoppable (2010)) takes the mind-bending screenplay from the original and waters it down to where the story comes across as really generic. Just how does the fall enslave everybody? There barely is any depiction of what the fall does to the people who don't approve of it. Here there's not much of a reason given and most audiences will continue watching the film than try and figure out the motivation. Another subplot Wimmer and Bomback couldn't effectively translate was whether after Quaid visited rekall, if he was in a dream or not. There is a hint of it later on but it is so weak in comparison to Verhoeven's version, which kept its viewers guessing every step of the way. This version has no transition from when Quaid gets his memory implant. The only part of the writing that is flattering are the various references. Remember the "two weeks" disguise - which's there. Remember the three breasted female - she's there, mind you that doesn't even make sense because there is no mention of mutants in this world.

Although not many standout, all main cast members act believable between each other. The actor who looked like he had the most fun went to Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen. Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel pass as a couple and Farrell has his moments along with Kate Beckinsale. Bokeem Woodbine as Quaid's friend was okay but felt predictable. The only actor who is completely useless in his role is Bill Nighy as the infamous rebel "leader". The only thing Matthias does is give a one line quote of insight to Quaid and that's it. Nighy is not even allowed to let his hammier side of acting show, which is unfortunate. The action entertains but only initially. The physical fight scenes between Quaid and other characters have energy; that part is worth it. What gets tiresome on the other hand are all the sci-fi action scenes that involve car chases, synthetics and other worldly technology. Like a structured story should be written, every action-related scene should get bigger than the last but for these, it becomes preposterous. That's not to say they become mind numbing like a Michael Bay film but they suffer from obvious CGI overload.

"Did you see me from Breaking Bad?"
The special effects are well put together no doubt, it all looks real and physically tangible singularly. It just becomes too much sometimes when everything is together all at once. The cinematography by Paul Cameron (Collateral (2004)) doesn't always help either. For the outside scenes it is hard to tell what is real and what isn't. There's no problem having wide panning shots to give the audience a better idea of scope. However, it helps to also shoot scenes with techniques like those while including parts of the set that are real so each scene doesn't feel so CGI-ish. The other fault Cameron keeps making are continuously having lens-flares in various shots, whether it be indoors or out. It's rather distracting when one is trying to focus on what is happening. Harry Gregson-Williams composed the music, which consists of hybrid orchestra. For this score, Williams does have a main theme for the film but it lacks any kind of memorable cue that'll make someone think of the film. It is literally a two-note cue involving horns and deep synth base.

It's a watchable film but only for a one-time stand. It has acceptable special effects, hand-to-hand action, okay acting, music and flattering references to the original. Yet this doesn't make up for the occasional CGI overload, generically written plot, weakly written dream subplot and continuous lens flares in its cinematography.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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