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The Movie Scab Reviews: "Total Recall."

Updated on August 11, 2012

"The scab you're picking at is called execution."

--American film producer Scott Rudin.

Monkey Boy picks the movies!
Monkey Boy picks the movies!

Ack! Ack!

Monkey Boy gives Total Recall 2 Acks! out of 5!

Total Recall.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first:

Monkey Boy gave Total Recall (the so-called Remake) 2 Acks! out of 5 because of top notch special effects and well executed action sequences.

And because Colin Farell does a pitch-perfect American accent and Jessica Biel is hot.

That’s it.

So if special effects, action sequences, Colin Farell’s American accent and Jessica Biel’s hotness do it for you, go and see this movie.

I do not mean to sound condescending here. As Carl Sagan used to say, it’s an awful tone of voice and if I’ve used it I apologize. I don’t mean to come across as if I’m superior because I think this movie is total crap and you’re an idiot because all you need are those four elements to make this movie experience satisfying. Honestly, I get it. Special effects are cool and technologically amazing. Action sequences are entertaining and the skill involved is truly mind-blowing. It’s an acting miracle that Colin Farell can so completely disguise is wonderfully-nutty Irish accent. And Jessica Biel is freakin’ hot.

I get it. I really, really do.

But if those four elements don’t do it for you, skip the movie and read on.

The other thing I’d like to point out is that according to the word “remake” means “something that is made again, especially a new version of a film.”

Total Recall (2012) is officially called a remake of Total Recall (1990). Both films are inspired by a short story written by Philip K. Dick called We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.

Other than the basic science fiction premise that you can download “extra-factual memory implants” into your brain, any similarities between the movies and the short story stop there.

Dan O’Bannon (Alien, The Return of the Living Dead), Ronald Shusett (Dead and Buried) and Gary Goldman (The Secret of NIMH, Big Trouble in Little China) were the screenwriters for Total Recall (1990). Pretty much everything you see in the movie was invented by them, and it’s clever, witty, ultra-violent and over the top science fiction action adventure.

Kurt Wimmer (The Thomas Crown Affair, Ultraviolet) is the screenwriter for Total Recall (2012). Pretty much everything you see in the movie was invented by him, except the stuff invented by O’Bannon, Shusett and Goldman in order to make it a “remake.”

And here’s where it gets just plain weird, or stupid, depending on your point of view and as far as I’m concerned it’s both, weird and stupid, and a sad testament to the state of moviemaking today: The 2012 version of Total Recall is nothing like the 1990 version of Total Recall.

How then can they call it a remake? Why bother calling it a remake? Why use the same title? Since the story is so different, why not just call it something else?

Oh. That’s right. Marketing. If it’s a remake, the studio has a built-in fan base and that guarantees the movie will make some money, at least, that’s the strategy involved.

And it's a bigfatstupid lie. Total Recall (2012) is not a remake of Total Recall (1990). And if you think it is, you’re going to be as duped as I was.

The original movie had well written and well defined characters. It had an inventive plot that took you on a wild adventure to Mars that lead to ancient aliens and technology, triple breasted genetic mutants, grotesque mutant prophets with mysterious psychic abilities, and even though the characters were splattered in huge amounts of blood along the way, there was plenty of fun-filled mystery to uncover. And to top it all off, the dialogue was sharp, dark, comic and no punches were pulled in regard to the sex and violence.

The new version is certainly entertaining, but none of the well written and well defined characters are there, the plot is almost totally different and nowhere near as inventive and fun as the original, they sacrifice the plot by rushing it so that they can fill the screen with action, memorable scenes and dialogue (from the fist film) are dumbed down to embarrassing mimicry, and the sex is air brushed out and the violence is removed with politically correct robots.

Where’s the fun in that? I don’t read Playboy for the articles, you know.

So what you have here are two different plots/movies with minimal similarities under the same title: A loser dude in a loser job feels like he’s missing out on life, so he goes to Rekall, a business that downloads false memories into the brains of loser dudes like him. He chooses to have the memory of a secret agent implanted in his brain, but when it seems that he’s got a real secret agent memory in there, well, that’s when things go horribly wrong.

Worse yet, because Total Recall (2012) is officially a remake Wimmer takes memorable scenes from the first movie and “remakes” them. For example, the fight scenes/dialogue between Quaid and his wife and the “insert” scene between Quiad and Dr. Edgemar.

Wimmer puts those scenes into his original story—no, let me rephrase that. He forces them into his original story to make the “remake” work, and it doesn’t work at all because you can tell it’s forced and you can’t help but compare them to the original, and every single time the original did it better.

Strangest of all are the “nods” to the original. Take, for example, the scene where Quiad is trying to enter the city disguised as a large woman. In the original movie, the woman says, “Two weeks” and then she opens up and Quiad jumps out of her. She’s a robot disguise he’s been using. Her head falls off and she says, “Get ready for a surprise!” And then her head blows up, killing a bunch of people.

That’s not only pretty inventive, it’s memorable.

In the new version, Quiad is entering the city using a hologram that makes him look like an Asian man, but there’s a large woman in the foreground who looks like the large woman from the original movie and she says, “Two weeks.” And… nothing happens.

Wow. I don’t even know how to respond to that. Bringing it up and then doing nothing with it makes no sense at all.

And then there’s director Len Wiseman’s decision to give the role of the super bad guy once played by Michael Ironside to his wife, super hottie Kate Beckinsale. Now, look, I admire Wiseman as a director and I thoroughly respect Beckinsale as an actor, and she’s a hottie so that’s a plus. They’ve made some great movies. But it’s ridiculous that they thought Kate Beckinsale could replace Richter, a role originated by one of the best super bad guy actors in film, a.k.a., Michael Ironside. Ironside is the king of bad ass.

Let’s compare them, shall we? Bad ass to bad ass.

Beckinsale is a hottie and Ironside is not so he’s already got the advantage because he looks like a baddie and she simply looks like a hottie with a bad ass. Yes, she wins in the ass department, but she cannot pull off bad ass bad guy. Sorry, Kate. Just the way it is.

But bad looks and bad asses aside, here’s the real reason she can’t win: No one can do over the top bad guy like Ironside and that’s because Ironside is Canadian. Canadian actors are well known for “chewing the scenery” and by that I mean, when a Canadian actor acts, it’s waaay over the top. (William Shatner anyone?) There are tears! There are howls! Grimaces and groanings! Peculiar verbal cadences and pronunciations! Lots of spit! And somewhere in that tempest of Canadian acting a weeping Shakespeare comes to mind. Watching a Canadian actor chew the scenery is an awesome thing to witness. Ironside is the best over the top Canadian acting actor in film and Beckinsale is English, a hottie and a girl, and she doesn’t stand a chance in his enormous over the top shadow.

Along similar lines, in Total Recall (1990) Ronny Cox played Cohagen, the CEO bad guy, and boy, did you love to hate him in that movie. Why? Because Ronny Cox is a great actor and the screenwriters and director gave us time to love to hate him.

Not so in the new version. In Total Recall (2012) Len Wiseman decided to cast Bryan Crantson in the role of Cohagen. Now, Cranston is a solid and respectable actor (Breaking Bad anyone?), but he makes an appearance that matters late in the movie, at about the half way mark, and by then it’s far too late to love to hate him. When he dies we don’t care. The same fate happens to British actor Bill Nighy, a veritable acting god, and he’s hardly in the movie. Both of these fine acting talents are utterly wasted.

And, lastly, we come to the sex and violence. In the original, there’s plenty of R rated boobs and sex. There’s even a three breasted genetic mutant hottie. She’s in the new version too, but like the “two weeks” scene the three boobs are shown simply because the movie wants us to know it’s a “remake” of a much better and much sexier movie. The three boobs in the first movie actually make sense--why they're there. The three boobs in the new version make no sense at all. They’re just there.

As to the violence, I can sum it up in one scene: In the original, super bad guy Michael Ironside gets his arms cut off by an elevator and blood sprays everywhere as he screams, falling to his death. In the new version, a robot gets an arm cut off by an elevator. A robot.

My rating: The first thing you do is slam five shots of the worst rot-gut tequila you can find, one after the other, no salt, no lime. Then buy the bar a round of shots. Brain Hemorrhages will do. Make sure you’ve got a bottle of Jagermeister as backup. Guzzle the Jager back with some Red Bull, smoke a cigarette, go to the gym, do 50 pushups and then pose naked in front of a mirror like Arnold Schwarzenegger and try to flex your muscles before you vomit. If you still remember who you are after that and don't believe you're a secret agent sent to Mars, go and see the movie and enjoy the special effects, action scenes, Colin Farell’s American accent and Jessica Biel's hotness.


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    • profile image

      Ankit 3 years ago

      Проверьте строку define (’WPLANG’, ‘ru_RU’); в файле wp-config.php и файл в папке /wp-content/languages/ на хостинге. В обоих должно быть одинаково: или ru_RU или ru_ru .

    • profile image

      mts1098 5 years ago

      You are correct in that this film should not have been called a remake and I think Kate was a good choice for this role...She played a good bad ass and it was fun to see her in a dark role...cheers

    • Omnivium profile image

      Omnivium 5 years ago

      Wow, thanks for the really detailed answer. Most people don't even respond to my comments lol.

    • Blue Phillips profile image

      The Movie Scab 5 years ago

      Hey there, Omnivium!

      Thanks for dropping by The Movie Scab and commenting.

      Let's get to your question: Expectations too high or is the movie that bad?

      As you may recall from the review, Monkey Boy gave Total Recall (2012) 2 Acks! out of 5, which isn't bad, considering just how bad the movie is. That means Total Recall (2012) isn't the worst summer movie to come out this year. (Believe it or not.) In other words, it's entertaining enough to satisfy. If you've got a few hours to kill, it's not a total waste of your life to invest in the movie, although, I'd argue it'd be better to go to an Irish pub and have a few drinks and save the movie for viewing at home when it's released on DVD and Blue-ray.

      Now, when I watched the movie my expectations were not high. I knew it was a remake of a classic science fiction film and remakes these days tend to--if you'll pardon my language--suck big green donkey dicks. I knew that going in to Total Recall (2012). This means that my expectations were low, low, low. In fact, I was expecting a total crapheap of a movie. Thus, giving it 2 Acks! out of 5 is quite something, a badge of honor the moviemakers should wear with pride.

      But of course when you examine Total Recall (2012) in some detail, or when you compare it to the original, or when you compare it to a well written big summer blockbuster like The Avengers, it's clear that the execution of Total Recall (2012) is pretty darn bad. The director has to carry most of the blame, of course, but the screenwriter did him no favors, God bless him.

      To be fair, screenwriting is not an easy job for numerous reasons, but one of the main reasons it's tough is simply because the screenwriter has the least power in Hollywood and on a movie set.

      Now, some folks in the film industry think a finished screenplay is the most powerful tool in the movie business, and that may (or may not) be true, but even if it is true, screenwriting is a collaborative affair, i.e., once the screenwriter gives the script to the director, producers and the actors, they can do whatever they want to it, make changes, erase excellent dialogue, add giant spiders that make no sense to the plot if they want and totally destroy the script. Once the screenwriter hands the script over, any imagined power or control over that script no longer applies.

      In regard to Total Recall (2012), the screenwriting in and of itself is simply awful. If the director, producers and actors made changes for the worse, oh well. (Who knows? Maybe they made changes for the better? But even if that's true, those changes can't save the movie.)

      Remember, movies are about storytelling and characters. That's all. All the other stuff, like cool special effects and well executed action scenes, good acting and good looks, are simply icing on the storytelling cake. If the storytelling cake is well made, or in this case, if it's well told with well written/defined characters (the cake maker makes you care about them), then the whole storytelling cake will taste great. You might even go back for seconds.

      Total Recall (2012) wasn't made well. It doesn't taste great. I'm not going back for seconds. That's not my fault. That's the fault of the people who made the movie, and as I said, I lay the blame on the shoulders of the director, who should know better, and the screenwriter, who doesn't seem to.

      As I said in the review, the direction of the action scenes, the special effects, Farell's American accent and Biel's hotness are enough to satisfy, but at the end of the day those four elements aren't enough to tell a good story, and movies are all about telling a good story with compelling characters. That's why Total Recall (2012) is pretty to look at, a lovely looking movie cake, but when you take a bite it tastes like crap.

    • Omnivium profile image

      Omnivium 5 years ago

      I saw another hub that gave it a bad rating too. Are people's expectations just too high, or was it that bad?