So I reasoned that after reading We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and seeing a trailer for the Colin Farrell remake of Total Recall, it was time for me to see the sci-fi sensation for myself. I steeled myself for nonstop action thrills, with cheesetastic 80's effects (I know it came out in 90)...and I wasn't disappointed. Total Recall starts off with Arnie running the beautiful red sands of Mars, and wishing and hoping to make that dream become a reality. There was a company that could accomplish this for him, none other than Rekall, a company promising virtual vacations. Things spiral downhill from there. What makes this film such a hit that it's worthy of a remake?
I will answer that, but I'd like to break it down into a couple different categories. First of all, I'd like to discuss the origins, if I may.
The story concept came from the wonderful Philip K. Dick, who has also given movie inspiration for films such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. His story however was only a short story titled 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale', quite a mouthful. The story starts the same, with Quaid dreaming of Mars, and going to Rekall to get this memory implanted, he then discovers that this memory is already inside of him...so on and so forth, until his old military buddies start trying to kill him. Then the story paths diverge. (SPOILER ALERT) In the short story, Quaid goes back to his apartment, and he realizes they are going to kill him there, he knows he can't escape, so he tells them that instead of killing him, they could just plant a new memory in, this time, something else he desired, something so strange he would believe it, something such as him saving the entire planet from a race of aliens when he was 9. Yeah, that ought to do it. Nope. Same problem as before. The memory was already there.
The interesting thing about the movie, is that it takes what really matters from the story, and that is paranoia, and fear, and having your reality shattered, and apply it to their own use. Philip seemed to have come up with this concept on the fly....and left it as that, just a concept, so I left the movie smiling, since they had taken a unique sci-fi idea from his brain, added a simple character into that mold, then stirred in some of the good old ultra violence, some romance, and some world saving bravado, and you're done. It works, I have no complaints as to how they adapted it.
Now on to the movie itself, The Effects: The effects were a center piece, if you've got arnold, and you've got sci-fi, you better have effects. I like use of animatronics and prosthetics to make Arnold capable of pulling that red pulsing booger out of his nose, and his awesome face hiding device...(the remake doesn't look like it will have this quite the same.) The set designs show they are dated, when I have a hard time believing they are on mars, and not a set. Overall though, not bad, especially coming in after Alien, and Aliens.
Moving on, I would like to address someone dear to my heart. Arnold Schwarzenegger. For some reason every time I see him on screen he is fun to watch, even though in my opinion, there isn't much to watch. In fact he was the reason I watched this movie. I was telling a friend that Arnold really didn't have any movies he was good in. He named this one. So I had to watch this to see if it was any different. Honestly though, it wasn't. Not that Arnold ruined it, but he did nothing to make the role unique to him, that's why I'm ok with Colin filling the big man's boots. Let's look at it like this: Arnie can play any role, where is required to show no emotion...or way too much. In Total Recall, he couldn't stop his eyes bugging out, or shouting incoherently, or making cheesy catchphrases. Too much for me. Still love the guy though....GET TO THE CHOPPA!!! Anyway, enough bashing. To my final point: Story.
What makes this movie catch more than the unique nature of its sci-fi-ness is the questions it raises.
Questions then arise: Ethical questions, questions of our ability to discern our own sanity, questions of trust. these are ingrained in us, and when brought to the surface, we go...huh....interesting, what WOULD I do in that situation. I think that even though this movie is mostly muscle and brawn, it brings up enough of the goods to leave an impression, which is why it has stuck around so long......that plus Arnold's bugging eyes....
So the question then becomes, can the remake make it? I think if they stick to the formula of mind bending possibilities, ethical decisions, and keep the action to a good pace....not absurd; that coupled with Colin Farrell's worried face, and great possibility for emotion (In Bruges) brew up something that could exceed. Maybe. Not sure if I will remember it.