Saturday, 1 September 2012

Film Review: Total Recall (2012)

Director: Len Wiseman
Writer: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon and Jon Povill
Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel

A lot can change in 22 years.

In 1990 the director of Robocop, Paul Verhoeven, made the (then) most expensive film ever starring the world’s biggest film star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was filled with groundbreaking special effects, state of the art practical effects, original and exciting action set pieces, and the director’s unique kind of ├╝ber violence. It took the audience on a journey to the future where in the year 2054 Earth is familiar but still futuristic, and then moves the action to Mars and shows us a brilliantly conceived landscape where the visuals are as eye-popping as those of the villain in the final sequence.

When I heard about the rumours that a remake was on its way, I was mortified. Then, I heard that Colin Farrell was to take on the Schwarzenegger role and I had a glimmer of hope assuming that surely an actor of his credibility, and one of my favourite stars, wouldn’t take on a straight remake. ‘This must be a closer version to the Philip K Dick short story’, I thought/hoped. Then Len Wiseman was attached to direct... then the teaser trailer was released... then the theatrical trailer... and just when I thought the atrocities couldn’t get any worse... I saw the final product.

This film is so terrifyingly bad, I genuinely didn’t know where to start this review as every scene, no every FRAME, is atrocious for any number of reasons. So, here goes.

The film’s visuals are a direct copy rip off from Minority Report, I, Robot, and The Fifth Element and the sets are a direct rip off of Blade Runner. The film borrows steals from any sci-fi film before it and is utterly and completely devoid of any originality to the point that it made me angry. With all the money spent on this film (and perhaps it’s only positive is that it does look expensive) it’s pathetically sad to think that the best they could have come up with is to just steal from others. Ironically, for a remake, they don’t steal from the only film they could get away with stealing from; the 1990 original. Yes, the story is essentially the same but any visuals or inspiration is just copied from the creative minds of others.

After the surprise of Die Hard 4.0, an action film I really enjoyed, Len Wiseman shows here that he is yet another boring, unoriginal film maker. Watching this and other rubbish this year like The Amazing Spider-Man, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Snow White and the Huntsmen has shown us just how crucial a competent director is when it comes to handling action sequences. Anyone can film a blue screen or a computer generated landscape but it takes skill and vision to film an exciting action sequence, a skill which Len Wiseman seems to have lost in between his last two films. The shootout when the film’s hero Doug Quaid (Farrell) is first hunted for being a spy is hands down the worst constructed, conceived, and executed sequence I have seen this year.

More frustrating than the lack of ability to excite the audience is the stealing of other director’s styles without any cause or even nod of homage. The overuse of lens flare in Total Recall should lead JJ Abrams to sue Wiseman for plagiarism; the lens flares are artificial and imposing and simply annoying, especially in scenes where there isn’t even a light source to warrant such an effect. It’s as if he is trying to remind us of Star Trek and forget the utter tripe on screen. Moreover, the film includes some nods to the 1990 original that MAKE NO SENSE AT ALL. Why is there a woman with three breasts on Earth when there is no mention of any mutation in the film? Why is the fat woman in the yellow coat at the airport/security gate scene? Why, when all the other technology has advanced, does the memory implant machine look the same as it did in 1990? Are we supposed to high-five our friends and shout “YES! I remember that from 22 years ago!” Also, why does the film even bother to include the scene where Quaid tries to bypass security with a fake head? In 1990 the effects were jaw-dropping as a fat woman’s head split in half to reveal Schwarzenegger’s underneath; In this version it’s a less impressive spectacle crammed in and rushed out just to tick a nostalgia box and is a massive missed opportunity for some creative spectacle.

Colin Farrell can be a very good actor when he wants, but this is the second worse performance of his career; how ironic that a film this bad isn’t quite as shocking as another in Farrell’s CV, London Boulevard. He looks and acts bored, probably because he is and knows he is so much better than this. Jessica Biel is one dimensional and entirely forgettable, but the true offender is Kate Beckinsale; she has the acting range of a deckchair and it shows in every scene and every line. They’ve tried to make her into some sort of Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich hard-ass female lead, but forgot that she cannot act the role to save her life. No one comes out of this film unscathed, least of all the paying audience.

Stop Thinking For Yourself Verdict: For a remake, this updated version is weaker in every department. Any intrigue or mystery which the 1990 film brought is forgotten here in place of yet another endless chase movie where the chases are look the same; it’s essentially the same terrible 20 minutes on loop. If only memory implants were real, I’d have this utter disaster erased from my mind at any price.

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