Friday, August 3, 2012

Total Recall [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Total Recall [2012] directed by Len Wiseman, current screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback is a somewhat-to-significantly reworked remake of the film Total Recall [1990] directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The basic storyline in both cases was inspired by science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick's [IMDb] short story "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale" [PDF].

What's the story about?  Douglas Quaid (played in the 2012 version by Colin Farrell and in the 1990 version by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a common laborer/factory worker living in a world set a significant time into the future.  He lives in a non-descript apartment in large high rise/tenement, has a beautiful wife named Lori (played in the 2012 version by Kate Beckinsale and in the 1990 version by Sharon Stone), and does his job.  But he's bored.

Douglas Quaid sees advertisements for a new service called "Total Recall" which promise to give one _in two hours time_ the memories of a perfect vacation or fantasy without actually having to go (or spending the money to go...).  Quaid, bored with his life and also broke, decides to give it a shot.  When he comes to the "Total Recall" studio, he's told that he really could order anything.  Did he ever dream of being a "powerful man," a "sport's hero," heck even a "secret agent."  All was possible.  Just sit back, dose off (with help of some sort of a sleep inducing agent) and let the Total Recall people implant the memories.

So Douglas Quaid is strapped into his chair, all sorts of gizmos are put around his head, he's given an IV to feed the sleep inducing agent into his blood stream, and then ... something goes wrong.  The rest of the movie (a SciFi spy caper) ensues... 

Note to Parents: While this new 2012 version is rated PG-13 (!!), perhaps because most of the beings shot up in the new version were "androids" as opposed to human beings, I'd still would have preferred that the film would be rated-R like the 1990 version.  (And IMHO the 1990 version probably should have been rated NC-17 if the rating was honest).  Still, the truly gratuitous violence aside, I found the 1990 version fascinating and the new one as well.  Ask yourselves:

(1) Was the "rest of the story" in the film "real" (really happening to Douglas Quaid) or was it just the 2 hour "secret agent fantasy" that he paid Total Recall to "implant" into his brain's memory?

(2) Isn't the experience that Douglas Quaid paid the "Total Recall" service to give him kinda what _we_ pay for when _we_ go to the movies?  For the price of admission, _we're_ transported by the film-makers to a different time and place, and often enough we identify with / experience vicariously the experiences of the protagonist(s) of the story that we watch played out on the screen before us.  And then, after our 2-3 hour "session" is done ... we go home with the memories of what we had just experienced "implanted" in _our_ brains.

Viewers of the current version of the film will also see more or less obvious homages to other Sci-Fi / Adventure films including: The Bourne Identity [2002], Star Wars [1977], Inception [2010] and Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981].

So if you can stand (and many won't be able to stand) the near constant chase scenes, the constant shattering of glass, and the blowing-up/dismemberment of countless androids as well as body-armored humans (who often look almost like androids) then there's actually something beneath the surface of all that mayhem for you.  But as in the case of the 1990 version, the new 2012 version of the story continues to be told in a very violent way.

As such this film continues to both frustrate and fascinate.  Yes, it is violent (again, even the newer version deserves parental involvement, hence an R rating).  On the other hand, the concept underneath it is brilliant and the film arguably expresses what we ourselves experience every time we go to the movies.

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1 comment:

  1. It’s not the most inventive remake out there, but it’s still a fun one that has you suspend your belief and turn off your brain for about 2 hours, and just enjoy what’s on display. Can’t see too much wrong with that, can you? Good review Dennis.