"If I'm not me then who I'm I?"
Review by Kenneth Vazquez
"If I'm not me then who I'm I?" Colin Farrell delivers this poignant and ambiguous line in director Len Wiseman's (Underworld, Underworld Evolution, Live Free or Die Hard) solid remake of Arnold Shwartzenegger's and Paul Verhoeven's sci fi action adventure classic, TOTAL RECALL.
Len Wiseman brings his visionary bold and stark touch to an all too familiar story which manages to be unique and stand apart from the early 90s original. In the process delivering an entertaining non stop ride of amazingly futuristic visuals.
I will admit being initially jaded and completely against a remake of my all time favorite Shwartzenegger film and still remain baffled that it happened. I mean, Hollywood is seriously running out of ideas. What's next? A remake of Running Man? Red Heat? Commando maybe? Wait...that one is in the works. But you all get my point. How could Wiseman improve on what some consider perfection?
First of all the original was crafted in the late 80s and early 90s and reflected the film making and science fiction sensibilities of that generation yet it still resonate today. It was also based on the short story 'We Will Remember It For You Wholesale' by the late sci fi author Philip K Dick and during the development of the script some of the source material's concepts and plot points were either omitted, abandoned or replaced. Despite the changes director Paul Verhoeven managed to make a ground breaking and innovative film with an underlying social commentary which stood and survived the test of time.
With that said, Len Wiseman's version, which was co-written by the screen writers of the original film, Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon, along with Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Ultraviolet), Mark Bomback and Jon Povill, incorporate themes from the short story becoming more of a new adaptation of the source than a straight up remake. Gone is the whole Mars angle with It's scarred mutants and alien artifacts replaced with an Earth ravaged by extensive chemical warfare at the end of the 21st century, political intrigue and societal oppression.
Wiseman's sharp, dark and dynamic vision of the future shares a similar look to Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner', (also inspired by another Philip K Dick story, 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep') with highly congested city blocks, overly populated areas and overarching and hanging architecture. A sleek and sophisticated London, England surrounds and smothers It's Victorian former self while the rest of the grand island is a dilapidated and unforgiving quarantine zone. Fast hover car chases, intense shoot outs with robotic sentries and zero gravity battles while traveling through the Earth's core are some of the impressive highlights. Nods to the original are all over the film including a three breasted prostitute, the red headed lady ("Two weeks!") and Quaid's disguise.
The cast is impressive with Colin Farrell playing the dual role of factory worker Douglas Quaid and secret agent Carl Hauser. Farrell is making an outstanding cinematic comeback in the role once played so well by Shwartzenegger but still succeeds at making it his own. Kate Beckinsale, who has proven herself to be this generation's "Ellen Ripley", is explosive as Lori, the loving wife/deadly gun toting operative with devastating and hard hitting fighting moves. Sharon Stone, in one of her early screen roles, played Lori in the original relying more on her sexuality than the brawn that Beckinsale portrays naturally.
Jessica Biel (Blade Trinity, Stealth, The Illusionist) plays the headstrong, loyal and beautiful freedom fighter Melina, a femme fatale played by the exotic Rachel Ticotin in the previous film. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Red Tails) makes a villainous turn as Chancellor Milos Cohaagen, an antagonist brought to life memorably by Ronny Cox (Robocop, Deliverance) in the original. Bokeem Woodbine (Jason's Lyric, Dead Presidents, The Big Hit) makes an appearance as Quaid's blue collar co-worker and friend, Harry, while the formidable Bill Nighy (Underworld, Valkyrie) turns up as the enigmatic leader of the resistance, Matthias. Cameos by John Cho (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Star Trek) and Will Yun Lee (Die Another Day, Elektra) were awesome.
So how does the original TOTAL RECALL holds up to this visually good looking yet needless remake? Not to sound bias but the original is superior in nearly every way. As mentioned before, the first film is as relevant today as it was then. It's technical visual achievements and compelling story telling were way ahead of the curve and continue to inspire to this date. Len Wiseman's adaptation could've been titled something else altogether to avoid comparisons and the ire of angered fans. Alas, despite what critics and the audience at large say, as well as the box office, this bad ass actioner is worth the memory implants.