Film Review: Total Recall (2012)

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They Stole His Movie...

In a world where risk addiction was celebrated and suits were content to annually write off millions, re-making the failures of the past in a bid to alchemise their potential into box office gold, there’d be nothing like the new Total Recall. You’ll smite that sentiment, arguing that had it been a triumph, no-one would mind, but the truth is that this endeavour never had any chance of succeeding. The creative team behind it – the unholy trinity of director Len Wiseman, scribe Kurt Wimmer and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, who between them have never enjoyed an original idea in their lives – coupled with the philosophy that informed its conception, the drive to create a sanitised product in the interests of sensitive young ticket buyers, doomed this revival.

The triumvirate of tedium, who grew this movie in a lab using cuttings from old Schwarzenegger VHS cases, bring their trademark magpie tendency to proceedings, plus rusty cognition, the kind of thinking that rips the beating heart out of good ideas. Wiseman and Tatapoulos have noted the chutzpah employed in other Phillip K. Dick adaptations- notably Blade Runner and Minority Report, and have folded one into the other, though with a lazy eye. Millions have been spent creating computer generated metropolises, yet the London Underground runs Canadian subway trains. To this they’ve added the robot army from Attack of the Clones: bloodless fodder for Colin Farrell’s half-pint Arnie.

In Schwarzenegger’s heyday, when science fiction was still about ideas rather than just eye-popping spectacle, vintage movies from the Hays Code era, censored in the interests of propriety, were remade with added grit and adult content, celebrating the new freedom. Consequently 50’s b-movies like The Thing from Another World got a grotesque makeover, becoming The Thing. The Fly was reborn as an allegory for disease, complete with pickled genitals and corrosive vomit. Cape Fear got additional violence and sadism. The new Total Recall is the latest reversal of that trend. Studios like Columbia are happy to trade on the memory of the 1990 film, but its titillation and ultraviolence would be unthinkable in a market where the only group deemed worthy of tapping up has barely got over their balls dropping. Sure, there’s a momentary flash of a three breasted prostitute and a lonely f-word, because it pays to flirt with older teens, but their fleeting cameos only serve to remind you how inhibited the remainder is.

Then there’s writer Kurt Wimmer in collusion with Mark Bomback. Wimmer, whose CV would give Troy McClure pause, is so attuned to the ontological conundrum that underpins the original story, that he manages to botch the film’s key scene.

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Directed by: Len Wiseman

Country: US

Year: 2012

Running Time: 118 mins

Certificate: 12A for extreme Deja Vu and a wasted Bill Nighy.

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