A Thesis on the implications of Total Recall and the contrast between the original film  and the remake and/or reimagining  by Sam C Smith.
“They stole his mind, now he wants it back.”
It is my Star Wars. Yes, I said it. So I did what any fanboy would do: Collect.
Why bother? It’s not as if Total Recall [Original will be referred to as TR, the new film hereby referred to as Total Recall] was the greatest film ever. It doesn’t even feature that highly on the greatest sci-fi film list of all time. But something just stuck with me throughout the 1990s to today that I never got with Star Wars – a film series pretty much filmed and over and done with before I could afford a video player.
But consider how much more difficult it is to get original TR-based collectibles. Especially in the UK. Especially in 2012. Any fan of any age can find something Star Wars based, and that includes error-in-production Kenner figures from the 70s.
In todays’ society, I could collect some items that would have been neglected by most. A novella of the film, comics recently released by Dynamite, T-shirts from a film reference based company, the original Philip K. Dick short story, and of course the Jerry Goldsmith official soundtrack.
But my methods, like most fanboys these days are decidedly modern. The film novella and PKD short story volume [written in 1966] I can remember for you wholesale bought online. The short series comic released this year  to coincide with the new film, from Forbidden Planet. A ‘Rekall’ t-shirt, from Last Exit To Nowhere [www.lastexittonowhere.com] which proudly promotes the fictional companies that exist in film, rather than the stock Superman Symbol or generic film quote t-shirts everyone ‘else’ wears. And finally, the Goldsmith soundtrack – probably the only type of classical music I’ll own, downloaded because it was a bastard to find the original to which sits on my mobile phone – a soundtrack Goldsmith was criticized for being avant garde, as it ‘had no theme’ – the theme throughout the entire film, just not one that could be whistled to your neighbour.
And then there’s the comics. Released by Dynamite Entertainment as a four issue one-shot, with covers by an artist that is a favourite of mine: Darick Robertson. Darick Robertson along with writer Warren Ellis created Transmetropolitan, a near-future set dystopic view of society with a decidedly non-heroic character loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson in the lead known as Spider Jerusalem. Written in late 1999 it chronicled Spider’s disdain and hatred for governmental driven society and inevitable problems that ensure – a worthy read at 60 issues long, but I recommend the graphic novels. Anyway, Darick Robertson was the cover artist for the Dynamite one-shot TR comics, but that is where is starts and ends. Unfortunately Vince Moore and interior artist Cezar Razek do not do the follow-on story (straight after the last scene in the film) justice and admittedly the whole thing is rather boring, with the introduction (and this is hardly a spoiler) of Cohaagen’s twin adult offspring and the Aliens that planted the whole Mars Mountain nuclear reactor serves only to confuse and demystify the myth so enjoyed in the film. But enough on that scathing review. It was a release to coincide with this new film, but is a forgettable addition used solely as a cash-in – one that even I hope will be worth some monetary value in the distant future…
But why do I feel obliged to tell you all that about collecting? Because in today’s society, and more so because of Geek culture, my methods of collection, albeit minor, does hover me dangerously close to the elitist-type of of Geek that has appeared in recent times. I refer an article I read, that might interest you also, as well as the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, which as an outsider looks more like a massive marketing ploy than a fan convention, but is all I’ll say on that matter.
And that is all because TR was a tent pole intelligent flick for the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Intelligent” you cry?! Schwarzenegger?! In the same sentence?! And because of that, marketing involved promoting the hell out of the man-mountain and his star status and not the film. That’s why it’s his name in big letters at every poster-top. George Lucas was a genius to ask for the rights to merchandise his film. Back then, that was unheard of. Nowadays I swim through sparkly vampire keyrings and Halo headknockers.
So why tell you this? Because I’m a fan. In his thirties [I can say that now?]. Too young for firstwave Star Wars, too ‘mature’ for Twilight. And I WANT to see what I CAN discover exists for TR. All because of this new movie. We are all guilty of it.
I have even began the shameless self promotion that comes direct from Facebook – I know it, you know it, you become an extension of yourself online, and with that I created a page to freely publish my articles via Geeks of Doom onto, and through this shamelessly use my take on TR as my version of identity. And don’t start criticizing, because I know there are Cosplayers out there, that rather come up with something entirely original, dress as their favourite character from their favourite game/book/film. Refer back to the elitist article again.
First optioned in 1974 by Ron Shusett, when Philip K. Dick was still a struggling pulp fiction writer. Originally touted to star Patrick Swayze, and with Dino DeLaurentis’s Production company going bankrupt after a series of flops the TR project and script lay in development hell for seven years. Arnold had always loved the script, but Dino felt it would be better without Arnold in the starring role. Dino was adamant about it, but when the project was in jeopardy and had to be sold Arnold rushed to Mario Kassar and told him to buy. “Within the next few hours, they made a deal,” said Arnold, and after 10 years it was put into production.
Fresh off Robocop , Arnie approached Paul Verhoeven, and Arnold remembers talking direct with him in his own Austrian-accented inimitable style: “The first thing I did was, I called Paul Verhoeven, and I said, remember-when-we-met-a-few-months ago after you came out with Robocop, Paul, you and I have to work together, you’re exactly MY style of directing, MY style of visual looks, its a visual feast watching your movie, its extraordinary…well I have the project for us now.”
Verhoeven says “Although its a complete action movie, special effects its a real Arnold Schwarzenegger movie…on the other hand it has a second level which has to do with the mind and what is real for the mind and what is not.”
TR had some pioneering early CGI that still holds up today, especially the one scene involving the X-Ray Scanner, produced by Metro Light in L.A., which became a reported possibility at airports…http://tinyurl.com/TRXRayScanner and http://tinyurl.com/TRXRayScanner2 [but do not trust the Daily Mail as the best or the UK's most reputable news source].
In the original script versions the character of Douglas Quaid this timid Accountant type…Arnold continues with “I thought that switch, from being powerful physically, and then being put in the position of being vulnerable, that there was a stronger kind of contrast that I thought the character should be played by ME rather than be someone that is some ordinary looking guy.”
With Arnold’s star power rising, and his financial prowess, TR got made, but is Arnold relatable? From the Masters of Cinema Steven Spielberg book, Spielberg mentions his ideology behind the ‘everyman’ role he tried to portray in his movies by using Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, and Tom Cruise, to which for me personally, Tom Cruise is not the most obvious choice of ‘Everyman’ because he’s famous for being rich. And yet in Minority Report [another film based on PKD] we have a “depressed cop …[who] was relegated by Spielberg from superstar to human being.”
Which then segues perfectly into the next part of this essay: Colin Farrell. He starred alongside Cruise in Minority Report in a secondary role, just as his own star was rising in the film business, and although Colin Farrell has had his fair share of box office stardom, it’s not through his own lead roles. He stuck to a majority of independent films to solidify his credentials as a serious actor. And when the project for the new Total Recall came about, he was one of many actors touted for the lead role. In my view the best possible choice for this would have been Sam Rockwell, his scruffy paranoiac performance in Moon would have given this remake some modicum of intelligence and at least been more engrossing and have made my anticipation admittedly skyrocket.
TR‘s effects can be felt across the Geekverse. What with ArnoCorps and Austrian Death Machine (facebook.com/austriandeathmachine) basing songs and lyrics on the utterances of Schwarzenegger from a myriad of his films. ADM has a particular metal song called: ‘Come on Cohaagen, Give Deeze People Ehyar’, which for its particular comedic merit is worth a listen. Along with other such direct influence in the ‘Two Weeks’ lady head. Such a special effect has been utilized in further Geek method; see this link for further details: http://tinyurl.com/BobaRecall
As discussed earlier – Total Recall is trading on recognition alone, whereas Tom Cruise sold Minority Report and Schwarzenegger sold TR with their names the banner for marketing, Colin Farrell will have a lot to live up to, especially in my critical view. Jake Gyllenhaal made Donnie Darko and Source Code memorable slices of Sci-Fi, albeit since Blade Runner, acceptable pieces of intelligent Sci-Fi that the current film studios are banking on the get bums on seats. Even though complex and confusing in equal measure, Prometheus had us all straining our brain cells a little, if the memory of Alien vs Predator films are all but erased.
Remember that after TR came out, it began the rash of bad movies to grace the screens, which after the eighties were dismissed as a great era for action but left there to stew in its Reagan-esque politics and knuckleheadedness, the nineties suffered through the likes of Demolition Man, Judge Dredd (Stallone), Eraser, Batman and Robin (Schwarzenegger) Johnny Mnemonic, Speed (Keanu Reeves) before a chance was taken (with Reeves in tow) with The Matrix and Fight Club etc. where it all changed again.
And even though my excitement is reaching fever pitch with Total Recall, it is also with Expendables 2, which is blaise in its cashing in on the Eighties nostalgia and dodgy action flicks of previously mentioned luminaries. But at least Stallone in the making of Expendables 2 knows it, and this time it’s with more Norris. I’ll enjoy that slice of nostalgic cheese on massive crackers.
However, we must also consider the notion of the law of diminishing returns: Exhibit A) Highlander, an original cult favourite, but with the sequels getting progressively worse, you shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken. The public enjoyed the dodgy French-Scottish ‘acting’ of Christopher Lambert and the Shhhh-panish-Scottisssssh of Sean Connery which is how I equate this to Schwarzenegger, the ever-so-slight (or sledgehammer) comedic undertones of TR makes me concerned that Colin Farrell and his gravelly faux-American accent will take himself too seriously in kicking ass and taking names…compared to Schwarzenegger announcing: (as I know is repeated in this new one) “If I am not me, den who da hell am I.”
Next into question is the pedigree – The new film doesn’t have the same pedigree of actors behind the movie, consider that Jessica Biel was in Next with Nicolas Cage (remember that?!), another PKD based film passed off as popcorn fluff, not at all memorable like Blade Runner was with Harrison Ford (the reason why I discuss pedigree in this respect, Harrison had Spielberg and Lucas behind his previous films, and then Ridley Scott. But Colin Farrell has In Bruges as his one great movie with a pedigree cast, but it was not a blockbuster).
Len Wiseman’s pedigree comes riding on the back of the Underworld series starring his now-wife Kate Bekinsale. Where Spielberg can pull off a Schindler’s List, I have my doubts even before seeing Total Recall whether Wiseman has the clout to pull this off. It’s the nagging sense I feel that studio Head Honcho’s wanted to make a film (trading on the name), but want someone cheap enough to do it. The Underworld films are not bad, but not epic either. Need I remind you of the disappointment that was The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Rotten Tomatoes certify (original) TR as 83% fresh even after all these years. Internet Movie Database has it at 75% which is a testament to its power and influence. Not everybody’s Top Ten film (exception being me), but where you remember scenes, lines, and characters burnt into your Sci-Fi mind screen I don’t think the new film will have the same kind of pull even with a £200 million budget. The public may think this remake is too soon, but you only have to look at the difference in era and its effect on the film made, and I refer to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original out in 1956, the remake with Donald Sutherland in 1978. That is a 22-year difference, which is the same as this (1990-2012), but you could suppose that given the fact that the world has become ever so much more smaller with increase telecommunication and mobility, the 22-year difference is an incredibly shorter period of time.
Not forgetting the BluRay/DVD reissue of the original, which includes a twenty year since retrospective with Verhoeven, which is the only addition to the DVD Steelbook Special Edition I have and therefore although until purchased I will miss his commentary, I’m sure the feature will surface on YouTube soon anyway and given it’s changeable nature, the current score on Rotten Tomatoes for Total Recall will not be included in this article – but you get the point.
The budget for this new film was in the upper echelons of £200 million, a standard budget nowadays, but the original was made on a relative shoestring of $25-30 million, but given the recent releases may suffer to recoup this cost especially with The Dark Knight Rises taking in £850 million plus worldwide and this is with huge anticipation…and so, to repeat, Total Recall is trading on name alone, and even with the current line-up being recognisable, will it make it memorable?
Marketing has not been shy either, and almost expectedly, we get the out of proportion/floating head posters:
And so to watch the film itself, my trepidation delayed until 12:45pm GMT 29th August 2012. Geeks Of Doom previously reviewed Total Recall upon its U.S. release on August 3rd and you can read more here: Movie Review: Total Recall (2012).
And inevitably I’ve been busy posing next to Total Recall posters for the sake of the movie title reference t-shirt and also to belay my fears of the unavoidable reviews I’ve seen everywhere.
To reiterate my Star Wars analogy, this is Phantom Menace. I like Darth Maul. That’s it.
You’ve seen this by now, so my Spoiler Alert is off. I don’t care if I spoil anything, you need to know. This film in tone for me felt like the Original was being played, with commentary underneath, popping up sporadically to remind us that it still existed. I mean that in respect to the fact that the homages played out in this new film were half-hearted at best, in throwaway lines that had no meaning other than being forced in for the sake of it. Not memorable or quotable. Len Wiseman may not have wanted it to be like the original…
But imagine if you will what Len Wiseman has done with this, like he did with Die Hard 4.0. It’s Michael Bay filtering a Bourne movie through Inception backwards, with a cleansed Blade Runner backdrop to a new Underworld film:
Wooden/underused actors: Bryan Cranston is not Ronny Cox Mark II. But that’s not his fault. It’s clear his critical acclaim for Breaking Bad is to do with this, and Bill Nighy is criminally underused and both are therefore not strong enough to suggest evil/rebel sides And dead. Crappily so. And the Matthias character is a shoddy replacement for Kuato, who made the original. Kate Bekinsale is both Lori (Sharon Stone) and Richter (Ironside) in one, but I’ve seen an angrier bunion act better. There’s no character quirks, no chemistry.
A bad script: “You’ve found the Key, you know what to do with it” – replaces “Get your ass to Mars.” The key in question is a piano key. When does anyone care whether they wish to play Piano, it’s incredibly boring; but that’d what we get. “It’s safe to say we’re separated” replaces “Consider that a divorce.” Seriously? Which brings in the accents. ‘Chancellor’ Cohaagen (Cranston) is American-ish. Matthias, Lori, Quaid etc are Anglo-Irish-American?
Action brainwash: Fight scenes that seem set in a choreographed Anti-gravity reality – to much ballet not enough injury. If you got launched into the ceiling whilst fighting, the wind would get knocked out of you and then running through the city was like yet another Tom-Cruise-Running moment which leads me to the car chase scene which was too close to Minority Report.
Poor Homage: ‘Two Weeks’ lady appears in a split second. I really want one of those neck collars. You know as opposed to a Two Weeks Lady Head-Bomb. Clearly. Mars? Nope. Just some reference to the Old British Empire invading ‘The Colony’, a rather racist indictment which makes no sense or doesn’t make me care for the deus ex machina. Kate Bekinsale walking by a horde of Synth Soldiers invasion army and doesn’t think that the loss of millions of lives is morally wrong? Just following orders.
And a killcode for Synths the point of this movie. A Mars mountain based Alien created generator IT IS NOT!
Philip K Dickian reverence?: It’s not faithful to Philip K. Dick, the actual story it’s based on or otherwise. I did not get a sense of paranoia, or memory loss. I didn’t care.
Unoriginal Scenery: The city had shades of the first Judge Dredd movie. It looked like one the money had been spent on an big budget Xbox 360 game. In Blade Runner (yet another reference to this classic) the city became a tertiary character unto itself. In this film, I had one moment of “Oh look, Big Ben,” which qualifies this as Britain. But then what happened to the US of A? Why is the ‘Colony’ chock full of Oriental Asians. I thought is was Australia…no wait. Nope. Chock.
Predictable: I hate to admit, but there has often been times, when I’m watching a movie and I’ve known what’s coming. Even after seeing a trailer (I am given hints as to what to expect), or in the script (dialogue) – a scene on an elevator precedes the loss of an arm. I saw it coming, even though I thought the homages were over with – but you want Richter to suffer a Michael Ironside portrayal of said character was so convincing, but in the new film, you don’t care for a Synth.
My affection for the original far outweighed my expectations for this movie and therefore my trepidation was well placed. TR was, is memorable. Maybe I was wanting this to be knowingly reverential, which I would have potentially loved it for, but when it plays too seriously and tries to remove itself from the influence of the original it suffers. Even if Verhoeven seemingly over did it in TR thats why I loved it. The Science Fiction incredulity didn’t exist here. I just didn’t care.
TR had its flaws. Jumping [dead] stuntmen on escalators, Ironside’s [hidden] arms whilst fake ones get chopped, but that endears you to the film. Even having a lumbering lunk in Schwarzenegger usurps Colin Farrell. The twisted logic in current movies also confuses – save someone’s life and they automatically trust you, along with excessive innocent bystander deaths. No change there then.
There’s no heart in this film. It will not be considered a classic in twenty years, its typical of the Hollywood superficiality and gloss. Another means to make money on a name, that if fails can be blamed on the inexperience of the Director. It’s frustrating Repeat: Phantom Menace.
THIS IS A CALL TO HOLLYWOOD! ORIGINAL SCRIPTS EXIST, MAKE NEW MOVIES: IT’S WHAT WE, PAYING CUSTOMERS WANT!
Ridley Scott called Philip K. Dick “the Charles Dickens of Science Fiction” in a TV show called Prophets of Science Fiction, and Verhoeven referred to him as “the most important figure in SciFi, moreso than HG Wells…”
Philip K. Dick may have left us prior to the completed version of Blade Runner, but somehow I think he would be in some drug-induced schizoid-craze about the movies ‘inspired’ by his work. He would think it’s style over substance and like me state: “I’m not happy, I’m not angry, I’m disappointed.”