Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Movie Review - Total Recall

Those who read my movie reviews know that we're suckers for this type of movie. We'll go see any Science Fiction/Adventure movies as long as the trailers are fun and we've not been warned off by atrocious reviews. Even then we might still go see it.  The trailers for this looked great and I only read one review, which gave it a so-so rating.

First off, I'll say, that we (by we I mean my wife and adult daughter) liked it. It's pretty much non-stop action, sometimes over the top action. The one big action scene you've already seen in the trailers is the hover car chase. It looks much better in the movie than in the trailer. I thought the trailer shots of this looked unfinished but the movie version is top notch.

If you saw the original with Arnold you know the story. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell, the Schwarzenegger character in the original) is a working class schlub who endures the daily commute from Australia to Great Britain to his assembly line job in the synthetic policeman factory. I'll come back to the commute later. He feels that something is missing from his life (hey, don't we all?). He decides to try the local Total Rekall (that's how it's spelled in the movie) franchise and see what everyone is talking about. "We can remember it for you wholesale" is their slogan (and the title of the original Philip K. Dick story which provides the thin basis for both movies).

He sits in the chair and decides to try out the secret agent simulation. Then all hell breaks out. The movie has the same basic storyline as the original with the colony being in Australia instead of on Mars. Whereas the original was played with tongue planted firmly in check, this version is pretty grim. Hardly a quip to alleviate the tension. The director does a decent enough job with the plot and telling a story you already know. Is it real or just an implanted memory? The movie doesn't really care.

In movies like this there are some things you just overlook. Like bodily injury. Both the Farrell and Jessica Biel character (Melina) take an enormous amount of punishment which doesn't even slow them down. You usually have to overlook the technology, stop asking yourself, is that really possible?  Some characters have phones built into their hands. When you get a call, stuff lights up under the surface of your palm. Cool. Who cares if it's possible when the story takes place aome 80 years in the future?

For me there were two problems with the movie.

Kate Beckensale plays Lori, Quaid's pretend wife. I already mentioned Jessica Biel as Melina, his rebel girlfriend. In the original, Lori was played by Sharon Stone and Melina was played by Rachael Ticotin. Stone very blond, Ticotin, very not blond. Beckensale and Biel are practically twins and at times it was hard to tell who was who. You may have noticed this in the trailer. I wasn't sure if there was one woman playing a schizophrenic character or two women playing twins.  But this is a minor problem.

The real problem I had was a major plot device in the movie. I mentioned that Quaid commutes daily from Australia to Great Britain. How is this possible? Supersonic aircraft? Star Trek transporter? Telecommuting? I'd have easily accepted any of those. What the movie chooses to do is posit a tunnel through the earth (right through the core). A giant capsule is loaded up with people at one end and it's dropped in the hole. It hurtles through the earth and pops out the other side. If I heard correctly, the trip takes 17 minutes. The earth is approximately 8,000 miles in diameter. 17 minutes means it moves at about 470 miles an hour, with no propulsion. They just drop it. In fact the thing is called "The Fall". The biggest question I have is why does it come out the other side and not just stop in the center? Any physics majors out there?


Dan O. said...

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.

Anonymous said...

I watched it last night with the mrs and we both thought that it was the best action/adventure/sci-fi movie we'd seen in ages. Just like you said - put your brain on the shelf for an hour or two and sit back and prepare to be exausted by the amount of action scenes - if you could call them different scenes, basically it starts then continues to the end of the movie. I thought Colin Farrel was great and the story threw in some different stuff to the Arnie one, so all in all 8.5/10.