The art of a good remake is a complicated business; you want the best elements to shine forth in the new medium or at least comment without repeating the previous work verbatim. In the 90s, Paul Verhoeven adapted Philip K. Dick’s novel to great acclaim. In 2012, It was the Verhoeven classic that was remade again, and undertook some significant alterations to tell the tale in its way, like a dream remembered in Total Recall.
After a devastating war messes up the Earth, only two territories remain, The United Federation of Britain, and The Colony, a repurposed Australia. The only way to get to The Colony is through The Fall, a 17-minute commute through the earth’s core. Meanwhile, bored factory worker Quaid wakes up after an action-packed dream, to begin his menial job at the factory. His buddy suggests heading down to Rekall, offering clients the chance to live out their dreams. As the procedure is interrupted, it may turn out that Quaid’s dreams may not be dreams at all. His life is turned upside down as he’s thrown head first into a resistance he only has a scare reminiscence about.
While the plot points mainly follow the beats of the beloved original, some elements have been remodelled for the 2012 edition. Notably, The United Federation of Britain (I’ll cease all patriotic fever!) is an interesting new concoction combined with the rebelling colony being based in Australia, versus the neighbouring planet of Mars. I supposed that these feel a tad more imaginative than the classic rebelling Martian plot, a reliable staple of Sci-fi literature. Including the changes to the method of traversal, The Fall does allow for a lot of zero-gravity fun, but it’s mainly an aesthetic change, one that this remake makes a lot of while keeping the core intact.
A lot of Verhoeven’s wit has been substituted for a more paranoid and tense feeling, giving the film further points of distinction, and with Dubstep blaring, and a lot of computer effects do a lot to evoke fellow 2012 remake Dredd. Thought that is not due to the similarities between Karl Urban and Colin Farrell. Farrell makes an appealing choice as the lead protagonist, thrown into an action-packed conspiratorial revolution. Schwarzenegger had the physical presence that made sense, but Farrell makes sense more for the more muted, contemporary direction the film is taking. Malcolm in the Middle’s Brian Cranston is a fun addition as Chancellor Cohaagen who is not above getting his hands dirty when needs arise, filling in for both Michael Ironside and Ronnie Cox’s character in one package. Jessica Biel, just 9 years after her bout with Leatherface, is here to help the resistance as Melina, and Kate Beckinsale as Lori, Quaid’s supposed love interest.
Total Recall is a fine remake, retaining that captivating core while reworking the finer touches to not be a shot-for-shot remake, à la Psycho. If you found Verhoeven’s vision a little too stepped in his signature style, you can now rely on this 2012 to remember Philip K. Dick’s novel wholesale. The mainstays of 90s action like Ironside and Schwarzenegger have been replaced by Cranston and Farrell, giving the whole project a new feel for returning and new fans. Like a dream remembered, Total Recall likes to recollect the good parts.
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