Seeing is believing? What if we could have memories placed in our minds like they were real but never physically happened? I’d say what’s the benefit of that? Well Douglas Quaid is about to learn that lesson the hard way!
Back in 1990, Arnold Schwarzenegger and visionary Paul Verhoeven opened Pandora’s Box when they decided to use Phillip K Dick’s classic story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”.
This short story was written in 1966 and posed the question, if we can remember it does that make real?
Because Schwarzenegger had become known for his action-adventure and sci-fi epics the real philosophy of the story was lost on the slick, eye-popping (pardon the pun!) and energetic production.
In that version, Arnold is a deep undercover spy, who doesn’t know he is a spy, and his mission is to route out the Martian resistance.
The movie was a huge hit and still is one of Schwarzenegger’s greatest films.
Well flashforward 22 years, blow off the dust on Dick’s short story and let’s give it another try. This time Underworld’s Len Wiseman is at the helm with his beautiful wife Kate Beckinsale in one of the key roles.
The first question every geek asked was, why? It hasn’t even been 25 years yet. The next question was how do we make this version different?
In this version, Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, an assembly line worker who is bored with his life. He makes robotic police officers in a giant car assembly line plant. He commutes back and forth to work through the center of the Earth to “The Colony” (Australia) where he lives with his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Quaid wants some excitement in his life so he goes to seedier side of town and checks himself into Rekall, which a vacation memory implanting business. They promise the wild life of a secret agent without living it. Something goes wrong and the police end up chasing Doug and he discovers his wife is actually a spy. Who is Douglas Quaid?
Wiseman’s version not only takes on the Total Recall story but blends in other popular sci-fi references as well. Remember this is Wiseman’s first sci-fi film.
There are elements of “Robocop”, “I, Robot” and “Blade Runner”.
Matter of a fact I would say the whole world which the movie is set is very reminiscent of “Blade Runner”, which was based on another Phillip K Dick story.
The movie is darker, more claustrophobic and takes place completely on Earth. (Note: So did Dick’s story. There was no Martian subplot.) The world has been wiped out by a chemical war and the only place remaining are Great Britain and Australia. And the quickest way between is this gigantic boom-tube where the less fortunate live and the rich get richer in the UK. It’s really silly but intricate to the plot.
Wiseman has lots of fun with his version. Turning his real-life wife, Kate Beckinsale, into a psycho-bitch from hell who kicks the living crap out of Colin Farrell every chance she gets, must have been fun to direct.
And Kate delivers the best one-liners in the movie. Like when she first reveals herself, she deviously smiles and says “I give good wife!”
I’d watch anything with Beckinsale in it and I have to say she makes for one nasty villain.
Her character is a combination of Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside from the Schwarzenegger version.
Colin Farrell is a much better actor then Schwarzenegger ever was and because of that you get to see some levity to his version of the character. There is bewilderment, confusion, shock, frustration and well anything a real human being would have to endure. I really liked his every day action hero character here. His action hero is more Bruce Willis than Schwarzenegger.
Bryan Cranston’s Cohaagen is quite memorable but I wanted more screentime with the character.
Beckinsale is such a great villain that she kind of overwhelms Cranston’s impact.
There are many nods to the original throughout the film like the one-liners, the security scanners and the fake masks.
But the production design and interesting tech devices shown in the film really make you forget the 1990 version. Oodles of cool gadgets in this film.
The only thing I didn’t like was that the movie really didn’t have a full blown sense of humor. It really wasn’t looking at the ramifications of Dick’s story and that was a flaw of the original. This is just another action film.
What could have made it very different is if the movie really explored the concepts of self explored in Dick’s story.
Farrell is a good actor so have some reflection scenes or why not a sidetrack of doubt?
We have the “will he or won’t he scene” but was there ever any doubt for a split second Quaid was gonna turn? No because the scene had already been done and better in the 1990 version.
I think we needed more of that given we have a better actor to play with.
Overall I liked the film even if I had revisited the original just a couple days before seeing it. I enjoy Len Wiseman’s action films and I have to welcome him to science fiction. He is gonna have tons of fun with this genre. Just wish it would have stopped to reflect just a little more.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer