Published Aug 02, 2012Story telling isn't exactly one of Len Wiseman's strengths, so it's hardly surprising that his vision for this remake of Total Recall jettisons as much plot as possible in favour of relentless chase scenes, stylized action and more lovingly framed shots of wife Kate Beckinsale's behind.
The Underworld director is content to merely nod at the headier story elements of the original '90s sci-fi action oddity about a man whose memories may not be his own while introducing unnecessary and convoluted alterations to the backdrop Douglas Quaid's drama (Colin Farrell) is playing out against.
To set the scene, we're treated to a couple minutes of unadulterated expository text that's as misleading as it is informative. Earth has been rendered barely habitable by chemical warfare, with the last bastions of civilization being the well-to-do "United Federation of Britain," and what amounts to a countrywide serfdom in an Asian-infused Australia, called "the Colony."
That intro text yammers on about space being the most viable new frontier for humanity, making it seem like giant elevators called "the Fall" are plummeting workers to their job destinations from orbiting space stations ― not so, but that isn't made immediately clear. The elevators, it's later apparent, drop through the centre of the earth, reaching zero gravity for a few minutes at the core before popping up on the opposite side of the planet.
Little things like logic and coherence have no place in this immature and philosophically gelded exercise in vacuous, though reasonably well-staged, action. Wiseman never takes the false memory angle seriously, not only cheating perspective a bit like the original, but flat-out defanging the question at every turn, leaving room for only perfunctory faux-ambiguity.
On the acting front, Colin Farrell is fine, but directed to avoid anything resembling a sense of humour, and both principle female roles have been expanded, but not deepened ― who has time to get to know anyone when all they're doing is running and shooting?
The use of both rebel leader Mathias (Bill Nighy) and corporate despot Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) feel completely desultory in their lack of unique motivation. Almost every character is little more than a cipher, and not for the express purpose of overtly propping up a male wish-fulfilment fantasy.
Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall has its share of flaws, but it also has personality in spades ― something this polished excremental offering entirely lacks. After watching Len Wiseman's version, I could use a memory replacement. (Sony)