Monday, 3 September 2012

Total Recall - The scoop and digest

After a short and forced delay, I finally got to see Len Wiseman’s take on Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 classic.

Attempting the reinvention of a seminal work is something that usually shouldn’t be entertained but Wiseman’s orchestrates it with enough style and panache to make this a rather worthy effort.

Wiseman is one confused director as he couldn’t decide whether this was a remake, reboot or reimagining.

Instead, he thought ‘screw it’ and fused all concepts to conjure up one exciting concoction.

Expect a detailed and in-depth reference packed analysis so please heed the usual warning of plot details and/or spoilers.

Mars exists, but not in this.

Expect no Benny and sadly, Johnny Cab is just like the point of the premise – a memory.

To get the formalities out of the way:

Quaid/Hauser - Colin Farrell
Lori – Kate Bekinsale
Melina – Jessica Biel
Harry – Bokeem Woodbine
Cohaagan* - Bryan Cranston
Mathhias – Bill Nighy

*Of his surname, I’m sure I’m spelling it right as Ronny Cox’s char was spelt ‘Cohaagen’ so rightly or wrongly, that’s what I’m using.

Richter doesn’t feature but having said that, he does, but....

Kuato is replaced by a similar char called Matthias.

Wiseman also combines certain chars, axes and audaciously changes things around – so that’s cool, I think?

There’s much to intake so enter my Rekall.

The premise is largely the same but with some important differences.

There are two sides to Wiseman’s vision.

Earth is divided into two different areas – The United Federation of Britain (UFB) and The Colony.

What happened to the remainder?  Well thank chemical warfare for its intervention.

Members of The Colony travel to the other side of the divide to earn a crust via The Fall (a gravity elevator) that travels through the Earth.

Naturally, Quaid is the pivotal protagonist with Cohaagan (aided by others) again been the principal antagonist.  Only this time - he’s a Chancellor.

The rest, we all know.  Okay it’s different, but those who have seen it, know what I’m getting at.

It begins with a dream sequence as we are first introduced to Douglas Quaid and Melina.  After a slight bit of action and Melina is left hanging on, Quaid is captured with a gun net and shortly after, he wakes up in ‘real’ life next to wife, Lori.

This is just a variation to the original’s opening scene and while different, is instantly recognisable.

After discussing Rekall with Harry and having heard great things from a noob, Quaid is all set to allow those brain butchers a poke around in his grey matter.

During the conversation with Harry, he speaks of ‘Mars and shit’ and also warns that somebody he knew got lobotomised.

I believe this is the only time Mars is mentioned so that’s obviously a reference and a script rehash.

In the original, Harry was going to buy Quaid a drink w/o it obviously happening but in this, Harry and Quaid actually have a drink together in some bar necking the same ‘shit beer’.  Also in this scene, Quaid wishes he could play the piano...

This is when things look immediately different as Quaid lives in a futuristic Bladerunner-esque Chinatown.

Shortly before visiting Rekall, a new three-boobed mutant hooker makes a familiar and stunning return who briefly chats to Quaid.  She is played by Kaitlyn Leeb instead of Lycia Naff.

She can’t resist a ‘three-handed’ Benny reference.

We also see an electronic tattoo being applied which is a cool addition.

Whilst in Rekall, the desired artificial implant is about to happen but when he’s subject to a ‘have you got any secrets to hide’ test, alarms are raised when actual spy memories are revealed.

Shortly after, a SWAT team busts in with a 'shoot first, ask questions later' attitude.

Preventing an imminent arrest, Quaid reacts and kills the SWAT team.

He returns home and bares his soul to Lori who turns out to a undercover UFB agent and subsequently, has a right old scrap with her hubby.

A chase follows throughout this seedy neighbourhood which sees Lori and Quaid vaulting and jumping over various rooftop obstacles and generally disturbing the peace.

After evading Lori, he’s takes a telephone call from Hammond, who claims to be a former associate, via an implant in his hand and views him against a flat surface.

He tells him the location of a safe deposit box in an apartment, but before tripping off to find this mystery box, he removes the implant by cutting it out with a shard of glass.

After revealing the contents, he views a recorded message of himself that leads him to an apartment and hopes that he knows how to use the Key.

Lori, together with Cohaagan’s synthetic police force and human cohorts are hot on Quaid’s tail.

After receiving a phone call from her employer, her mood dramatically changes.

A bollocking later, she’s pissed off so embarks on her own mission that varies from Cohaagan’s orders.

Before a great aerial chase sequence is showcased, Quaid is conveniently picked up by Melina (the girl in his dream) in a sky car.

After eventually finding the apartment, he uses a piano to discover that his former self was actually talking about a piano key.

A few plink plonks later, a hidden recorded message reveals that he was formerly Carl Hauser, a skilled agent working for Cohaagan but when he rejoined the resistance movement, was implanted with false memories, hence his career as a construction worker.

Cohaagan is up to no good and plans to invade the Colony with an army of synthetic police.  Hauser reveals that this army could be stopped with a ‘Kill Code’ but only with the help of Matthias, the resistance leader.

Melina explains that the dream at the beginning of the film was actually a memory.  She shows her injury scar which just in case you missed it, was actually the result of a bullet.

Quaid originally believed that this was a work related injury when applying some finishing touches to a synthetic police suit.

Still sceptical, Quaid re-enacts a hand clench which reveals a match so there you go buddy, she ain’t bullshitting you.  They were also lovers until his Hauser’s capture by Cohaagan.

So quite obviously, Quaid and Melina are out to prevent this plot from becoming a reality and in their pursuit to foil Cohaagan, expect bullets to fly, more chases than a Tom and Jerry cartoon and a trail of human and mechanical remains.

That's yer' lot but that’s a very good taste of some scene details and the poignant differences that separates the new from the old.

You can expect a chain of very good action sequences (combining gunplay and fisticuffs), multiple and sometimes clever refs to the memory erasing original and an assortment of scenes (and extensions to) that fans will know and love.

It looks fantastic (despite obvious inspiration from Bladerunner), boasts a great set of stunts, some exciting action and evasion.

In addition, Kate attacks akin to her dislike of Lycans so you have yourself a yummy slice of cake.

Guns are innovative and use an assortment of useful firepower.

Is it just me or wouldn't it be great to have a sort of pseudo electronic tablet as part of a fridge door.  Beats a notice board and pins right?

Heck, Wiseman's futuristic vision is filled with more technology than The Gadget Show with even a lock pick having a satisfying effect.

The news is used more unnecessarily than the original that basically only succeeds in telling the audience what they already know and/or stating the glaringly obvious.

Whatever your opinion on Wiseman’s vision, i.e remake, reboot etc, it’s an original movie but based upon an existing classic so inevitably script and scene rehashes are about as unavoidable as sand in a desert.

Sensibly though, Wiseman cannot be accused of overkill and why would he as after all, this is his and not Verhoeven’s film.

So I mentioned that Wiseman (who is also hubby to Beckinsale) chose a char combo, hence cutting out the need to using all of Verhoeven’s chars.

Here’s the deal:

Kate Beckinsale is basically Lori and Richter.  Lori needs no explanation as she reprises Sharon Stone’s role but the Richter angle is that she receives the insults, mission orders and does all the chasing, just like Michael Ironside.

Bokeem Woodbine is Harry, a co-worker of Quaid's, okay that's nothing new but and then bizarrely becomes Dr. Edgemar (Roy Brocksmith in the original) who is also an unused char.

Kate is great as Lori and has the necessary spunk of any formidable male but Biel and Cranston are only mediocre replacements for Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox respectively.

Ronny Cox was really good in the original but I found Cranston to be a fairly weak mammal. 

So what of Farrell?

Well, he's a different type of Quaid and while lacking the screen presence of the big man, his performance is good, albeit not great or stunning.

That’s a bit cruel, as his fight performances prove agility and fitness, while his fragile and confused nature is above average.

I’m sitting on the fence and remain undecided about the inclusion of a robotic army.  At one point, it just smacks of I Robot, no pun intended.

Hmmm, I’m not sure.

Anyway, Quaid finds an unoriginal but explosive way of taking care of the aforementioned and potential synthetic army via The Fall.

Towards its climax, I thought the way Quaid shuts down a 'super' robot, was a bit stupid.  I'll rephrase that, a bit 'easy'...

The original was more famous for its violence, rather than colourful language.  This is a 12A so both aspects have been dramatically toned down.

The word 'shit' is the only naughty swear to be frequently used with Lori spouting the only 'fuck' in the entire film.

What some people may not realise is that as long as the F-word is used very few and far between, this is perfectly permissible under BBFC guidelines which is why such a certificate was achieved by Wiseman.

You can't get any fewer than once...

Sure it's got violence, but the blood is only used as mild injury detail, rather than it flowing or being graphically portrayed.

I’m a huge Total Recall fan as the original was undeniably a brilliant film, so I don’t think much escaped my referencing attention.

Apart from Robocop, surely Verhoeven's best work.

Let’s access my computer terminal and log in to Reference Rekall.

Wow - access granted, and if you’ve come this far, I suppose you won’t mind more disclosure than a CPS trial.

I’ll continue beyond what I've already mentioned and whilst I’ll try, they may appear in the wrong order of actually happening.

Unfortunately, the local cinema didn't provide me with memory implants.

Old - Arnie dishes out fatal punishment to Harry and his gang.  In shock, he drops his gun amongst the dead.

New - When massacring the SWAT team, Quaid also drops his gun amongst the deceased, in very similar fashion.

In a scene extension and script rehash, Quaid and Lori have a scrap.

Old - After letting off steam, Lori offers Quaid kinky sex but when noticing hired heavies approaching, he delivers a crunching punch, leaving Lori unconscious.

New – The fight naturally features different composition (beginning with constriction) but when the half way point is reached, seconds out, Round 2, hence cancelling out the Richter intervention.

As the char Richter doesn't exist, this can’t happen and a new chase sequence involving Lori follows.

Old – Removing the infamous bogey, referred to as 'the bug in his head'.

New – Once finished with a phone call (via his hand), he cuts the implant out with a shard of glass which is an obvious and inferior replacement for the former.

Old – Following the chase from Richter and co, before picking up the case full of booty, he nervously keeps checking behind him.

New – This is the same sort of thing but just tinkered with.  I think this happens when Quaid is going to collect a safe deposit box which in effect, becomes the case from the original.

Old – This is two for the price of one.  A case is set down for Quaid to collect, after he steals it from an opportunist bag lady, he retreats to a disused area and examines the contents including money, passports, holograph and a Hauser recording.

Later, a deposit box is found on Mars and contains a note from strip joint, the Last Resort (written by Hauser) informing Quaid, “For a good time, ask for Melina.”

New – Similar contents is found in a safe deposit box and a new Hauser recording.

Later, the familiar Hauser recording takes place at an apartment (after the key secret is split), in a holographic display rather than on a television screen.

Old – After failing to take Quaid with him, Richter has his arms inconveniently amputated.  The fight with Quaid take place in an elevator.

New – A member of the synthetic police force also has his arms sliced off during an exciting lift scene.

Old – Melina emerges from a lift and after gunning down various dudes, she is disarmed by Lori and eventually a famous bitch fight.

Lori reaches for a nearby knife but before she can Melina the point, Quaid (having already regained consciousness) shoots the blade from Lori’s hand.

Quaid finally sees through her fake lies and gives her a permanent divorce with a bullet through the head.

New – Either this is a reference or I'm going too deep.  The bitch fight between Melina and Lori takes place in a small lift but Lori spectacularly escapes.

Old - After getting his ass to Mars, Quaid uses a mask to disguise himself and with the help of a fake passport, successfully proceeds beyond customs.

After a fruit and vegetable question forces the answer of 'two weeks', it soon malfunctions and subsequent yelps and emitted discomfort arouses the attention of Richter.  Soon after, the mask 'parts' to reveal Quaid.

New - This is probably the cleverest ref, but is still fairly obvious.  After arriving at the UFB, a female who has a fitting resemblance to the mask wearing Quaid from the original is ahead of a mystery person and is staying for 'two weeks'.

Behind her is somebody who is only staying for a matter of days and the holographic mask malfunctions to reveal Quaid.

Old – Dr. Edgemar appears at Quaid’s room and after some discussion, the doctor informs Quaid that in order for a return to reality, he must swallow a pill.  Urged by Lori, he teases us into doing so but when he notices a sweat droplet on the brow of Edgemar....

New – During a script and scene rehash, Harry appears as he tries to convince Quaid that he is trapped in a Rekall-induced dream and the only way to wake up is to kill Melina.

If he takes this advice, his beautiful wife is actually holding his hand, even though she is amongst a crowded police force.

So that's Harry becoming Dr. Edgemar explained...

Harry and/or Dr. Edgemar have an identical argument with a bullet to the forehead.
Old – Kuato is initially gunned down by mutant Benny and after allowing Richter and co access to their location, Richter applies the fatal headshot to Kuato.  Cohaagen boasts that Quaid was the key to Kuato's death and also, wiping out the resistance.

He also scolds and vents sarcasm toward Richter.

Although apparently successful, was it perfect Cohaagen?  "Perfect my ass!"

New – After locating Matthias, he attempts to recover the Kill Code from Quaid’s mind, but inadvertently succeeds in revealing his location to Cohaagan.  The 'code' in Quaid's memory never existed and was merely a plot to make Matthias stand out like a sore thumb.

After he and his forces swiftly appear, he is consequently killed by Cohaagan.

Another script variation sees familiar boasts and smugness and he also cannot help scolding Lori for her failures.

He'll apparently deal with her 'later'.  Ooh err!

Old – After capturing Quaid and Melina, Cohaagen plans to bring Hauser back and erase Quaid’s personality so he's forced back into the Rekall chair. 

Quaid uses his freakish strength to escape and before releasing Melina, takes care of the doctors in bloody fashion.

Melina never did round to busting Hauser's balls.

New – With Quaid about to suffer the same personality erasure, Hammond ensures this doesn't happen.

Quaid recognises his face through his visor (remembering he was part of a five digit phonecall) and as he's disguised as one of Cohaagan’s men, he manages to burn through a strap which allows an unsubtle escape with kick-ass consequences to those surrounding him.

Hammond however, doesn’t make it but does allow Quaid a disguise which he no longer needs.

Old – Richter urges Cohaagen to make a decision on Quaid’s life.  “Kill him” is the decision made which Richter greets, “It’s about godamn time.”

New – A very brief order is made by Cohaagan to Lori.

Old – After Cohaagen’s plan to blow this place up and be home in time for cornflakes goes tits up, Quaid forces Cohaagen’s clutch to be compromised from the reactor which sees him sucked helplessly into the oxygen-less Mars atmosphere.

He suffers a very famous eye-popping experience.

New – After a knife and fist driven fight with Quaid, Cohaagan’s knife is turned against him and presumed dead.  After the time bombs (previously set by Quaid) detonate The Fall, helpless and conscious, Cohaagan is incinerated.

I think that's the lot (well at least, what I noticed).

Among the brand new injection is unfortunately a rushed and unsatisfying ending for Lori.  Quaid comes to in an ambulance and is greeted by Melina, however he notices that the gunshot wound has 'magically' disappeared and realises it's Lori in disguise.

After a very brief scuffle, he shoots Lori dead and Quaid and Melina are cornily reunited.

Was this embrace meant as a reference to original's ending?  I don't think so.

The Rekall advert playing in the background could maybe signal a sequel to a reboot that surely has nowhere else to go.

If this does happen, it maybe as stupid as Hannibal, the lamentable sequel to The Silence of the Lambs.

It took a decade for Ridley Scott (of all people) to virtually ruin Johnathan Demme's original and 22 years later, Wiseman reboots Verhoeven's classic.

Still, Silence is not the only film to get a practically pointless and unwanted sequel.  Take Jungle Book as that suffered the same treatment, 36 years later....

If 28 Months Later ever gets made, we'll have no choice but to move on with 28 Years Later.

The way rumours are going, we'll have to wait many more Years before Months appears so the natural follow on from Months suggests decades...

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this Total Recall but I'm just trying to point out the magnitude of when people should just leave well alone.

I hope this is the last Recall we'll have to remember. 

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