December 20, 2012

Re-Action: Total Recall (1990) vs. Total Recall (2012)

As long as Hollywood continues to remake/reboot action films, fans will continue to debate: “Should they have even done it?” “Did they stay true enough to the original, without blatantly ripping it off?” And maybe the most important debate of all… “Is it actually better?!”

In this round; the much loved 1990 Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall goes head to head with its much moaned about and mostly unwanted 2012 reboot of the same name.


1990 Original

Budget = $65,000,000

Box Office = $261,000,000 (worldwide)

Lead Roles = Arnold Schwarzenegger as Quaid/Hauser and Sharon Stone as Lori

Director = Paul Verhoeven

Score = Jerry Goldsmith

Running Time = 113 minutes


2012 Remake

Budget = $125,000,000

Box Office = $198,000,000 (worldwide)

Lead Roles = Colin Ferrell as Quaid/Hauser and Kate Beckinsale as Lori

Director = Len Wiseman

Score = Harry Gregson-Williams

Running Time = 118 minutes


My Two Cents

The 90’s started with a bang and with it came a whole new eye for film making and special effects. One of the talented director’s that ushered in the era was Paul Verhoeven, when he gave to us the gift that was Total Recall. The movie had (and still has) it all! The star, the story, the big budget, the score… it wowed audiences all around the globe.

Then about 1 decade later, Hollywood was suddenly “out” of ideas apparently. So, let’s just regurgitate any idea that has already been done and try to make more money off of it right? Now don’t get me wrong. Some of these gambles have paid off, at the box office as well as praise wise. But, the main reason that a lot of these were done is because their predecessor’s seemed dated and a “new vision” may be just what “new audiences” were looking for. But, is this really the case with Total Recall? Many of the special effects in the 91’ original were so groundbreaking that they still look fantastic by today’s standards. But nevertheless, the decision was made to reboot the film. What’s done is done. Let’s not dwell on it, but rather delve into it.

Let’s begin with our leads. Schwarzenegger was the biggest superstar on the planet when the original was released. Colin Ferrell has had his chances at stardom and has had his share of hits and misses. But, for the sake of keeping things interesting I will say this; Ferrell is a better actor. Now, it doesn’t mean he is a better action hero (not even close), nor does it even mean that he is a better Quaid. But, while Arnie is hamming it up (as only Arnie can do) Ferrell does ground his remake into a more believable scenario and give you a sense that this is a true possibility for the future, which is when the film takes place.

However, this is precisely why Schwarzenegger is the right call for Total Recall. The story and plotlines that drive it are so incredibly ridiculous that Verhoeven’s feel in his version is a perfect choice when making a film like this. At no time does it ever take itself too serious and just has fun, even at times making fun of ITSELF.

I am not going to start a debate at this time about whether or not Wiseman is a good director. My feeling is that the dude has only really made 3 movies at this point, and I liked all 3, including his take on Total Recall. My biggest complaint in regards to his remake is that he not only takes ideas from the movie he is remaking, but multiple other sci fi greats, which he is obviously a fan of. I can easily name a half a dozen other films that I thought of on numerous occasions throughout his film, some even more times than Verhoeven’s Total Recall! (Star Trek “lens flair overload” anyone?) My point is to say that while I like Wiseman and I think that he is a talented and very promising director, that his version of Total Recall had absolutely no identity what so ever. It is indeed beautiful and action packed. But, it lacks any heart or originality at all to even attempt to live up to, much less surpass the vastly more superior earlier version. Even if this were not a remake, it was still just so unoriginal in its execution that I can only say that, well… I liked it.

So, there you have it. I didn’t hate it. It does have moments. Two of which are Beckinsale and Biel. (I would pay good money just to see them both stand there for 2 hours, even if it wasn’t in an actual movie.) Another thing it had going for it was the intense score provided by Harry Gregson-Williams. Admittedly, it did lift the film a notch for me, from the “meh…” to “good enough that I will watch it again.” But, I can’t even give that nod to the remake, because of the absolute brilliant score that Goldsmith composed for the original.


My Pick

So, I realize that this has turned into more of a review for the 2012 remake than a “Re-Action”. But, this is just one of those cases where there just really isn’t enough to make an argument that a remake even comes close to its original. I really did go into the remake with an open mind and like I said, I didn’t dislike it. It just never once made me wish that I wasn’t watching the original, or Blade Runner, or I, Robot, or The Fifth Element instead of it. Final verdict: Watch the original… today… right now!

About the Author

Brian M
Movies have been a big part of my life since the creation of the VCR. They have always been a way for me to escape. The action genre allowed that feeling more than any other, because the heroes in these films were living in an ordinary world, but were doing extraordinary things. Watching action movies encourages my imagination to explore while I am doing even the most mundane thing and make it exciting. Don't be afraid to use your imagination and keep action alive, no matter how old you get.



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