Lately, it seems that Hollywood hasn’t been able to come up with a new idea. They’ve been stuck making far too many sequels to movies that do not deserve them (see: Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and 5). However, the new trend for Hollywood is to remake movies, and it’s mostly been reboots of comic book movies, much in the way comic book stories can be rebooted. But now, Hollywood has decided to begin remaking classic films from recent memory.
Enter Total Recall – the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction reality-bender from 1990. (Warning: This article contains SPOILERS) The movie centers on Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who has recurring dreams about Mars. Unable to shake the dreams, he goes to Rekall Inc., a company that sells virtual vacations via implanted memories. The procedure is botched, and Quaid wakes up finding himself being chased by assassins (including his wife, played by Sharon Stone) and learning that everything he knew of his life as a construction worker was a lie. Quaid finds out that he is actually a secret agent named Hauser, whose mind has been erased, and goes to Mars to take down the corrupt administrator, Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), who has control of the air in the colonies. But in classic fashion, after he saves the planet by giving air to all, Quaid wonders if the whole thing was just a dream.
What made Total Recall so great is that – much like The Matrix or Inception would later do – it caused the viewer to question reality. Did Quaid actually save Mars? Or was it all just the fantasy vacation he bought at the beginning of the movie? Furthermore, what made the whole reality-questioning aspect of the movie possible was Schwarzenegger’s excellent performance. His ridiculous accent aside, Schwarzenegger played the character of Douglas Quaid, a man who has just learned his entire life was a lie, well. Schwarzenegger also expectedly kicks serious ass and is the center of many good fight scenes, making Total Recall a double-threat as a great action film as well as a perplexing mind-bender.
In all, aside from the fact that the movie was made over two decades ago, when special effects were still fairly cheesy, by today’s standards, it’s hard to find anything wrong with the original Total Recall. I can find no reason for the need to remake the film. Honestly, I think this remake is dangerous, because living up to the original is going to be difficult, if not impossible. That’s why the only way to remake this film isn’t just to remake it but to reimagine it and separate it from the original.
Happily, there’s evidence that Hollywood understands my point. First, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an action film legend, and there is no actor today who can fill his (quite literally) large shoes. As such, Colin Farrell has been casted to play Douglas Quaid, a move which suggests that the character will be inherently different from his predecessor. Yet, the biggest change to be made in this movie is that they don’t go to Mars. This will absolutely set the remake apart from the 1990 version, given how central Mars is to the plot of original and to the Philip K. Dick short story the movie was based on, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”
But inasmuch as this massive plot change will distance the movies from each other, is it really a good idea? One of the main things which made the original so wonderfully sci-fi is that they do go to Mars and that there are fight scenes bathed in red lighting and backgrounds full of red mountains. One of the more memorable special effects from the film is Schwarzenegger’s eyes and face bulging out as he chokes in the atmosphere of Mars, which has no breathable air. So much of the film depends on the existence of Mars, it would seem that removing this aspect of the movie could be disastrous. How is a territory feud cooler than an interplanetary conspiracy?
All this aside, the remake does have potential. With Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston as the main characters, the cast is fairly solid. Plus, from the trailers, it would seem that the special effects will be good and that the fight scenes will be in ample supply and possibly even better than those in the original. As a bonus, the trailer hints that the fight scenes will be interesting and possibly shot without the shaky-cam effect, which tends to make me nauseous.
What I think this movie is going to come down to is the plot. They’ve shown that the remake will be different from the original. If this reimagining of the story can be just as intriguing and mind-bending as the first film, then it has a chance. Yet, taking Mars as the main element of the plot out of the equation might be too far of a departure for the story to work. Also, Schwarzenegger and the original cast set a high bar for Colin Farrell and the rest of the current cast. Whether they can be as dynamic and kick-ass as the originals, while being able to take the characters in new directions, will be a huge part in the success or failure of this movie.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall is an incredible movie and cannot be replicated. Thus, if Hollywood tries to replicate it, then the movie will surely fail. However, if they reimagine it, rather than try to remake it, then the movie has a chance to stand alone as just a good movie instead of being a decent remake. Let’s hope they can do the classic justice and make a good — and new — film. The movie drops on August 3. Go see it, and keep your eyes open for my upcoming review of the new Total Recall!