Saturday 1 September 2012

Total Recall (2012) - Len Wiseman

Let's face it, whilst the original Total Recall from 1990 is a cult classic, it's not a particularly good film.  Like so many sci-fi films it's based on a novel by Philip K Dick and harbours an intriguing story, but in hindsight the special effects are appalling and Schwarzenegger's acting is abysmal, even if the script is very tongue-in-cheek.

Wiseman's updated film, however, takes itself far too seriously.  The core concept is the same, but events unfold quite differently in his generic dystopian future.  Bored with the routine of daily life, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is in need of escape.  He visits Rekall, a company that implants fake memories into its clients, but things quickly turn awry when he discovers he's not who he thought he was.  Yet rather than building upon these initial themes, Wiseman's film quickly descends into a simple game of cat and mouse: Quaid running to escape Kate Beckinsale's pouting nemesis and little more.

It might be a new update, but Wiseman adds nothing novel to the genre.  His vision is essentially Ridley Scott's, the rain-soaked streets of his Chinatown inspired metropolis ripped straight from Bladerunner.  The CGI is beautifully created (if uninspired) and the reliance on computer graphics certainly adds clarity, as opposed to the visceral, yet disorientating, hand camera techniques that so many directors depend on.  However, the action feels more like a video game than anything, with frequent platforming set-pieces, high-speed racing and shooting with futuristic weaponry.  At times it's exciting, but with such a bland narrative there's little for the viewer to invest in.

Most criminally of all, the film contains no ambiguity.  It touches on standard sci-fi themes such as identity crisis and humans vs 'synthetics', but it never fully engages with them leaving the central concept's potential untapped.  There's plenty of opportunity to keep the audience guessing, to have them questioning Quaid's reality.  Instead, Wiseman settles for the banal.