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It's the Booze Talkin': Total Recall has me recalling the original's look without the edge

07.31.2012by: Ammon Gilbert

Being the mega-fife for Arnold Schwarzenegger that I am, one of my favorite movies of his is 1990’s TOTAL RECALL. No doubt his best performance as an actor, TOTAL RECALL also delivered awesome special effects, a solid cast, bloody and gratuitous violence, an iconic musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, and a vision of Mars and the future of the likes we really hadn’t seen before. Plus, plenty of sight gags, one-liners, and all-around epicness that continues to live up to today’s standards without feeling dated... and it came out 20 years ago! Of course, Sony feels differently about that last part, hence the release of this week’s TOTAL RECALL remake starring Colin Farrell. And while I haven’t seen it yet, what I have seen of it thus far is an exact remake of Paul Verhoeven’s original, without that R rated edge that made it so great.

This is not a soap box for hating on remakes, prequels, revisions, reboots or whatever the hell they call it these days—because sometimes, they work. Or rather, the retakes work, and by that I mean, those that take the idea or concept from the original and do their own thing with it, providing a different take on the source material. DAWN OF THE DEAD is a great example of a retake that worked, as it took the concept but did its own thing without needing to stick with what exactly went down in the original. Unfortunately, the DAWN OF THE DEADs out there are few and far between because what we usually end up getting is shite like THE THING, which basically rehashed what went down in the first film (more or less), and from what I’ve seen thus far, Len Wiseman’s TOTAL RECALL does exactly what Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL did, without the R rated edge.

I don’t know about you, but a PG-13 version of TOTAL RECALL doesn’t make a whole helluva lotta sense to me—frankly, I don’t understand it. How can a movie that features a sizeable body count and embellishes gratuitous sex and nudity be PG-13? Even if the blood splatter is removed, the remake appears to have the same sight gag of a three-tittied prostitute… how the hell is there a three-tittied prostitute in a PG-13 movie??? Because we won’t actually be able to see them titties, that’s how, and if we’re not able to see them… then what the hell is the point of including them in the movie to begin with! See, this is what I’m talking about in terms of re-hashing exactly what we had before. There’s no reason that a remake should include the three-tittied prostitute from the original because it didn’t have anything to do with the story, and by including it in the new version, it basically goes to show that the remake isn’t providing anything new or fresh to the table, but rather the same old thing… only PG-13.

From the head chamber where his memories are recalled (and erased) to his interactions with his “wife” and his “girlfriend”, the 2012 version looks like the same goddamn thing we’ve already seen already. Now, I will give the film this… they did good on casting. Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, and John Cho all in one movie is the setup for a great ensemble cast. I can’t really fault the film in the casting department. It had big shoes to fill with Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside and it looks like they nailed it, so bravo for the remake’s casting choices. Hell, even some of the visuals, while looking more and more like a BLADE RUNNER / THE FIFTH ELEMENT style flick, still looks pretty cool. But honestly, take the look and the cast away and what is there? Verhoeven’s version minus edge. F*ck that!

When they first announced the remake a while back, I was furious as the thought of remaking a Schwarzenegger film was sacrilegious and frankly, f*cking ridiculous, to me, but then I remembered the film was based on a Philip K. Dick story called “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, and I thought… well, if they remake the original story and not Verhoeven’s film, this could be kind of cool. Word on the street was that Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL was a loose adaptation of the story, so there would be room to have a closer, truer adaptation in the 2012 version, right? But apparently, not so much, as the new film appears to be more or less based on the film and not the story, so much so that 1990’s TOTAL RECALL lists Philip K. Dick as the first writing credit… and the 2012’s TOTAL RECALL lists Dick as the last writing credit, like it’s a clone of a clone of a clone of the original story. D’oh!

Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but the 2012 TOTAL RECALL looks exactly like the 1990 TOTAL RECALL minus that R-rated, adult orientated, gratuitous everything edge that only Paul Verhoeven could have delivered. Instead, the version looks like a watered down retread of everything we’ve already seen before, bringing nothing new to the table other than nostalgia for the original’s awesomeness. How hard would it have been to give us a new take on Dick’s vision? And who would have thought 22 years ago they’d be remaking a Schwarzenegger film and releasing at the same time Schwarzenegger has another action film in theaters co-starring Sly Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme (THE EXPENDABLES 2 hits theaters August 17th)? We live in a crazy time, I guess, especially considering that three-tittied prostitute shows up without flashing the goods because they’re in a PG-13 movie. Ugh…. But hey, at least THE EXPENDABLES 2 is rated R, right?

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