Wednesday, August 08, 2012

"Total Recall": The 1990 concept (with Mars) was much stronger than the remake's

The “remake” of “Total Recall”, this time by Len Wiseman for Columbia Pictures (Canada), falls short in the area of “conceptualization”.   The 1990 film by Paul Verhoeven (for Sony brand “TriStar”) with Arnold Schwarenegger, provided a virtual and then possibly “real” trip to Mars, with plenty of desert scenery, an idea appropriate now given the recent landing of NASA’s Curiosity Rover.  Both films are predicated on the science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”.
In the newer post-apocalypse film, most of the Earth has been made uninhabitable by chemical warfare, and what is left is Britain, and its labor colony Australia.  The two “communities” are connected by a Jules Verne-like underground bullet subway (as in the Tribeca film “Metropia” (May 18, 2010).  One problem is that the two communities look too much a like.  Both have skyscrapers seeming to float in the air like Lego toys, with highways, hundreds of feet in the air, above them.  On the ground, London has grown Asian, but the people live in mid-level cinderblock tenements, reasonably luxurious (and with plenty of cellular wireless inside) hanging in the sky.  The political climate seems fishy:  the Australian colony is about to rebel, so there is a lot of double-agenting intelligence activity that catches the hero Dennis Quaid (Colin Farrell), who begins to realize he is a spy after purchasing a “dream reality” from the company “Rekall”.

There may be more convincing ways that most of the world could be put out of commission.  Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (EMP) blasts by terrorists are one grim possibility, and probably more likely than chemical warfare.  I’ve written about these threats on my Issues, Books (July 20)  and “Disaster Movies” blogs (June 15).   In one of my own scripts (“Prescience”), the protagonists are trying to navigate through a history-layered annular civilization on a “tidally locked” planet, while knowing that most of Earth, except for Dubai and Singapore, has been knocked out with EMP by aliens.  It struck me that this kind of idea could work here – put the main story on the M-star planet. 

There is one sequence where the moviegoer gets to see part of “unreclaimed” London, a wasteland with the air turned orange.

The sequences where Dennis (aka Hauser) gets set up for his dream therapy are interesting.  He is strapped into an illuminated booth, with various electrodes invading his body (chest and arms), and is first given some sort of polygraph.  They have to know if he is a spy, right?

There is a moving scene, motivated by Hauser's wanderings in the concrete wilderness, where he enters a room with a Yahama piano and plays the opening Allegretto theme from the finale of Beethoven's Tempest Sonata (#17).  The Tempest was used once in the series "Everwood" on WB (as played by prodicy Ephram), a few months after I had suggested its use on a WB message board!

The official site is here
Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel also star, and here is an interview with Biel:

I recommend two “short films” today.  One is Regal Cinema’s own animated introduction, which shows a light rail transport system at a space station, rather interesting.
The other is Avi Rubin’s lecture “All Your Devices Can Be Hacked”, at Ted Talk, reviewed on the “disaster movies” blog Aug. 7. 

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