Total Recall

September 1st, 2012 - No Comments

This is a rant. It is a stream of conciousness thing with no thought for editing or facts…


I miss the days when Sci-Fi asked you a question, rather than force fed you the answer.

Oh there’s so many spoilers in this post it’s not even funny. Like, not even just for the basic premise of the movie or it’s superior previously made instalment starring the exGovernator. I mean to the point this remake will be unwatchable because not only will you know the plot, you’ll know the twists it tries to take and have the disappointment you’ll feel taken away from you pre-emptively. You’ve been warned.

I can’t say I was going into this one with the best of intentions. I saw The Expendables II on Tuesday and there was some Exclusive Cinema Footage Preview Stuff at my screening that showed off the first action scene in it’s entirety… as well as all the Callback footage. The scenes of Quaid in the disguise going through the metal detector with it morphing weirdly, the elevator chopping a hand off some poor iRobot’s arms, the sex workers with an odd number of breasts… that kind of thing. The remake shots that were meant to signal “this movie is indeed following the previous movie’s logic and will be fun, just like the last one”

Which is one hell of a great way to spoil all the enjoyment I was going to get out of it. I was also doubly disappointed that no shouts of “Get Ready For A SURPRISE!” and “See you at the party, Richter!” were uttered. See. You were warned!

I’m probably being a little unfair to be honest because of that. I had to watch more of the movie for it and start asking questions. The plot to the original was ludicrous – hell the original short story’s plot was even more far fetched and nowhere near as entertaining as the complete adaptation they made for Arnie. For those that never read “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” it is the first ten minutes of Total Recall, as directed by M. Night Shamalyan. Anyway. The Verhoeven version is zany, but it has an undercurrent of plausibility… or at least plausible in a philosophical way that the Wiseman version is not.

Let me explain. The underlying theme for Total Recall is ultimately, “is this real?”. It’s one that’s not definitively answered in the Verhoeven version, even if it does start to lean towards the positive. As the movie goes on, weirder and weirder things start to happen – it does start with small things, like removing a giant tracking device from the mind, meeting mutant hookers and conjoined-twin leader of a resistance movement to ultimately finding the MacGuffin Will Liberate Humanity Device. But it ramps it up as the action does as well, and there’s never a point we can’t not believe this is real, because as it too ramps up the lunacy, we get the message that indeed this could just be a symptom of Quaid’s mind collapsing in on itself as it embraces the fantasy beyond the breaking point.

There’s a scene in both movies where Quaid/Houser is approached by someone who says he’s still at Rekall. His wife is in both scenes, as is the action girl love interest hero of the resistance. He’s offered the choice of embracing “reality” or continuing to “delude” himself, all the while under a great suspicion that the offer is an insidious trap set for him by Coehagen. It’s a deep scene in one of these movies because it utilises a character we’ve never seen before, places the scene in an almost entirely new environment, and is paced quietly, and methodically – a precursor to the much maligned Architect scene from the first Matrix sequel… in the other they pull a character from earlier in the movie back, place it in a tenser environment, and twist the message so that it no longer makes any sense due to the actions of some of the characters (namely, why did the love interest not shoot, and why does HER crying seem more effective than the psychologist sweating?). The immediate aftermath of the Arnie version is that literally the world comes crashing down around him as glass is shattered and a pretty tense, close knit fight scene takes place. In the Farrell version, it just kicks off a very, very long (although well shot) fight scene with some bantering between him and his one-dimensional wife character who has the unfortunate honour of being in EVERY fight scene.

And that’s systemic of the problem at hand. Arnie goes through weirder and weirder circumstances, and all the while we just wonder whether it is him going mad or not. Farrell goes through progressively flashier fight scenes, which already start at a somewhat unbelievable level. There’s nowhere to go for that version of Quaid – no deeper level of his psyche to question – just a lot more things to fall off of.

Falling seems to be a theme in this movie. I think every action bit had some vertical aspect to it – ultimately leading to the destruction entirely unbelievable Evil Structure That Goes Through The Earth As Earth’s Sole Commuting Line. Long and the short of it is Coehagen is evil and wants to lead an army of iRobots to destroy Australia (which is Hengsha from Deus Ex), concrete over it and build affordable housing to the people of the UK. Which has Interstates. In London. Which somehow has a decommissioned tube line (with US subway cars), where Westminster is perfectly inhabitable with green clear skies but the Trocadero is in the middle of an irradiated wasteland that is perfectly safe to walk through with cuts wide open all around your body so long as you’re wearing a gas mask… sorry… big thing running through the Earth? Right.

Yes. Somehow in addition to failing UK geography there was some interesting applications of physics with this device that travels around the earth’s core through the planet depositing an exploited workforce from the Colonies to the UK. That takes 9:40 (it comes up in the fight scene). Somehow it avoids the mantle that makes up 80% of the volume of the planet, but goes crispy red hot on fire when it goes near the core, and somehow has perfectly functioning gravity until it goes around the core, despite the fact that the entire thing would be in a state of free-fall for the entire journey if all it did was fall there (and that just raises the concern of how the hell it gets up FROM the core. The delta-V on that is LUDICROUS and isn’t just going to be something you can achieve from slingshot-ting around the earth’s core). But let’s ignore physics, because it’s an action movie. Let’s not ignore the fact that there’s some horrifying implications of that thing exploding – I’m sure the entire workforce of Australia now is going to be pretty fucked now that all their jobs aren’t in a state of existing any more, and couldn’t commute there now even if they wanted to. I’m sure everyone in Britain wasn’t going to be prepared if Coehagen DID succeed and wiped out every one of the oppressed underclass that seemed to be doing all the jobs no one in Britain was doing (ooo– accidental cultural commentary there? Probably not). And I’m pretty sure that destroying the big pipeline isn’t going to fix the fact that both Australia and the UK are overcrowded, have nowhere to expand to, and are now cut off entirely from each other, but have working satellite feeds showing each other what’s happening on the other side of the globe. Hell at least in the original turning the big machine on SOLVED the problems on Mars by giving everyone air and thus room to expand. Can you picture the cultural ramifications of either your entire workforce vanishing or everyone keeping your bureaucracy in check being stuck the entire planet away from you with no way of reaching them?

Wait how did they make this fucking thing in the first place? Why would it be used purely by Britain to oppress the Colony? I mean we had to cooperate with France to build the Euro-tunnel – I can’t picture the UK drills through the entire world, pops its head up in Australia, Bugs Bunny style, and shouts “Rejoice! For we have reached you new slave under-caste!”. I imagine that thing needs to be built with cooperation from both sides… and probably requires raw materials in the scale of “not requiring every other square mile of the planet being in a state of uninhabitablity”. Maybe Australia did more of the job than the UK, bankrupted themselves and the UK swept in at the last minute taking all the credit and a somehow functioning infrastructure that can support impossible, badly named roadway systems using mag-cars while Australia gets stuck with rowboats and dingy apartments that apparently can’t get lighting correctly.

But the geography and physics and culture and sheer common sense aside, it’s the philosophy removal that gets me. The end scene just sums it up. I was close to hoping there was going to be some redemption for this thing at the ending. They destroy the big physics defying superstructure and instantly destroy the big bad evil plot… and then Quaid… Houser… fuck it, Colin Farrell is there bleeding out with his love interest looking over him, and it cuts to black… and you can hear the voices from Rekall (pfk…) fading back in and I was almost ready to say to myself “My god, they’ve got a better ambiguous ending going on here. They’ve pulled it back… he’s about to wake up but they’re going to go all Inception on us and…”

And nope. Next scene. Wakes up, kills his wife secret agent plant, looks out over the now devastated economy and it cuts – not fades to white ambiguously- cuts to credits.

I’m looking forward to Dredd and Hooper though. That’s something, right?

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