In Theaters Now: Total Recall

  • 08/08/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Danny Simon

  • Directed by Len Wiseman
  • Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, Colin Farrell

Did you learn to play piano as a child or did you pay someone to implant the memory of how you learned to play piano as a child? Wait, don’t answer that.

A bullet just blew a hole in the wall behind you and now pondering that question is irrelevant. Run. Jump. Chase the truth. Violence waits for no man. Screw philosophy. Run. Jump. Kiss the girl. Truth waits for no man. Screw thinking. Run. Jump. Kiss the girl.

Total Recall is filled with gritty CGI, bad acting, and beautiful people. In the future, things will be bad, but love will triumph. This film contains the requisite witty black sidekick, explosions, and cars without wheels. What it doesn’t contain is a purpose.

It’s an odd thing when remakes of bad films are actually worse than the original. Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 take on author Phillip K. Dick’s short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” was an odd creature– a campy action flick unintentionally comical in its badness. After watching it too many times, a friend once labeled the entire genre of disappointing sci-fi action films as Total Recall. He would periodically invite me over to watch the worst recent release of the genre, calling whatever it was Total Recall 2070.

Possibly suffering a bout of depression from bad clams, Director Len Wiseman’s remake of Total Recall is possibly the longest chase movie in the history of film. My eyes exhausted, I needed a nap afterward. In the end, after all that running, jumping, and kissing the girl, we are no closer to understanding why Wiseman wants moviegoers to recall the boredom of most 80s action films. The obvious explanation is that Hollywood mostly chooses certainty over originality. But to borrow from the vernacular of Chris Rock, maybe Wiseman got laid for the first time while watching the original 1990 film. Or maybe, Wiseman read a synopsis of the original film on his iphone while driving to a meeting and sealed the deal by assuring the producer that, “there will be a three breasted hooker!” Either way, it’s probably better that Phillip K. Dick is dead.

In his regrettably short career–beginning in the 1950s and ending with his death in 1982– just as Blade Runner was being released, Dick wrote prolifically and rightly won a cult following that continues to obsess upon his work. Fueled by speed and acid, cocaine and heroin, he envisioned a future where technology would enslave mankind, rather than be its salvation. His call for cautious paranoia inspired a generation of writers and thinkers to ponder the fates of our future selves. But then technology began the process he predicted, distracting humans and alienating them from truly connecting with each other. The future is now, Dick howls from beyond the grave, “Turn off your phone and pay attention to the people in your life.”

Science fiction writers like Dick are far and few between. They search beyond the green spark of sunset, far past the horizon, and like most oracles they relate that, while some things will change in the future, most things will stay the same. Don’t blame the oracle if the crowd is too busy texting to pay attention.

There isn’t much to ponder in this film because its creators are clearly not fans of Dick, who posed many more questions than answers for his followers. But while periodically wiping up the pool of drool on my shirt, I wondered what Bryan Cranston was paid for trading in his acting credibility.

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