When I watched ‘Total Recall‘, the reboot, yesterday. I totally pre-gamed it.
I main-lined the original Philip K. Dick short story, and chased it down with a little Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was ready to die of ‘Total Recall’ poisoning, all in the name of ScienceFiction.com and Throwback Thursday, its ongoing column dedicated to great sci-fi of the past!
And all I can say is…. well… I have no idea. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. I mean, for the most part, it was enjoyable. What I can say is that I’m surprised that I think of the three, I prefer the movie from the 1990, which just isn’t like me. I never enjoy Schwarzenegger unironically, and Philip K. Dick usually makes me happy.
That being said, over the course of my ‘Total Recall’ binge, it was fun to watch the progression of the stories change. It was as if the writers of the first movie were like “I really like that Phillip K. Dick story, but it needs more gratuitous violence and less inference to aliens still existing. Also, Quail is a stupid name. Quaid is a million times better.”
Then the second movie came along, and the writers were like, “I really like that Schwarzenegger movie, but we need less Mars and aliens, but we definitely need to keep the three-titted woman.”
The remake is pretty much scene-for-scene of the original, except it decided to take itself seriously and lose the Mars part (which means no “Get your ass to Mars” bit which I think we can all agree is a tremendous bummer). This means no more mutated alien babies in Marshall Bell’s stomach, no exploding woman in a yellow coat (though she did sort of appear as an homage in one scene), and no bitch-fight between the wife and girlfriend. Also, no corpse shields held up with one hand to be thrown at pursuers or needlessly violent fight scenes that end up with comically severed limbs.
But I suppose that’s what happens when you remake an R-movie into PG-13. The three-titted woman stays, but the rest? The rest has got to go!
What’s interesting is that during the promotion of the reboot, the actors have stated that this movie is not a 1990 remake, but an adaptation of the short story. Did I mention that they kept Ms. Three-Tits (who does not exist in the short story)? Just how is this not a remake?
But, it’s not just that. There are too many similarities to the 1990 version for it to be a fresh take on the short story.
So let me break this down with as few spoilers as possible (I’ll keep the biggest, most obvious similarity a secret if only because I don’t want to ruin the movie for everyone even if the the story is over 30 years old, and the original movie over 20 years old). The first movie starts with a dream about Quaid’s past, and not surprisingly, so does the remake. The conversation about Quaid suffering from a paranoid delusion back in Recall is almost directly lifted from the 1990 movie, and you guessed it, doesn’t exist in the short story. It’s hinted to in the short story that wife may have been a spy, but in the original movie she becomes super spy/assassin dead set on killing the guy she shacked up with for six weeks. It should surprise no one that the 2012 movie follows that line almost completely.
The only thing different is that the 2012 movie takes place completely on Earth. Now, I don’t know if that’s because current audiences think the idea of space travel is cheesy, or if because somehow that would be more expensive to shoot, but my guess is that with the trend of post-apocalyptic worlds hitting its stride in this decade, it’s the former. Bummer.
My point in all of this? Well, I wanted to throwback to the Philip K. Dick story which is essentially a guy suspecting all of these things happened to him, and throwback to a movie that says “yes, this things did happen (oh, and here’s a three breasted woman), because no matter how much I want to hate the 1990 movie, it’s truly brilliant. It never needed to be remade. Ever.
The short story sparked the imagination, and the movie took that spark and turned it into a fire. If you’re a fan of science fiction, I would highly suggest you read “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, the Dick story it was based on, and rewatch (I assume it’s rewatch because I like to have faith in humanity) the movie! It’ll make a great movie night for the friends.