Sony has released an official synopsis for the ‘Total Recall’ reboot, due out in August. Unlike the ‘Conan’ reboot that cast an equally outsized hero to fill the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the much smaller Colin Farrell will play the role of Quaid and will be joined by Kate Beckinsale. The synopsis is missing several key words that one would expect and mentions the Philip K. Dick story on which it is based up front:
“Total Recall” is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he’s got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life – real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.
There is no mention of Mars, which features prominently in both the Dick story and the original film. This does, however, seem to be more closely tied with the science fiction master’s original story/novellette. In the story, Quail (I suppose filmmakers thought Quaid sounded more like a hero) attempts to have the memories implanted, but the scientists find that the memories are already there. It seems as though Quail, who wished to be an assassin, was one all along and his handlers try to hunt him down, forcing him to go on the run. While this sounds in line with the new film synopsis, absent is his motivation for going to Rekal/Rekall: his desire to visit Mars.
The original film made Mars a central part of the plot. It was of equal importance as to whether or not Quaid was experiencing these adventures or whether this was Rekall at work. The new synopsis refers to Coohagen (Ronny Cox in the original, the splendid Bryan Cranston in the 2012 version) as “leader of the free world” as opposed to “Mars dictator,” which is a big change from the first film. It seems as though the synopsis is designed to make us think that the whole adventure happens on Earth…and maybe it does.
Billy Nighy’s character is simply referred to as the leader of the resistance to Coohagen. Internet rumors, whoever, have referred to his character as Kuato. In the 1990 film, Kuato was also a resistance leader, but he was a grotesque humanoid attached to another, larger person. It’s hard to see the tall Nighy as a deformed conjoined twin, so I doubt that will be the case.
The first film, although released in 1990, had all the hallmarks of an 80’s action film: Arnold; alien babes; special effects that were good for the time but now look like, well, 80’s special effects; and Michael Ironside as a bad guy. Unlike some of it’s action brethren, however, ‘Recall’ dealt with some heady science fiction themes and the ambiguous nature of the whole adventure lead to a positive critical reception. So despite a three-breasted lady, the film was serious and explored the same themes as the Philip K. Dick story.
This new film is being touted as even closer in theme to “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” It has a great action movie cast, including ‘Underworld’ vets Nighy and Kate Beckinsale but also the universally acclaimed Bryan Cranston, the star of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad,’ along with Jessica Biel. It looks as though this film could replicate the success of the original, even without Mars.
If you are intrigued by the idea of whether or not memories are real and how you would know the difference, definitely check out “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and then try out some other Philip K. Dick stories. The last major blockbuster based on his work was 2002’s ‘Minority Report’ but perhaps the best known Dick adaptation is ‘Blade Runner’ (based on “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”). Hopefully if 2012’s ‘Total Recall’ is as good a film as 1990’s, it will open up a whole new generation to Dick’s stories.