Talk about a blast from the past! This year we are getting a few movies that are making a comeback after their original versions were released a couple of decades ago. One such film is Total Recall, which has been re-imaged by Underworld franchise helmer Len Wiseman, and is a total upgrade from the original that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone.
While on the surface it takes the original futuristic concept of average Joe Doug Quaid seeking to get away from his ordinary life by getting a fantasy memory implanted in his brain, this recent re-telling injects new life into the tale that uncovers that Doug may actually be the person he is in his fantasy: a spy. As in the original, Doug finds himself on the run, trying to figure out who is on his side and what side is he really fighting for.
Colin Farrell stars as Quaid this time around, taking over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic role.
“I remember all of his films growing up, from Commander, to Red Heat, to The Terminators, The Running Man and Predator – which still stands to this day as one of the greatest action films made, I think – and Total Recall,” says Farrell. “So I had an idea what I was getting into because I also knew that there was a corner of the film fanatical society that really, really loved that film and would probably feel strongly against anyone revisiting the material. But it was different enough tonally; when I read the script it felt so different even though the plot points were the same.”
What makes Total Recall a contender for a well-done reboot is Len Wiseman’s signature brand of action. There is not a moment’s rest for Farrell’s Quaid as he runs away from a terminator-esque Kate Beckinsale, who takes over Stone’s Lori with a ruthlessness very reminiscent of Underworld’s Selene. Beckinsale truly stands out as an action star in the opening scenes, in which she doesn’t let Farrell go without a fight that does more than tear up their apartment, but bursts holes through walls and causes a major ruckus on the streets.
Also taking part in the action is Jessica Biel as Melina, who steps in to help Quaid remember who he is while fighting off Beckinsale. One of the great things about this update is that now the girls are true action stars rather than being there merely as visual entertainment.
“You don’t want to always be objectified and sexualized like that,” says Biel. “Sometimes that’s okay, but when you’re doing something like this, you want to feel like an equal, and you want to be choreographed like anybody, whether it’s Colin or Kate. It’s the gender neutrality that was really exciting for us because it just wasn’t about anything but two incredibly capable warrior women just beating the shit out of each other. Men get to do that all the time, so it’s pretty fun for us to do that.”
This isn’t the first time Wiseman and Beckinsale have teamed up for an action-heavy film. Married since the pair met around filming Underworld, they have transformed the way women are seen in action films, proving that girls can rival their male counterparts as action stars. They’ve also stood the test of time in an era when most Hollywood relationships fail.
Farrell remarked upon his nervousness at filming intimate scenes with the director’s wife.
“It was one of the more unfortunate positions that I found myself in, in the 15 years of doing this racket,” he jokes. “Len wasn’t even polite enough to leave the room. Thank God it barely reached first base!”
Wiseman brought new and interesting takes to this reboot, not only during the fighting sequences, but also in his portrayal of believable future technology, including an LED tattoo cell phone and a transporter that travels through the Earth’s core.
“To shoot [the transporter scene], they turned the cameras upside down, and hung us on wires in the harness upside down,” explains Biel. “It was the craziest thing and [it was] so uncomfortable: neck straining, harness digging into your ribs, giving you a wedgy, making you miserable, blood rushing to your head, looking like you have to go to the bathroom. It was bizarre and really physically the weirdest thing we had to do by far.”
The grueling process paid off at least, as this definitely turned out to be one of the most exciting scenes in the movie.
Wiseman did an excellent job, and brought a new vision to a future that could possibly happen. This realism also meant that a huge plot point from the original would be removed: Quaid’s trip to Mars. Although a fan of the original, Farrell fully embraced this change to the script.
“I like that it went in a different direction. I liked that there was no Mars in the third act, even though I was annoyed as a film fan that there was no Mars in the third act. I was like, ‘Oh, no Mars mutants. No little person with a fully automatic machine gun on a bar shooting people,’ but then I kind of went, ‘No, trust what this is. Trust that it’s different. Trust that it’s a new vision of a story already told.’”
Total Recall honors the ideas of the original movie while making its mark as a unique adrenaline-filled ride that will show audiences that updates aren’t always unwarranted.
Total Recall releases August 3.