The remake of Total Recall never escapes the shadow of its Arnold Schwarzenegger-led predecessor — and strangely it feels like a choice. With a script that's nearly beat-for-beat the original film Total Recall plods along with enhanced special effects that bring to life an expansive sci-fi world and action scenes constructed to send eyes flipping backwards into skulls. Filling the cracks of the fractured film is a story that without knowledge of the Philip K. Dick adaptation's previous incarnation is barely decipherable. Those who haven't seen Paul Verhoeven's 1990 Total Recall? Time to get a few memory implants. 2012 Recall makes little sense with the cinematic foundation but it does zero favors to those out of the know.
Colin Farrell takes over duties from Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid a down-on-his-luck factory worker hoping to escape his stagnate existence with a boost from Rekall a company capable of engineering fake memories. Quaid calls the damp slums of "The Colony" home (one of two inhabitable parts of Earth) but he dreams of moving to the New Federation of Britain a pristine metropolis on the other side of the planet. When the futuristic treatment goes awry — caused by previously existing memories of our blue collar hero's supposed past life as a secret agent — Quaid emerges from Rekall with lethal power hidden under his mild-mannered persona. He quickly goes on the run escaping squads of soldiers robots and his assassin "wife " Lori (Kate Beckinsale) all hot on his tail. Total Recall turns into one long chase scene as Quaid unravels the mystery of his erased memories.
But when it comes to answers and heady sci-fi Total Recall falls short. Farrell isn't a hulking action star like Schwarzenegger but he's a performer that can sensitively explore any human crisis big or small. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld Live Free or Die Hard) never gives his leading man that opportunity. Farrell makes the best of the films occasional slow moment but the weight of Recall's mindf**k is suffocated in a series of fist fights hovercar pile-ups and foot chases pulled straight out of the latest platformer video game (a sequence that sends Quaid running across the geometric rooftop architecture of The Colony looks straight out of Super Mario Bros.). When Jessica Biel as Quaid's former romantic interest Melina and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as the power-hungry politico Cohaagen are finally woven into Farrell's feature length 50 yard dash it's too late — the movie isn't making sense and it's not about to regardless of the charm on screen.
The action is slick and the futuristic design is impeccable but without any time devoted to building the stakes Total Recall feels more like a HDTV demo than a thrilling blockbuster. The movie's greatest innovation is the central set piece "The Fall " an elevator that travels between the two cities at rapid speed. The towering keystone of mankind is a marvel but we never get to see it explore it or feel its implications on the world around it. Instead it's cemented as a CG background behind the craze of Farrell shooting his way through hoards of bad guys.
Science fiction more than any other dramatic genre twist demands attention to the details. New worlds aren't built on broad strokes. But Total Recall tries to get away with it in hopes that audiences will recall their own movie knowledge to support its faulty logic. The movie repeatedly prompts viewers to think back to the 1990 version with blatant fan service that's absolutely nonsensical in this restructured version (no longer does Quaid go to Mars but there's still a three-breasted alien?). The callbacks may have given Total Recall a "been there done that" feel but rarely is it coherent enough to get that far. By the closing credits you'll be struggling to remember what you spent the last two hours watching.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences announced Friday the seven films vying for an Oscar nomination in the Achievement in Visual Effects for the 76th Academy Awards. The list includes favorite The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but The Matrix sequels were conspicuously left off the list.
The seven films, their visual effects supervisor and the lead effects shops behind each production are:
The Hulk (Dennis Muren; ILM)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, Alex Funke; Weta)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Stefen Fangmeier, Nathan McGuinness; ILM, Asylum Effects)
Peter Pan (Scott Farrar; Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks, ILM)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (John Knoll; ILM)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Pablo Helman; ILM)
X2: X-Men United (Mike Fink; Cinesite)
According to Variety, the lead effects houses on each flick will compile a 15-minute reel of scenes from the films and organize a presentation to be delivered at what the effects industry affectionately calls a "bakeoff" on Jan. 21. The 200 members of the visual effects award nominating committee will vote after presentations are made. The final nominees will be named Jan. 27, when the 76th Academy Award nominations are announced live in Los Angeles at 5:30 a.m. PST/8:30 a.m. EST.
As in previous years, Industrial Light & Magic dominated as the lead effects facility, Variety reports. London-based Cinesite was recognized for X2, while Weta Digital and Weta Workshop in New Zealand garnered a nod for The Return of the King.
"It's really good for morale," Jim Morris, prexy of Lucas Digital, which oversees ILM told Variety. "Because the selection committee is made up of the top guys in the industry, it makes people feel validated for all the work they did. It's a nice acknowledgement of our work from a highly respected group of people."
Although Big Fish, The Haunted Mansion and The Cat in the Hat didn't make the cut, the exclusion of a Matrix sequel surprised those in the industry, as well as the film's distributor, Warner Bros., as the list made the rounds Friday, Variety reports. Warner Bros. had only submitted The Matrix Revolutions for consideration, rather than risk submitting both and having one cancel the other out. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions had a combined effects budget of over $100 million.
The first Matrix won the Oscar for visual effects in 1999, breaking new ground with its "bullet time" sequences, but a potential showdown between one of its sequels and the third Lord of the Rings installment was expected this year. The Rings trilogy's first two installments won the visual effects Oscar in 2002 and 2003.
While committee members would not reveal how they made their selections, Variety reports they are asked to base their decisions on technique, execution, creative use of existing technology, the extent of innovation and whether it pushed the boundaries of visual effects. The seven films that made the list represent all areas of the effects biz--from physical shots created on-set, such as stunts and miniatures, to CGI visuals, including digital characters, digital stunt doubles and matte paintings.