Chris Holzworth | Contributor
The Matrix. Inception. Source Code. For a little over the past decade the biggest science fiction films to make a splash are ones that deal with the nature of reality—asking us to question, what is real? And while the exploration of philosophical concepts has always gone hand-in-hand with science fiction, it seems this particular “philosophy of the mind” angle hasn’t lost its appeal, as a remake of 1990’s Total Recall, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, is set to release this summer, this time starring Colin Farrel, Jessica Biel, and Kate Beckinsale. Of course, both versions are actually film adaptations of the Philip K. Dick novelette We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.
For those of you unfamiliar with Philip K. Dick (perhaps best known, indirectly, for Blade Runner, based off his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or more recently Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report), paranoia and the uncertainty of reality was his domain—what set him apart from other science fiction writers and made him a mainstay in science fiction literary canon.
Total Recall tells the story of Douglass Quaid—at least, a man who thinks he’s Douglass Quaid. Bored with his life as construction worker, Quaid visits the “Rekall” company to have false memories implanted to experience a trip to Mars. Unfortunately, the procedure doesn’t go so smoothly, and it turns out Quaid is a spy collaborating with rebels on Mars. Soon, Quaid finds himself waist-deep in a planet-hopping adventure with the fate of an entire planet resting on his shoulders.
Recently, a trailer dropped on Apple Trailers, giving us the first real glimpse of director Len Wiseman’s remake. Unlike the original story and the 1990 adaptation, the 2012 Total Recall deviates from the interplanetary Earth/Mars backdrop and instead grounds the story on Earth, focusing now on the political tension between Euroamerica (self-explanatory) and New Shanghai (formerly China and South East Asia). The trailer emphasizes action sequences over story beyond giving us the gist of the plot, which isn’t to be unexpected—Len Wiseman’s career thus far has been defined by Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard, neither of which are terribly cerebral flicks.
We Can Remember It for You Wholesale is, conversely, defined by its cerebral-ness. Wiseman has to step up his game in order to prove himself a director and not hand us yet another popcorn remake that hardly does the original justice. There’s also the remake factor to consider. Hollywood has consistently proven bereft of original ideas. Total Recall is just another in a long line of examples of this. But for sci-fi enthusiasts, beggars can’t be choosers, so when a big budget science fiction film rolls along that isn’t tenuously “science fiction” like Marvel or DC superhero flicks, well, the pickings are slim.
Does the trailer suggest a promising movie awaits us? Aesthetically, yes. As far as originality? Not so much. Many of the cuts are one-to-one parallels to the 1990 version—embarrassingly so. All we’re really given is Len Wiseman’s penchant for dynamic action sequences, which the two-minute, twenty-five second trailer is jam packed with. That, and the recent trend to churn out movies that are dark and gritty, following the footsteps of Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight (just check out the other upcoming remake, The Amazing Spider-Man—similarly, the trailers suggest a darker spin on the tale of Peter Parker/Spider-Man).
What lies in store for moviegoers this summer is up for grabs. The Total Recall remake has all the potential in the world, both to suck—but with style—or to somehow capture the essence of Philip K. Dick’s original story without the cheese factor of Schwarzenegger’s version (though this is arguably what made it fun). Hopefully, a treat awaits us after a long semester of academic grind. But hey, if nothing else, at least there are a lot of pretty actors to ogle at, no?