The new Total Recall flick is entertaining, but the Ah-nuld version will always be the definitive one.
So many major plot elements are the same between the two films that it’s a wonder they changed the big ones that they did. First of all, nobody goes to Mars.
I’m sorry, but you lost me right there. It’s not Total Recall, it’s something else. There are mostly the same characters, parallel scenes, and even some cute misdirection, but it’s not the story many of us cherish.
No, the colony is Australia, not Mars. And the oppressors are the United Federation of Britain. (Much of the surface of the earth is uninhabitable due to contamination from war, generating a shortage of livable space.) Douglas Quaid lives in the colony and has a 17-minute commute to Britain through “The Fall”, an elevator/commuter vehicle passing through a tunnel bored through the core of the earth. Aesthetically, the colony is rather Blade Runner-ish, though Quaid’s split-level concrete apartment needs just a little interior decorating to make it notably nicer than a lot of places folks gladly live. And of course, he’s married to Kate Beckinsdale.
Back in the real world, I compare this life to my hour and fifteen minute car commute, the corresponding gasoline costs, and to top if off I have to pay for parking. Also, I’m not married to Kate Beckinsdale. As an instrument of oppression, “The Fall” seems rather pathetic. Don’t get me wrong, the colonists are most certainly discriminated against, but it’s not as extreme as with the Martian colonists in the 1990 Total Recall, where the government literally controlled the air supply.
The more realistic and less fantastical plot naturally generates more scrutiny of the plot. Without the Martian element, the story is reduced to a basic class struggle. I was taken aback in one scene where the paper currency flashes quickly across the screen and Obama is on one denomination of notes. My initial reaction was an eye-roll so violent it was almost audible in the theater, but a few moments later I appreciated the probably unintended irony that the currency of an oppressive future government pays homage to one Barack Obama.
Some spoilers below…
Perhaps sensing that the audience might not look too sourly on a 17 minute commute to a blue collar job at a time when commutes stretch much longer and semi-skilled jobs difficult to find, we learn that the Cohaagen government is planning to invade the colony through The Fall with a force comprised of the synthetic police units manufactured in the facility where Quaid works when the movie begins. The synthetics are charged with killing the citizens of the colony, allowing for resettlement by the UFB. Is this Total Recall, or Attack of the Clones? Also, the synthetics will then take over the jobs formerly performed by the colonists. Perhaps these synthetics are the descendents of Obama’s troublesome ATMs.
Without a Martian colony, there are no mutants, and no particular reason why there ought to be a three-breasted prostitute in the film. Not that I’m complaining that they left her in. And of course, without Martian mutants, there’s no Kuato, and no mysticism. And no alien devices.
So when Quaid/Hauser destroys the vehicle with the synthetics (and presumably renders The Fall inoperative), the colonists are thought to have a chance at freedom. While stopping a murderous mechanized invasion force is nothing to sneeze at, it’s notably less cathartic than the instantaneous terraforming of Mars. After all, aren’t everybody’s jobs at the other end of that tunnel, along with the industrial base and the means of production?
A deeper dissatisfaction with the new Total Recall is that I was left with a much less pronounced sense of ambiguity at the conclusion of the film as to whether Quaid was experiencing reality or was trapped in his own mind at the Rekall facility. In the 1990 version, specific plot elements were foreshadowed during the initial Rekall scene, and those plot elements all came together by the end of the film. In this version, all we get is a glance at the Rekall advertisement to remind us of that possibility.
Overall, the movie is worth the matinee price I paid to see it, but nobody should be waiting in long lines to see this film.