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Lens Flare: The Movie
on February 23, 2014
After twenty years, it was probably inevitable that Hollywood would remake "Total Recall." Sadly, the remake version of "Total Recall" isn't nearly as good as the original -- a giant chunk of the plot has been jettisoned (goodbye, Mars! Farewell, mutants!) and so has most of the humor and character development. Taken on its own merits, it's a decent enough sci-fi thriller, with some outstanding special effects and a solid (if underdeveloped) performance by Colin Farrell.
On impulse, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to go to Rekall, a company that implants false memories for entertainment. But things instantly go very wrong -- a SWAT team bursts in and kills the Rekall employees, and on instinct Quaid kills all of them. When he runs home in a blind panic, his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) also tries to kill him, and reveals that she isn't even really his wife.
Quaid goes on the run, with only a few cryptic messages and a mysterious safe-deposit box to guide him. But as Lori and the police chase him through the Colony (Australia) and the the United Federation of Britain, he meets a woman (Jessica Biel) who knows him from the past he can't remember -- and might help him bring about a new future.
Anyone expecting a straight remake of "Total Recall" will be disappointed -- no Mars, no Bennie, no Kuato, no mysterious terraforming engines, and a good chunk of the plot twists have been removed. Oh, and no mutants... well, except for the famous three-breasted woman, whose third breast is never explained because we never see another mutant of any kind.
No, this movie is grimly determined to be dark, gritty and "realistic," depicting a future where the world has been devastated into near-unlivability, and only Australia and a portion of Europe are still semi-normal. It's an intriguing idea, and it is handled in a fairly plausible way... well, except for the giant gravity elevator zipping through the Earth's mantle. That seems far-fetched.
Len Wiseman is at his best with the action scenes -- big explosive battles involving magnetic cars, killer robots and bombs, as well as a lot of people shooting at each other. And the future societies are intriguingly-depicted -- either they're grimy, murky cyberpunk mazes (think "Blade Runner, but less pretty) or cold sterile technohaunts. In fact, the movie could really use some moments of humor or warmth, but neither ever appears.
Also... what is with the lens flare? Barely a scene goes by without a lens flare trying to blind me! Was Wiseman possessed by the spirit of JJ Abrams?
Colin Farrell gives a typically excellent performance as Doug Quaid/Carl Hauser -- he starts off as a nice ordinary guy, becomes a terrified, confused fugitive, and becomes stronger and more intense as he finds out about his past. But most of the other actors are playing roles that feel half-baked -- for instance, we don't know why Lori has such an obsessive hatred of her "husband." Beckinsale, Biel and Bryan Cranston give decent performances, but Bill Nighy is clearly just phoning it in.
"Total Recall" is a mixed bag of pluses and minuses. Those seeking explosive sci-fi action and a good Colin Farrell performance will love it, but don't expect much fidelity to the film it remakes.