Topic: Total Recall 1990 vs 2012

This isn't so much a fix or pitch as it is a scene-for-scene analysis of the two versions of the film to try to figure out exactly how the 2012 version screwed up the story.

First, I should say that a great deal of credit for the original should go to Arnold Schwarzenegger for being immensely likeable in the role. And something should be said for the dialog, which is sharp and snarky, something completely lost in the remake.

I apologize for the length, but I'm basically recounting both plots.

Both films start with a nightmare sequence. In the original, it's very short and merely features Quaid and Melina dying on Mars. In the remake, it's a long scene of them being chased by robots. This is a residual memory of the capture that led to Quaid's brainwashing (and already automatically means that his Hauser life can't just be a Rekall fantasy).

In the original, Quaid specifically suggests to Lori that they move to Mars. There's no such preoccupation in the remake because it's all about a class struggle on Earth. So Quaid doesn't have a reason to go to Rekall except out of boredom—something that it spends an extra 5 full minutes showing us, particularly the Fall (the method of sending workers from Australia thru the Earth's core to Britain for work and then home again). Boredom, as it turns out, is dull.

In the original, Quaid goes nuts in the Rekall chair and gets sedated and dumped in a Johnny Cab, which is a funny scene. He then gets jumped by Harry and other thugs and brutally kills them. In the remake, faceless stormtrooper cops immediately burst in, and Quaid easily kills them, then flees more cops. I can't stress enough how much less effective this is—killing some faceless cops trying to arrest you vs your turncoat friend trying to kidnap and/or murder you.

Back at home, Lori tries to kill Quaid but ends up confessing about their sham marriage. In the original, this is done suspensefully. In the remake, a hug turns into... a murder hug? Then she tries to shoot him. But Colin Farrell has already dodged 6,000 rounds of gunfire, so he easily escapes.

In the original, Richter is introduced here, but the remake opts to make more use of Lori, which is okay except that we're very short on bad guys with faces and the two female leads look alike.

In both, Quaid is contacted by an old friend and gets a selfie video with vital info and other secret agent stuff. This is mostly better in the remake and simplifies Quaid's story.

In the original, Quaid then goes to Mars in disguise. This is a trademark cool and funny scene when the disguise becomes a bomb. In the remake, Quaid goes to Britain—which looks just like the Colony (Australia)—and dodges more gunfire after being detected.

At this point, the remake has Melina magically find Quaid in the middle of a major highway, and they escape in a huge car chase. Quaid was only in the wind for 20 minutes. In the original, Quaid is on his own for 45 minutes (rejected at first by Melina—a real low point, since she’s literally his dream girl) and being driven around by Benny, who is funny.

In the remake, Quaid now spends 4 boring minutes searching Hauser’s apartment before finding... another selfie video. Message: Cohaagen is going to invade the Colony with robots using the Fall. It’s so dumb.... Then, instead of Quaid having to convince Melina of his sincerity, Melina conveniently convinces Quaid. Identity crisis solved! 60 minutes.

In the original, the Rekall doc and Lori show up quietly in Quaid’s hotel and--at his emotional low point--try to convince him to take a pill to stop this madness. Brilliantly, the psychological crisis is resolved when a drop of sweat betrays the doctor's false bravado. In the remake, Harry shows up with Lori and a million cops and robots and wants him to SHOOT MELINA. There's zero psychological tension because the previous scene was a HIGH POINT instead of a low point, and Quaid sensibly shoots Harry—after Melina sheds a single tear, which is idiotic. The cops and robots who have their guns pointed at Quaid then all miss with another 30,000 rounds of ammo.

The remake next features a mind-numbing 6-minute gun battle in Wonkavators that results in an escape—no face characters are even wounded. The original had Quaid knocked out by Lori's thugs but saved by Melina, who has had a change of heart. Quaid kills Lori with the memorable "Consider that a divorce."

In the original, they then go thru an alien crypt before Quaid meets the really creepy mutant who unlocks the knowledge in his brain: an alien reactor can flood the planet with oxygen (weirdness that fits with the doctor’s warnings). But our remake heroes just get on a train to a crummy town and meet Bill Nighy. (Again, there’s no visible difference between rich continent and poor continent in this class war.)

At this point, the baddies burst in, thanks to turncoat Benny in the original, and we go to Cohaagen’s office. In the remake, he arrives with his SWAT team, finding them... how? If just following them worked, then he could have just followed any Resistance member anytime. Without the psychic Kuato, HE DIDN'T NEED A MOLE WITH NO MEMORY.

The remake at least cleverly reintroduces Quaid’s old pal as the means of his escape from the re-brainwashing machine, altho Arnie’s escape was awesome and allowed another hero moment. Colin Farrell is constantly swept along by other people’s plans and help thruout the film.

In the original, Quaid fights and kills Benny and gets to the reactor while Cohaagen turns off the air in the mutant quarter. In the remake, Quaid gets some bombs, flies to the Fall, and rescues Melina, then there’s a hell of a lot more gunplay. In the original, Quaid uses some holographic tricks in a very memorable twist on the shootout idea. The remake has a pretty lame 0G shootout that was probably meant to feel Kubrickian. It's weird to think of Paul Verhoeven as "restrained and creative" with action scenes, given his reputation for loving gunplay, but clearly Len Wiseman's go-to solution for every action scene is MORE GUNFIRE.

In the original, Cohaagen catches Quaid at the reactor switch, and they have a fight that results in their expulsion to the surface of Mars. Luckily, Quaid has triggered the reactor, and oxygen floods the planet, saving Quaid, Melina, and all the mutants Cohaagen was suffocating. In the remake, Cohaagen fights Quaid personally in a way that is way too macho for this version of Cohaagen. The Fall is destroyed, to the weird cheers of Australians who can’t possibly know what’s going on, and there’s a bizarre epilog where Quaid fights Lori, who has disguised herself as Melina in the ambulance.

The difference in the ending is really palpable. In the remake it’s all about destruction in what is essentially a terrorist act just like the ones Cohaagen has been engineering and blaming on the Resistance. Supposedly, destroying the Fall will somehow liberate the Colony, as opposed to just cutting it off from the richer part of the world and leaving it a festering backwater. In the original, it’s this supremely creative act of instantly (albeit ridiculously) terraforming Mars. The thematic difference is incredibly jarring.

Last edited by Zarban (2013-09-28 17:32:33)

Warning: I'm probably rewriting this post as you read it.

Zarban's House of Commentaries

Re: Total Recall 1990 vs 2012

In the remake, Hauser infiltrated the Resistance but fell for Melina for real. He was caught and had his memory wiped by Cohaagen in the hopes of eventually getting him to return to the Resistance and unwittingly lead Cohaagen to Matthias.

It simplifies the story, but Cohaagen has no way to track Quaid, since Quaid removed his tracking device, and there's no Benny to keep tabs on him. Cohaagen magically finds and assaults the place with no prior warning from Matthias' guards or anything.

What would have been kind of awesome, in retrospect, is if Lori had managed to switch places with Melina during the Wonkavator sequence using the disguise device, and Quaid (having been told by Melina where to go if they got separated) actually brought HER to the Resistance in a pretend-injured state. Then Lori-as-Melina could suddenly perk up and murder Matthias and take cover, and THEN Cohaagen could start the assault.

Warning: I'm probably rewriting this post as you read it.

Zarban's House of Commentaries