Another Journey to Rekall

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
August 16th, 2012

Another Journey to Rekall

-- It's been over 20 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone introduced the world to author Phillip K. Dick's vision of the future with the first "Total Recall" movie. Since then, filmmaking techniques have changed drastically. The increasing reliance on computer-generated special effects adds new levels of visual excitement to the films that use them. The summer of 2012 will see a direct application of these new techniques with the highly anticipated reboot of the "Total Recall" franchise. This time, the movie stars Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale in the roles made famous 20 years ago by Schwarzenegger and Stone.

Both films are based on the short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" published in 1966 in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction." In this story, a future Earth society has the ability to implant memories in its citizens. An everyman main character named Douglas Quaid indulges his wishes for a visit to Mars by opting for an implanted memory instead of the expensive vacation. During the implanting Rekall process, he discovers that he may actually be an undercover agent. This begins the story's adventurous plotline of escape from his spy handlers' attempts to kill him.

Both movies follow this initial story plotline, but from there they both veer off. Both the films and short story explore the close line between memory and reality, however, with all three asking the vital question of just how much our memory defines who we really are.

The 2012 version of "Total Recall" is not a remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger film. Instead, it's a separate adaptation of the short story, quite different from the first film in many ways. The primary difference between the two is the main plotline. Unlike the 1990's famous trip to Mars, the 2012 storyline remains grounded on Earth, with much of the dramatic conflict occurring due to tensions between the two main political forces in the film world, primarily centered on Eastern and Western cultural influences.

Director Len Wiseman has created a realistic future world for the film's stars to bring to life. Colin Farrell plays a remarkable Douglas Quaid, the everyman main character who suddenly finds himself a lethal spy with memories set free by the Rekall process. Kate Beckinsale also shines in her role as Quaid's wife and handler, another spy sent to monitor his activities. The addition of Jessica Biel as Melina, the girl of Quaid's dreams, and Bookeem Woodbine as Quaid's friend Harry, adds a few skilled players to the star-filled ensemble that plays well against Farrell's paranoia-driven actions throughout the movie.

With a reported budget of over $125 million, great things are expected from the film. Before release, it had become one of the most anticipated films of the 2012 summer, with good reasons beside the high cost. The 1990 version of the film was a box-office smash hit, earning over $261 million from a budget of about $60 million. Though Farrell doesn't have the same box-office cachet as Schwarzenegger did when he took on the role-as Schwarzenegger had already made some of his best-known films from "Conan the Barbarian" to "The Terminator"-Farrell is still recognized as one of Hollywood's hottest up-and-coming actors. When you add in the large fan base developed in the decades since the original, the great supporting actors, and the glimpses of the special effects in teasers and trailers, you ratchet up the anticipation worldwide.

The acting isn't the primary draw to the film, though. What's expected to bring moviegoers to the theaters is the intriguing storyline combined with blockbuster special effects. Phillip K. Dick is a legend among sci-fi fans. His film adaptations of interesting movies that contain intriguing plotlines have made not a few people question the nature of existence. Some of the movies based on his stories include "Blade Runner," "Minority Report," and "The Adjustment Bureau." Each one has questioned the idea of what exactly makes an individual. The rebooted "Total Recall" continues this introspective exploration while offering action-based visuals that weren't possible to put on film 20 years ago.

The computer-generated special effects are also a large draw to the theaters. Moviegoers have gotten used to realistic special effects that bring the impossible to life on the screen. "Total Recall" excels at creating a seamless future existence by pushing those available effects to the limit. It's about more than flying cars and impressive explosions, though. The effects help create a detailed world that completely pulls the viewer into the story.

There's very little suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy the new "Total Recall." The world of Philip K. Dick is right there on the screen, ready to be experienced just as anticipated.