Paul Verhoeven: The ‘Total Recall’ Remake ‘Was Not Good’

Published 3 years ago by , Updated August 28th, 2012 at 10:52 am,

Paul Verhoeven Says Total Recall Remake Was Not Good Paul Verhoeven: The Total Recall Remake Was Not Good

The original Total Recall – directed by Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop) and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger at the top of his game – was so financially and critically successful, it’s a wonder there was never a sequel. By contrast, the remake starring Colin Farrell will be lucky to make its money back.

Last Friday, there was a screening for the 1990 version of Recall at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood with Verhoeven in attendance, and during a Q&A, the director said, among other things, that the remake “was not good.”

Courtesy of MovieLine, check out his entire statement:

“Arnold being [in the original ‘Total Recall’] made the movie a little light, and I think that’s very important for these Philip Dick stories. I think if it would have been done in a straight way, I’m not so sure that it would have worked – at least, not at that time. And recently [in the ‘Total Recall’ remake], it did not. I get to say that because the producer of the new one said that [the original] was cheesy or something. And Colin Farrell called it in an interview ‘kitschy.’ So I dare to say that his version was not good.”

In fact, producers Toby Jaffe and Neal Moritz told our very own Rob Keyes:

Neal: It’s funny, though. I remember loving the [the original ‘Total Recall’], and I did love the movie when I saw it, and when we started to embark on this, when we were getting the rights, we watched the movie again, like we love the movie, but we didn’t realize how cheesy it was today. But when we saw it originally, it wasn’t cheesy.

Toby: Yeah, it shows you how everything is sort of…

Neal: Evolved.

Toby: …relative to the context in which you see it. I mean, back then it was incredibly fresh and cool, and when you look at it today the whole filmmaking process has evolved so much that a lot of those sets and production design, and even the effects are rudimentary.

In fairness, it’s easy to see why a producer might call Total Recall cheesy by today’s standards. It is, without a doubt, an over-the-top film. But then, that wasn’t really an accident on Verhoeven’s part – the film, in some ways, is a satire of the typical Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle (e.g. Commando).

And the special effects, while perhaps not realistic, were and are effective to this day, in this writer’s opinion. Few effects in all of special effects history seem quite as bizarre and unnervingly organic as Cohaagen’s eyeballs protruding out of his head as a result of being exposed to the Martian atmosphere. It’s the sort of strange organic look that CGI has yet to be able to convincingly replicate, despite countless attempts (see: 1982’s The Thing VS. 2011’s The Thing). If there’s an uncanny valley for digital eyeballs, then there’s definitely an uncanny valley for weird, gooey, computer-generated gore.

Cohaagens Eyeballs Bulging in Total Recall 570x303 Paul Verhoeven: The Total Recall Remake Was Not Good

Cohaagen’s death scene in ‘Total Recall’ (1990)

The Total Recall re-do is just the latest remake to disappoint at the box office. In the past few years, remakes have disappointed far more often than not, including the aforementioned The Thing (a prequel/remake hybrid), Fright Night, Arthur, Straw Dogs, and a whole host of horror movies. Will the upcoming Red Dawn or The Evil Dead manage to break the trend and make bank? Only time will tell.

Make sure to head over to MovieLine to read the full (and very interesting) Q&A with Paul Verhoeven, where he talks about the 1990 Total Recall and much, much more.

The Total Recall remake is currently number 15 at the box office.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Source: MovieLine

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  1. The remake was truly horrible…. The director of this Len Wiseman will be very lucky to get another gig…..

    • He will get another gig. He has plenty of good films in his resume. I agree the remake was less than good.

    • LOL! He already has other gigs. If flops kept directors from working, there would be about 90% fewer films released today.

      I also can’t help but laugh at hearing Paul Verhoeven, the maker of such garbage as Starship Troopers, Hollow Man, and Showgirls, which was the worst piece of sh*t Hollywood has ever seen. Say what you want Paul, Total Recall remake doesn’t come close to the sh*tbag that is Showgirls.

    • By the way, Paul Verhoeven would have never worked again after Showgirls and Hollow Man, if flops killed director’s careers.

  2. I can’t remember the last successful film Colin Farrell has been involved with. If he’s starring in it, I assume the movie will flop.

    • That would be Minority Report 😉

      • Phone Booth and The Recruit also did pretty well, considering their low budget, and SWAT made a bit of money as well. But yeah, after that most of the films with him in the lead were financial flops. Horrible Bosses made a shitload of money, though, but he wasn’t a main character in that one, as far as I know.

        • Depends what you call a success. The movie In Bruges is ridiculously good. I have no idea on how it did financially though..

          • Totally agree, thought that movie was top. Can’t remember enjoying a Farrell performance more. Doubt I will.

            • Best movie I’ve seen with him is “Phone Booth”. His performance is top notch.

              • Yeah loved Phone booth even though l hate Joel Schumaher.
                There was also a movie about war l forget it’s name Farrel did well in that one

        • Phone Booth did not do well. It wasn’t a flop because it’s budget was miniscule.

      • fright night was good ,even it was a flop it was a very fun movie.

        • I agree. I watched the original right before it, and I liked the remake better.

    • Horrible Bosses was successful at the box office, and that was last year so….

    • Now wait a second dude Colin Farrell has done good movies and he`s a damn good actor, these couple of years has been unsuccessful pretty much. “IN BRUGES” which I thought it was underrated film won a Golden Globe, “ALEXANDER” was successful. “TOTAL RECALL” is more like an acting gig for him to be on the big screen so is not fault its the writers.

    • the remake was very good,actually it is not the remake,but this movie is based on the short story by Philip K. Dick,which is closer with the new Total Recall movie

      about Colin,he is more better and better,but I don’t know what is your interests,watch it “Cassandra’s Dream” by Woody Allen with Colin and Ewan McGregor! It’s great movie,and Colin is great also…

  3. I hated the remake. It screamed paycheque for all concerned. Wow, like, cool shots there, Len. Colin Farrell needs a good role soon. He is hanging onto his credibility by the thinnest of threads. But Len Wiseman will work again. After all, he’s part of the low rent 21st Century Hollywood ‘power’ couple with Kate ‘cardboard’ Beckinsale.


  4. I can’t really have an opinion on this, not having seen the original Fright Night, but honestly I found the remake hilarious.

    • @Kenji
      I agree. IMO the Fright Night remake is among one of the best of all these horror remakes. I’ve seen the original and liked it for what it was and appreciate it but I think the remake got a bad rap. I gladly watch that on a endless loop rather than watch the remake of Friday the 13th or Elm Street 1 more time…

  5. “Sigh” another Colin Farrell failure. Are you surprised?!

    • Nope.

  6. Might be time for Colin 2 find himself a new agent, because its clearly obvious that somebody keeps finding him bad movie parts.

    • He should stop trying to headline, and start securing some more interesting ‘supporting’ roles, imo. I liked what he did in Horrible Bosses for instance.

    • Indeed. Seems like Collin is doing the best he can with what he’s got

  7. /acts surprised.

    I called it after seeing the first trailer and learning that they did completely asinine things like running a transit system through the center of the earth (which educated people should know is impossible) really destroys their credibility. If you are going to add something that didn’t exist in the novella, make damn sure it’s at least theoretically feasible

    • I agree too much Science Fiction is turned into Science Fantasy. Theres a difference between them and if the source doesn’t use those elements to make it fun why do directors and screenwriters think bending the genre won’t offend the audience? I’m not quite sure that it’s the source of this films failure at the box office though. After all I went to see it despite its short comings. The theater was pretty full on a weeknight too. This was going into the last part of the first week of the films release after its first weekend at the box office.

      Verhoeven’s version Kitschy? You bet!

      *** SPOILERS HERE ***

      Pressurizing the planet Mars in time to save the heroes from death is totally preposterous. I’m almost willing to believe the crazy center of the Earth tram over that. Just judging how believable each scene is by their respective effects though I’d say they are equal. Some have argued that the atmosphere thing proves that Arnold’s character was under the influence of the machine but I don’t buy that either because the character wouldn’t believe it and the memory implants were supposedly indistinguishable from real ones…

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply the center of the earth thing was one of the reasons for it’s failure (although I’m sure it didn’t help from a review angle).

        The trailer however was the real indicator for me. In just 2 mins I so much that was derived of the original (or not part of the novella) that I just knew it wasn’t going to work.

  8. I didnt watch it so I dont know, Its probably less fun than the original but lets not all jump on it and make out like the first one was some masterpiece.

  9. I love all the movie’s pre-CGI over-load !
    The Robo-Cops , The Predator…I hope Robo–Cop’s remake is not wrecked in favour of CGI.
    I still love ‘real’ special effects , real sets & real actors.

  10. I don’t understand Hollywood, how many remake-flops do they need to understand, that we want some fresh and new stories. I mean, spend more money to nurture and support some creative screenwriters, then the audience will give it credit with some more cinema-visits.

    I’m sure anyone of us has more good ideas for movies, then these studiobosses can dream of. But new, fresh ideas are too risky in their mind.
    Maybe after the 20th remake-flop, they will imagine, that in fact, these remakes (and reboots) are to risky, as WE see now already.

    • It’s not so much that there are bad screenwriters out there but idiotic studio execs and producers. Much of the time the original writer’s script rarely makes it into the film. Take the recent Robin Hood film, for example: the original title was “Nottingham” and was supposed to focus on the Sheriff. Russell Crowe decided Robin hood should be the centerpiece (and he be the centerpiece) and he and Ridley Scott completely rewrote the script.

      Boatloads of good screenplays are coming into the studios, but most of the time the studios are looking for cash cows, not quality film. However, as it is quickly being more apparent, these studio execs are showing their incompetence by dishing out “cash cows” that tank. If anything needs to be rebooted, it’s the Hollywood studio.

      • “If anything needs to be rebooted, it’s the Hollywood studio”
        That is one of the wisest comments I’ve heard for a long time.
        And completely recast Hollywood, no cameos wanted 😉

  11. The whole era this, and other sci-fi movies, were made in without the computer generated fun, forced directors and artists and actors to use their damn imaginations. To look at common household items and go “How can I turn this into a space ship?” Or create truly disgusting (and awesome) special make-up effects.

    It seems so very easy to turn to the computer and just make it that way. To put up that green screen… but it always ALWAYS misses the weight and depth that reality has. It misses the incredible reactions that actors can have. Would Mark Hamill have reacted to Yoda if it had been a guy in a grey suit with nodes on him? Probably not.

    I appreciate the big bangs that can come from digital films (Hello Transformers!) but I miss the depth the original fantasy films made.

  12. I find the remake is a good action movie but a very bad remake. The original was more … subtle. At the end of the original we didn’t know if it was real or just a dream.

    • I was thinking this just a few days after seeing it. On it’s own the movie isn’t terrible. But when compared next to the original, it just doesn’t do the trick. Besides, it should have been expected. Wiseman isn’t exactly known for substance.

  13. I actually came here to say exactly the same thing. Colin Farell is the kiss of death. I will not watch anything with him in it.

    He’s not good-looking or hunky enough to be a romantic leading man.
    He’s not athletic or buff enough to be an action hero.
    He’s not talented enough to be a top dramatic actor.
    He’s not funny enough to be a comedic actor.

    In short, he’s just ok at everything, and really good at nothing. I can’t stand him. As soon as I saw he was in this movie, that made me decide never to see it.

    On another note, I’m glad yet another remake has flopped. Maybe if enough of them flop,Hollywood will end this remake/reboot obsession, and actually start creating fresh, original material.

    • You obviously have not seen In Bruges.

      • Which part of this sentence would you like translated into your native language?

        “I will not watch anything with him in it.”

        • Well, in the case of “In Bruges”, you’ll be missing out on a brilliant film. Not to mention a great performance by Farrell.

          • I’ll take your word that it’s a brilliant film. However, I can’t stand him, so I’ll just have to see how I can get through the rest of my life without seeing he movie.

  14. The second I read that Jessica Biel would be starring in the remake, I knew it would flop big time.

    She is the worst actor in Hollywood – none of her films are any good. I don’t get why someone would cast her ever!

    Blade: Trinity = s***!
    Stealth = worse s***!
    Next = Utter crap
    The A-Team = Her acting was s*** as always.

    • Don’t forget chuck and Larry! Her and sandler were awful together

    • Please, Biel is not a bad actor. Her accepting roles in movies that might not be the best is her only shortcoming. Replacing her in all those movies with someone you consider of “A” caliber would not have saved a single one those movies because the scripts were just bad, period.

  15. Another reboot bites the dust. I am pleased.

  16. STOP…MAKING…REMAKES!!! Is it really so hard to come up with an original idea?

    • I think one problem with Hollywood is they make too many movies. Spend more time to make fewer movies that are better quality. I would rather have a movie theater with 6 decent movies than 24 bad ones. I cant count the number of times I have checked my 24 screen movie theater and find nothing worth paying to see.

    • i think more that the philosophy for movies in hollywood are that they make no risks. i think the most moviegoers like reboots,because an expert about social thinking said that the people like things that they know . so,i think that just true harcore fans who take those things too serious,instead of having fun are the 30 % who say no to reboots/makes. i´m in the middle,at first i wait for a movie before i make just negative buzz about it,if the movie is good then is everything fine,and if not,pfffh who cares ?

  17. I thought you liked Fright Night?

    • There was no reference to Fright Night being a “bad” movie, just that it didn’t do well financially.

  18. It isn’t like he has a lot of high-quality cinematic gems under his own belt. Showgirls? Basic Instinct? Hollow Man? One might think he’d be pleased that the remakes are shining a bit of light on his career again.

    • yes, showgirls what a bad movie,his next big hit was starshiptroopers which has become a cult-classic movie. but after hollow man he did no big projects, there was just -black book- which was also a flop.

    • I will put Verhoeven’s hits up against Wiseman’s hits any day.

      When you are an artist, you are bound to flop. When you are a big artist, you tend to also make bigger flops.

      For every “Star Wars”, there is a “Howard the Duck” on a resume.

      For every “True Grit”, there is a “The Conqueror” on a resume.

      It is one thing to flop as an artist when you are “going for it” with something original, but when you flop with a remake/reboot, that is pretty much unforgivable.

    • I have to agree, Jason. Verhoeven is not exactly Hitchcock.

  19. How many more remakes will we have before the Hollywood execs realize they are not working?

  20. Had high hopes for the remake but it ultimately fell short. Left the movie completely disappointed in every way possible. The actions scenes were even pretty stupid, movie had nothing going for it except for kate Beckinsale. On top of the fact that she’s drop dead gorgeous, shes the only one that really displayed any acting skills during the movie, everyone else fell flat.
    And I stand by the fact that jessica Biel is a terrible actress

    • I agree Biel, like a lot of people in Hollywood, only have a job because they are hot. Acting not required.

  21. It’s funny how the people who remake these movies sometimes downplay the quality of the original while trying to sell their own project. If something was so cheesy or badly done the first time, then why revisit it now? Verhoeven being defensive is natural, since his director ego probably gets bruised a little when these remakes come up and his old work gets scrutinized.

  22. I would like to see at least one Philip K Dick adaption to be remotely close to the source material. It’s like they take a Dick story and just add bombastic action scenes. Even the best adaption, Bladerunner, totally misses the point of Deckards journey to find his own humanity and instead makes the audience assume he is a replicant. They just can’t seem to get it right. Even the original adaption of Total Recall played huge liberties with the source material. The saddest thing is all of Dicks screenplays never got produced, most where just tossed out. Total Recall was a great cheese ball action flick ( the original ), but it was also very very silly in most parts.

    • It’s truly a crime that nobody did a true adaption of Dick’s source material.

      Even “The Adjustment Bureau” fell a little short of the wallop of the story.

    • Actually, “Through a Scanner Darkly” is a decent adaptation of Dick source material. IT gets the tone correct.

  23. Am I the only one who didn’t find the remake unwatchable? In any case, it didn’t really seem like Total Recall. Too many differences even with the shout outs like 3 breasted woman and the disguise scene (the woman was there but it wasn’t Colin) The transport system though, man, no way that could be made, even if it was a fascinating tool.

    • I didn’t mind the remake. As others have stated, on it’s own it’s not that bad (not great by any means, but not terrible). But I did walk out of the theater feeling a bit let down. It might just be nostalgia, but the original felt more exciting and fun, this one just felt like a generic action flick.

      On a side note, I think the term “cheesy” has a negative connotation when it really shouldn’t. Most movies from the 80’s would be considered cheesy by today’s standards, but it doesn’t mean they’re bad. I still enjoy finding an old Rambo or Predator movie on cable once in a while. Maybe campy would be a better term, but I think for Verhoeven to get all upset because it was called cheesy is a little over the top.

    • Well compared to the novella the original idea is there. A seemingly average person desires to get memory implants about an adventure he has on Mars which are already true. They took signature pieces of both previous works and interwove them with new stuff to remake a new film. You could even claim that they used the unbelievable parts to play homage to the unbelievable parts found in Verhoeven’s movie. When talking to some much younger friends of mine a few didn’t even know of Verhoeven’s picture and keep in mind they’re still adults, I’m not talking 15 year old kids. So does this say something about just whom films are aimed at anymore? Anyone over 24 need not apply.. :-(

  24. Toby Jaffe and Neal Moritz made their”cheesy” comment in an interview setting
    and even there placed their comments in the context of the times for the film.
    The comments were hardly denigrating Verhoeven’s film and actually accurate.

    Verhoeven’s comments were on the other hand voluntary and deliberate and
    can be characterized as an unnecessary defensive trashing of the remake.

    As far as Verhoeven thinking movies of Philp Dick stories need to be “light”
    and not told “in straightway ” just imagine that approach to Blade Runner.

    • “in a straight way”

  25. I just don’t understand why Hollywood will spend $100+ million on a remake of movies that don’t need to be remade, but won’t spend a dime on developing and creating new movies from the thousands of scripts they are letting languish in limbo. Total Recall didn’t need a remake. RoboCop didn’t need a remake. One day soon we’re going to be talking about the remake of Blade Runner or Raiders of the Lost Ark. C’mon Hollywood, get off your rich keisters and take some chances!!

    • If more people actually went to see original movies it would help. There are tons of original movies coming out month, but mostly they earn very little. Its just a bandwagon and Hollywood will eventually move on to something else. These things usually go in cycles of about 10 years, then a new “gimmick” will appear and we will get 10 years of that. You would be amazed how many people sit on forums complaining about reboots/remakes yet still pay to go see the movie to see “if its as good as the original”. Hollywood cannot get all the blame, they produce products that are in demand, if the demand is not there they find the next “big thing”. If anyone derides a remake/reboot but then either pays for a ticket or rents a dvd then they are partly to blame i’m afraid.

  26. I liked Arthur (it was a little too long but Helen Mirren was f’n great and it was funny). I loved The Thing (not cuz it was effective but because of the attention to detail). Straw Dogs was piss and Fright Night was some garbage. Total Recall was OK…cool to look at but makes you yearn for a BR sequel instead of a pale imitation. Evil Dead might be ok but I doubt it. Remake my nuts hollywood.

  27. “And Colin Farrell called it in an interview ‘kitschy.’” Colin should of shut his mouth cause this one sucked big time

  28. Verhoeven’s original was satire, like most of his films. There is always a message behind the comedy. The people who decided to do this ‘remake’ don’t seem to get the original at all.

  29. i for one found remake quite alright, i don’t think it deserves the negativity that its getting at the moment :/