On the topic of transportation, the grungy-looking building I described as the eye-catching centerpiece of Stage 4 is more than just a building. It’s the top of a tower on what’s called the China Fall. The China Fall is a significant piece of the story, and a location for various set piece moments in the new Total Recall. Think of it as the substitute for travel to and from Mars in the original. Instead of interplanetary travel this time around, the China Fall is a transit system built through the center of the Earth, capable of moving passengers back and forth from New Asia to the UFB.
It’s literally a tube that runs through the center of the earth, so workers can get from one side of the world to the other. There are massive towers on each end of the world that serve as the hubs and open up to vent out the heat gathered from launching what are essentially subway cars from one side to the other. We’re told that in theory, these are built with material similar to the heat shields on NASA space shuttles. As it travels near the core, the passengers experience Zero G and there are some neat scenes highlighting the effect of no gravity on passengers and their items on their 20 minute cross-Earth journey.
While this sounds extreme, the idea behind it is based on research where scientists believe that if we dropped a metal ball through the center of the earth from one side, it would take 30 minutes to get to the other. That’s based on velocity from the laws of gravity – with a powered transit system through a concrete tube, such travel would theoretically go faster, ignoring the issues of passing through the Earth’s core.
Both the subway car and the terminal which launches them were realized with complete sets and made up the complex of connected rooms on the left side of Stage 4. The terminal doubles as an Atrium, where it works from bottom and top. The entire terminal literally flips, something that differentiates itself from other sci-fi flicks. Being able to walk through this structure and the tram while filming in these real sci-fi environments helps balance out what otherwise would feel like a heavily digitally-animated production.
What we witnessed being filmed however, all took place on the main China Fall set. We saw Colin Farrell piloting and landing the turbofan-powered futuristic helicopter, which actually moved thanks to some crafty wirework. The vehicle was stealthy in design, also serving as a small troop carrier.
The latter part of the day, as the sun went down, involved the entire principal cast with several squads of troops. Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), Melina (Jessica Biel), Quaid/Hauser (Farrell) and a double for Kate Beckinsale (she was shooting Underworld 4 at the time) all took part in the scene. After a few hours of that, I had the chance to sit down for a few good, long chats with Biel, Cranston and Farrell, along with producers Toby Jaffe and Neal Moritz. Those interviews will be up throughout the week as we explore the ideas and characters behind the Total Recall remake, along with what differentiates the film from the original.
For now, a few fun facts about the film, New Asia, the United Federation of Britain and the future as depicted in Total Recall:
- The Kuato character was renamed Matthias (Bill Nighy) to avoid any confusion/expectation about mutants.
- The film does not use the terms ‘New Shanghai’ and ‘Euromerica’ as reported earlier in production.
- New Asia is built on the water with boat taxies.
- New Asia residents wear stylish rain jackets because of the acid rain. Jackets were designed by Sanja Milkovic Hays whose past credits include Blade, the Fast & Furious series, Mission to Mars, Star Trek Insurrection and more.
- New Asia is highly-multicultural and its aesthetic is very grungy, worn-down, but colorful in its own way, thanks to the night life.
- Look out for glow-in-the-dark tattoos and phones built into people’s hands (Kate Beckinsale uses one).
- There is a three-breasted woman!
- Tallest part of New Asia is the China Fall tower.
- The UFB is made up of massive skyscrapers, encompassing a blend of contemporary tech with Victorian feel, described as “neo-classic” European.
- The people of UFB mostly wear suits.
- Cars travel below and above freeway and beneath buses, all emphasizing the idea of condensed space.
- It only takes 20 minutes to travel from New Asia to the UFB with the China Fall.
It was a wonderful set to spend time at, thanks in no small part to the high morale and excitement of the cast and crew. Colin Farrell, I’m told, was on set practically every day and brought a fun, positive, and high-spirited energy to the production – which I witnessed myself as he goofed around in the helicopter cockpit during scene setups.
Being able to step onto real sets of futuristic locations and structures, sitting inside real space-age vehicles, and wandering through a series of props, costumes and armor exemplified the creativity of such talent as Sanja Milkovic Hays and Patrick Tatopoulos who, with their teams and the rest of the crew, were able to realize an intriguing and innovative vision of the future, one that I’m anxious to learn more about.
Total Recall opens in theaters August 3, 2012.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.