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…
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.
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.
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