Total Recall. Very good. Two hours of frantic persecution in a future that mixes elements of Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Star Wars.
The new version of Total Recall has been one of the most pleasant surprises. Last night I watched the version of Paul Verhoeven starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, starting point of this new film directed by Len Wiseman. Both have the same point of departure, the story by Phillip k. Dick, but addressed it in a radically different way. The two films seem equally valid, each one in his time. What happens is that at first glance the Wiseman version may seem more mature, serious and solid in its argumentative approach, construction of characters and situations and dialogues, although not so much because it lacks the second most morbid measurement on the Verhoeven version which I will explain later when talking about the female characters. In any case, the new version wins points likelihood of clearing the formula argument to Mars and remained stuck to the Earth. Raises a more interesting story and less fantastic, no alien element. It is curious from the geopolitical point of view with the fragile balance between the British Federal Union and the Colony that supports all kinds of interpretations but essentially put on display the duel Europe-United States moving to a hypothetical future again. It has also some features that make it more attractive as a futuristic scenario. It is in this sense of building a future world much more rich and believable as creation of science fiction than the Verhoeven version, with elements as attractive as the Cataract, the Synthetic Federal Police, etc.
Visually it is built as a piece halfway between the urban landscapes of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, with a landscape nod to Screamers, the adaptation of another story by Phillip k. Dick, directed by Christian Duguay in 1996, and a very skilled brushstroke of homage to the most recent trilogy of Star Wars. In their first minutes and everything related to the colony, the landscape is clearly tax of Blade Runner. But halfway through the film, with regard to the Federal Union British, the landscape is heir of Minority Report. The so-called forbidden zone is a nod to toxic and rugged landscapes of the adaptation of the story Second Variety which was Screamers. And the deployment of the Synthetic Federal Police is a nod to Star Wars and their armies of clones. References to the Verhoeven version remain in brushstrokes of complicity with the audience, as the three tits prostitute or the guise of the fat lady on the way through customs control. The new version of Total Recall is a celebration of science fiction which does not reject the influences of their illustrious or commercial backgrounds, but manages to fully develop according to their own approaches. Science fiction with androids taxi drivers, prostitutes of three tits, mutants and explosive heads by which toured Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Verhoeven version was a kind of amusement park, a fair painted with watercolours of bright colors on its surface. Science fiction that proposes us this new version starring Colin Farrell is apparently more sober, more mature, although it continues to be a celebration of the genre.
The differences between the two are based on personality and objectives of its directors. Verhoeven wanted to distance his version of Blade Runner to impose his own style as a filmmaker. He even declared that his film was more optimistic than Ridley Scott, which he described as «sordid and depressing”. His version of Total Recall was closer to the Grand Guignol and the theatre of the grotesque, in coherence with the rest of his filmography. By contrast, Len Wiseman does not mind paying tribute to their predecessors and even looking for strongly mixing with them, as if to make his vision of Total Recall intermediate piece between the two adaptations of the works of Phillip k. Dick, directed by Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg.
On the other hand in my opinion one of the best contributions of the Verhoeven version was without a doubt the character played by Sharon Stone. Along with Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Aliens and Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, pioneered give women a more balanced, active and independent in action films. It seemed difficult Wiseman version could do honor to the antecedent, but I dare say that the way to present the character of Lori interpreted now by Kate Beckinsale is at the height of its precedent and in some respects even improves it.
Another different thing is what happens with the Melina character played by Jessica Biel, in my opinion something weaker that the played Rachel Ticotin in the previous version. The script and story construction of this second version seems to get more out of the female characters, although the use of the conversion from evil to good protagonist’s for sentimental reasons that arises in a line of dialogue seems more false and flimsy that in the previous film. Despite the detail of the bullet and the hands, very emotional, but sentimental. In the Verhoeven version, more venereal and less romantic, erotic hitch of the protagonist with Melina was torrid and morbid, more carnal, more credible. That leads to something interesting: paradoxically on the outside the Verhoeven version is more childish, but in substance suggestion is more sinister and dark. Invokes deep subconscious instincts related sexual fantasies exiles in version of Len Wiseman. But here they have brought more juice to the character of Lori, who has more humor features. By removing the character of male pursuer and the triangle formed by this, the protagonist and the false wife, opts for simplicity, uniting the figure of the pursuer in a single character, the «wife», with more touches of humor in the Verhoeven version and more prominence. The male protagonist is thus between the two warrior women but that most erotic background of the Verhoeven version. Women are more companions than Adventures of bed, polar opposites, representing the two urban environments, the British Federal Union and the Colony that help give insight into the plot more youthful and less perverse than Verhoeven, where the user of the memories program can even choose the type of woman you want to share the adventure. More harmless youthful version Wiseman opts for essentially become a constant action film, where the chain run and chase sequences does not prevent intrigue paranoid features have a place reserved as thread of the plot, but without visit the darker sides of it, something that did make Verhoeven version.Thus also loses strength this ambiguity in the situation of the main character. More dreamlike, Verhoeven version prefer to make less clear if he is really living a reality or fiction-induced Memory Call program, while the Wiseman version prefers to show us all as if it were the reality of the protagonist, especially from the moment in which the entry of the friend who tries to convince him to renounce the dream occurs. Hence the paradox I mentioned. The Verhoeven version may seem childish and simple in their dialogues and situations and is less credible, but in reality is a fantasy for adults. The Wiseman version is more a fantasy for teens, where an ordinary type sees how two very attractive women are fighting for him and just really turned into a hero. But when the Verhoeven version we have not far from clear if the poor type, construction worker, so there will be not invented everything and will be over lobotomized.
Conclusion: do not rely on first impressions, a message that would have delighted signed Phillip K. Dick.
Miguel Juan Payán
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