Why the Total Recall remake doesn’t work (an author’s perspective).

Hey guys (those of you who are still around). Sorry I haven’t been on here much recently.

A couple of nights ago I wound up watching the 2012 Total Recall remake. I remember seeing it when it first came out and not thinking much of it back them. I mean how can you do Total Recall without Mars? That was the best bit! That and the nose tracker… you people know what I mean.

Anyways, watching it again I still don’t think much of it. (They replaced Mars with Australia – not that I have anything against Australia) I did however start to think about why I don’t rate it.

It’s got some great actors. It’s actually rather well shot and edited. The action choreography is really well done – Both Bekensale and Biel prove that if you want to do good looking fight/action sequences get dancers (and that you should never pick a fight with a ballerina, they’re hard core).

Remember this is just my opinion – To look at where it went wrong, I want to start with what went right. The one story scene that stands out as being subjectively better than the original. In the remake Quade’s friend and work college confronts Quade/Hauser (Farrel) with the suggestion that all this is a dream and he’s still in the Recall generated fantasy. (Analogous to the scene in the original where Hauser (Arny) is confronted by the recall rep with the same notion)

In the original by the time this scene comes around we (the audience) are so invested in the Mars story that we brush this off as a trick. However in the remake (due to its position within the story, along with other factors I’ll talk about in a minute), we’re not as invested in Houser-super-spy and it’s personification in Melina (Biel), and going back to the (at that point in the film) much better developed notion of Quade and Lori (Beckensale) is somewhat appealing. From an emotional standpoint the audience is much more willing to believe that it could be all in his head.

There-in lies the main issue with the film.
The Melina and the “resistance” never feels particularly well developed, or as engaging as Lori, Cohagen and the “bad guys.” Leading viewers to either, root for the bad guys (like me), because Lori may be psycho but that’s more character development than the resistance got. Or just not engaging with the movie at all.

That being said, Cohagen felt a somewhat two dimensional (and here’s the writing lesson – if that’s what you tune in for), his motivations for wanting to take over “the colony.” Yes we’re told that they need the extra living space. But don’t ever get any sort of insight into why he believes this is a good idea (and yes you could argue that this point carries over into the original where Cohagen is just power hungry.) What I’d have liked to have seen is some notion that he genuinely believes this is for the betterment of mankind, or the only way to save the “empire” or some such. It would give the character added dimension and even make the viewers sympathise with him.

And therein lies the writing lesson – Every villain is the hero of their own story.
Or, to (mis)quote the Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the [villain]”
Your villain, or antagonist, needs to more than just a foil for your hero, more than something for him to overcome. They need to be characters in their own right, with their own hopes and dreams (be they of global annihilation). People aren’t, generally speaking, proactively evil. They don’t wake up and think “I’m going to murder puppies!” There’s has to be a rational (or realistic) reason for him to hate puppies. Maybe his parents were killed by dogs. (Just to be clear, I like dogs! Way more than cats – they’re up to something!)
Anyway this post is going on far too long.

See you guys later.


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