We Can Remake It For You Wholesale

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale has one of the more cumbersome titles of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, but under the much snappier title of Total Recall it ended up being one of the more successful adaptations of his work. Though not given the reverential critical acclaim of Blade Runner, the original movie turned a healthy profit – even when you take into account its status as one of the most expensive movies ever made at the time – and has a decent critical reception among both SF fans and action movie junkies.

Hollywood cannot leave well enough alone and will always remake rather than innovate if it can, so in 2012 Len Wiseman directed a remake, retaining the Total Recall title. How do these two recollections compare? Let’s see…

The Original

It’s 2084 and humanity is in the process of colonising Mars, with a significant population living in environmentally-controlled domed cities there. The governor, Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) exerts political control over the colony and oppresses the significant mutant population through his control of the oxygen supply. Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a construction worker living on Earth, is fascinated with the situation, not least because he’s been having evocative dreams of visiting Mars.

Quaid wants to take a holiday there, but his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) discourages this, pointing out the danger of taking a trip to a conflict zone. Instead, Quaid decides to go visit Rekall, Inc., a service which implants enjoyable memories into the minds of its customers, so he can at least have the recollection of having had an exciting visit to Mars (with an extra twist of memories of being a secret agent for good measure) even if he can’t do it for real. However, when Rekall’s technicians have sedated Quaid and are about to begin the implantation process, they discover that there’s already a pre-existing implant in there.

Cancelling the implant process and bundling Quaid into a cab, Rekall try to pretend he never visited – but when Quaid’s work buddy Harry (Robert Constanzo) pulls a gun on him and attempts to kill him because he went to Rekall, and when Lori tries to kill him when he gets home, he realises that something is up. As it turns out, Quaid wasn’t originally Quaid – in a past life he was Carl Hauser, an important agent for Cohaagen, who after attempting to defect ended up getting his memories wiped and a new life set up for him as Quaid. Now Quaid/Hauser must get his ass to Mars, discover the truth about his past and Cohaagen’s plans, and free the planet’s inhabitants. But Cohaagen’s goons, led by the vicious Richter (Michael Ironside) – Lori’s real husband and Hauser’s former buddy – are one step behind…

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Underworld: Bit Awkward

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

For this fifth Underworld movie director Anna Foerster and script-wrangler Cory Goodman decide that continuity can go take a hike. It seems like the bits of the previous movies they liked the best were the parts involving high-powered vampire politics, since in this movie they go out of their way to include both an extensive modern vampire coven based out of a high-tech manor house like in the first movie and an ancient castle where the vampires basically dress like elves like in the prequel, with most of the action happening in one or the other of these locations.

Of course, in Awakening we were told that the human authorities had found out about the existence of vampires and werewoofles and had instituted an almighty pogrom against both, and it’s made very clear in that that the vampires have suffered the worst of this – the woofles having entered a deal with the authorities whilst the vampires have been reduced to living in tiny remnants in forgotten places. There’s certainly no scope in that setting for the vampires to be operating out of a huge, fortified mansion in a major city like they do here, so Foerster and Goodman simply seem to have decided to ignore the whole collapse-of-the-Masquerade plot detail, which is not mentioned at all in the movie, not even in the opening narration.

(As well as wanting to revert to the intricate vampire politics of the first film – or, at least, the appearance of intricate vampire politics that the first film tried to create the illusion of – Foerster and Goodman also seem to have followed the lead of the first movie when it comes to the woofles, who once again dress like homeless people and middle class approximations thereof and live in out-of-the-way places. In this case, they are hanging out in a rather cool disused railway yard, and seem a far cry from the elite corporate woofles of Awakening. Then again, the collapse of the corporate conspiracy at the end of Awakening could have believably driven the woofles back to the margins of society, so that feels like less of an overt retcon.)

That opening narration extends into the opening action scene, which is so chopped up and edited that it feels like the edited highlights of a much longer sequence, just as the preceding footage constitutes the edited highlights of the earlier movies. The film’s plot is sufficiently messy and convoluted even in this final form that it feels like it’s gone through a range of different rewrites, never quite reaching the point where it worked the way it was intended to.

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Underworld: Not Big, Not Clever, Not Even Once

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

So I’ve covered the third and fourth Underworld movies here, but I never got around to reviewing the first two. Believe it or not there’s a fifth film being filmed in Prague this month and pencilled in for release about a year from now, and Len Wiseman talking about a sixth movie and a TV series in the pipeline, so I may as well take this mad October article marathon as a chance to catch up.

Underworld

In a poorly-specified Eastern European city occupied mostly by Americans, in a world seen through a blue filter, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a Death-Dealer, a vampire tasked with hunting down and destroying Lycans – the werewoofles who are the vampires’ sworn enemies. The Lycans are supposed to be on their last legs, but Selene is perturbed when a group of Lycans she and her short-lived partner Rigel (Sandor Bolla) ambush shoot back with highly-advanced ultraviolet ammunition. Moreover…

…what?

Oh, you’re confused about the ultraviolet ammunition? Well, it’s ammunition filled with a fluid which has been irradiated with ultraviolet light, so the light dissolves in the fluid and destroys vampires when they’re shot with it as sure as if they were exposed to sunlight. Not a fluorescent liquid which emits UV light when it’s struck by X-rays or gamma rays or more extreme UV rays or something, just as most fluorescent liquids emit visible light when struck by ultraviolet light, mind – the dialogue in the movie makes it very clear it’s the former. Of course, the vampires who are examining the ammunition at the time are staring right at it whilst it’s supposedly emitting vampire-killing UV radiation, but sssh, quiet, just let it go. You’re going to have to deal with much greater leaps of logic if you’re going to sit through an Underworld movie to the end.

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