Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

I thought a long time about whether or not I wanted to see this film. I'm a huge fan of the original, as it features both Arnold as well as Michael Ironsides, who I always love to see in movies. It was also directed by Paul Verhoeven, one of my favorite directors. I remember seeing something out there that listed the film as "the most violent movie of all time", based on number of violent acts per minute or some such calculation. Even now, 22 years later, my friends and I crack each other up with "Get your ass to Mars!"

This new film...not so much. There is no Mars here. Nor any mutants. For some reason, within the next hundred years or so the only two habitable areas left on the planet are portions of Britain and Australia. In order to move back and forth between the two, this great big elevator called "the Fall" has been installed that goes through the center of the Earth. Not only that, it does this in seventeen minutes. I don't know if Len Wiseman and Co. just never went to junior high school or whatever, but hey guys, the earth is REALLY BIG. Did anyone do a little math on this? I just did.

The Earth is 12,756.2 kilometers in diameter. Assuming a 17 minute travel time, that's about 750 kilometers a minute...which is 45,000 kilometers an hour. Consider that the Space Shuttle accelerates to about 28,000 km/hr during liftoff. This is an elevator the size of a jumbo jet that moves almost twice that fast, without several million pounds of fuel being burned by rocket engines the size of traincars.

At one point, our heroes are actually climbing out of the side of this thing as it's racing through the Earth and scaling it with an external ladder. I would imagine the wind speed alone (assuming you could actually accelerate an elevator the size of a skyscraper to such ridiculous speeds) would be enough to either A) suck you right out the hatch as soon as its open, or B) slice through your flesh like a knife as soon as you stuck your arm out. Never mind that even when you're not racing through a molten core that's multiple thousands of degrees, the inner temperature of the Earth is still hot enough to probably kill you in a matter of seconds. What, is this magical tunnel also air conditioned?

Oh, and did I mention that they go through the center of the Earth? Yes, literally the center. As in, that big molten core of iron that is turned into a liquid state because of all that intense head and pressure? And of course, when you near the center of the Earth, gravity suddenly disappears like you've flipped a switch, only to have it reappear just as quickly.

Why do I care so much about this stupidity, you ask? Because the whole plot of the movie is balanced on the idea that people ride this ginormous, planet-spanning commuter train to work and back every day. Board the Fall in the morning in Australia, and seventeen minutes later, you're in England, going to work in some factory building robots. End of your shift, back on the 7:30 departure, you're having drinks with your buddies down under by 8PM.

What galls me is that I'm sure, during the discussion of what to leave in the new plot from the original film and what to leave out, some studio executive probably said, "Having the workers be on Mars? That's ridiculous! We need to keep this on Earth. How about we make it something like, I dunno, Australia? That's far enough away, right?"

Heads nod all around the table...

Idiotic. I could almost sanction this assassination of a movie if it wasn't so plain they were desperate to somehow draw fans of the original in by making coy, come-hither gestures in the form of throwaway moments like the prostitute with three breasts, a quip about someone having a Rekall dream as "the King of Mars", an arm being severed by an elevator, or an overweight woman vacationing for "two weeks". Rather than making me think "Yay, see, they love the original!" it just felt like a cheap bit of theater to somehow keep me from walking out.

And, to give the movie one last slap in the face, I'm getting tired of Really Skinny Chicks somehow beating the snot out of guys who look like Olympic Athletes. Both Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel need to eat a damn sandwich or three, because I think my twenty-pound tomcat could probably kick the crap out of both of them. I had this problem with Columbiana and Zoe Saldana, who was otherwise all right in the film but appeared so thin I couldn't imagine her winning a fight with an eighth grade bully. If you want to see what a tough, strong woman looks like, take a look at the Olympic Women's Crew Team. Those girls look like they could put their fists through a brick wall. But Hollywood, in all its infinite wisdom and destructive body image marketing, doesn't want women with actual strength, they want women who fit into size 0 jeans. Geez, where's Xena when you need her?

At the end of the day, if you're thinking of seeing the new Total Recall, save your money for Expendables II.


SBJones said...

With gravity as the source of acceleration and braking it should have taken about 42 minutes to travel from one point to another using a tunnel like this.

Cy Mathews said...

The shaft-through-the-earth-with-zero-gravity-at-the-centre was done way back in the 20s or 30s, in Buck Rogers or somesuch pulp. Fun back then, but it's kinda shocking that a modern movie should present such a dumb idea with a straight face.

Dan O. said...

Good review Jack. This film was a whole bunch of fun and even though it was very predictable, I still turned my brain off for a good 2 hours and enjoyed myself. Also, can't go wrong with a cast like Biel, Beckinsale, Farrell, and Cranston, just to name a few.

Jack Badelaire said...

I don't want to make it seem like I thought it was without any redeeming qualities. I just found a few points in the film needlessly dumb (like 'the fall').

As a lifelong film enthusiast, I still believe in the "Theatrical Experience". But with most big theaters well over the $10 mark even for a matinee these days, my expectations on the value my money should bring have likewise risen. A $100 million dollar Sci-Fi blockbuster is still just an expensive turd if they can't get the fundamentals of character, plot, pace, and dialogue to work.