Total Recall, blog post sponsored by the promo codes at Schwartzenegger, blog post sponsored by coupon codes at the upcoming remake of Arnold Schwatzenegger's super-fun scifi standard TOTAL RECALL, I have a question for you. There is no right or wrong answer, per se, but damn, I'm curious -- if you're re-making a movie because it is an enduring classic that made beaucoup bucks, why do producers/writers/directors feel the need to "re-invent" it? 

I'm not saying the new Colin Farrell version of RECALL is going to be bad, but the previews to make it look like they've made significant changes to the plot. The question is: why? What's wrong with the original plot? Why wouldn't you just make a few tweaks to a proven product, cast a bunch of good-looking people with box office caché, update the FX and tell the same story?

Some awful remakes come to mind, like PLANET OF THE APES or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. And speaking of Farrell, how about that FRIGHT NIGHT remake? It was a flick about a vampire next door -- did they really need to walk away from the original, super-fun plot? 

But sometimes, you can't win. In 1998, Gus Van Zant tried a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic PSYCHO, and that failed to thrill. Can you blame that on the star power, or lack therof? Or, is this proof that a classic in one decade is a product of the times, and the same story told 30 years later won't have the same impact?

How much of this is a quest for the best product, and how much of it is territorial pissing? I wonder. If you do a shot-for-shot remake, and it's a hit, the director probably doesn't get that much credit for it. But if you change it up and it's a smash like SCARFACE, THE THING or THE FLY, you are showered with accolades, champagne, hookers and blow (a shower we'd all like to have, and, yes, the hookers can be male).

So what are your thoughts? If Lucas sees your YouTube video and says "Oh, golly! I need this kid directing the reboot of STAR WARS," do you gut the plot and "modernize" it, or do cast Vin Diesel as Vader, dust off the existing script and have at it?


In the case of "Total Recall" its worth noting the quality of the original material - Philip K Dick's "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" - and comparing that with the movies.  It doesnt matter that Uber bucks were made by the 1990 movie, or the 2012 movie, the issue is how far both scripts deviate from the source material.  I dont believe anyone has yet made a faithful adaption of the short-story.  Both films are "inspired" by the original and interpret it differently.  I am sure someone in Hollywood will look at the 2, and back at the source material, and conclude "we can make a 3rd movie, and punters will still pay" (oops... crossover thoughts from "The Hobbit" there!)

In general I think remakes are a mistake.  But in the case of Total Recall I thought I had read that the remake better follows the original book storyline, which I would kinda like to see.

Well said Sigler.  It seems that lately, the collective imagination of the movie makers has suffered from a serious drought.  We're not seeing the types of movies that used to make us want to go out to the theaters anymore.  I am a fan of the old Total Recall, not sure if I'll watch the new take on it, unless it's just to see if it's palatable. 

I wonder -- Why don't we see movie adaptations from great books that haven't been done yet, instead of these feeble retelling of the past greats. -- for example, I'm still waiting for them to come out with a Neuromancer movie.

Word is they're working on a Neuromancer movie right now and rumor has it that Mark Wahlberg could play Case. Not exactly who I picture when I think "Case".

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It's important to realize that the original had a lot more to do with Cobra: Space Adventure (a Buichi Terasawa manga) than anything PKDick wrote. If the new one is actually tracking closer to the credited source, well, that counts for something ;)
In a word - Greed and laziness (which is three words of course).

Remakes work when they aren't remakes - or re-imaginings or regurgitations. Whatever description they patronise us with).
The Thing worked in ''82 for example because it was another interpretation of the original story. Rather than a remake of the previous film. Both films and the original novella stand alone as classics of the genre (my own opinion is that Carpenter's film is very much more satisfying than not only Hawks' film but the novella too). The recent prequel doesn't deserve much of a mention - it was ok but rather pointless.
More recently we had the Hollywood 'remake' of the Swedish Let the Right One. Same as with The Thing, BOTH versions work because they are both reworkings of the original story (apart from a few touches the remakers took from the original film, that were not in the book, they are totally different films). And once again the three versions (book, first film and remake) all stand alone as classics. It's one better this time because we actually have three angles of the same story so that reading the book and seeing the films proves a more rewarding experience - enriching the story three-fold.
Somehow I don't think the (re)makers of Total Recall are going back to Philip K Dick's story
It's too late for NUEROMANCER, don't you think? The whole point of that book was that it predicted online worlds and avatars. Now that those things are commonplace (Second Life, MMOs), it's not really that stunning anymore (not bagging on the book, it's lights-out legendary). I can see the 20-somethings in movie-land saying, "so?" Will anyone under 30 care about such things when they have lived with them for most of, if not all of, their lives?
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Too late for  NUEROMANCER?  I agree with you that many features of CybePunk as a genre seem dated - any movie that majors on the pervasive networked world, the avatars and so on would condemn itself to obsolescence from the start - but the underlying themes still exist.  The electronic "occupy" movement fighting the megacorporations, the cynicism and dystopic attitudes where technology has failed to deliver the utopia the marketing people promised.  Big Money, Big Government, Big Oil all aligned against the Little Guy.  CyberPunk offers us an outlet into a fictional world similar enough to our own that we can maybe vent some of our own frustrations and cheer on the Little Guy as he fights back against the system.  Make it character, not tech, driven.
I loved the first one. I'm hoping they dont take a dump on the new one

First thing's first!!!  The original Total Recall was a great movie. Ah-nold was in his peak. Snappy one-liners, great action, lots of explosions and special effects.  Regardless of how closely it was adapted from a story.

I saw the movie long before I knew it was actually an adaptation. After learning it was a PK Dick story who also wrote Ubik (another alternate reality story I actually recommend!) I was intrigued.

Now, if the Total Recall reboot is closer to the original PK Dick story, great! If not, oh well, it is another interpretation of a story, but does not instantly mean it will suck eggs automatically because it is a remake. Many remakes are still good.  The 1982 John Carpenter's The Think was actually a reboot of an old 1951 black and white film The Thing From Outer Space. AND Carpenter's version SHUCKING ROCKED!!! Head spiders!!!!! That's all I have to say about that! Admittedly, I have not seen the newest The Thing re-reboot, but 1982 set the bar high for me.

I may not go the theater to see the new Total Recall, but I will rent it when it is availible.

Perhaps FDO can return to his movie reviews with a visit to this new film.  What do other junkies think? Give us your awesome take on the movie, Scott? Maybe make your own trailer?

Any junkies think a remake is better than an original? Name it, my junkie mind wants to know!

::Certificate of Awesome-Ticity::


It's amazing how well the original movie holds up. I think jokerdas said it best - explosions, snappy one-liners (oh my god the one liners are fantastic), great action and a surprising amount of blood and baddies. There was the perfect balance of camp and gore.

When I first heard the Colin Farrell remake was coming out, my immediate reaction was aversion.  After seeing the trailers, I'm encouraged by the quality of the special effects but I don't think Colin Farrell will be quite as entertaining as Arnold Schwatzenegger. 

 I read one article about the new version that said they aren't spending as much time on Mars, which I've heard is more faithful to the source material (which I've never read) but would be an awful shame if it were true.  I really like the baddies they've casted but I think having Quiad's wife and love interest basically look like the same person is a mistake (sorry I cannot tell Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale apart).

At any rate, I bought a shirt with three boobs on it to wear to the movie and I am hoping for the best with this remake!

On Edited
Well, if they're going to remake the movie anyway, why would they stick with the same plot? Film is a mass-market product designed to make money, yes, but of the producers and directors I've met - a paltry handful, but I can't imagine it's that much different for the rest of them - they were all creative type people. There's a definite hierarchy on- and off-set, but ultimately they are constructing a piece of art. You try and tell an artist that he should just do what someone else has already done.

I'd imagine folks who remake movies see the new ones as entirely separate entities. If that's the case, would it really make sense (other than, perhaps, financially) to keep always the original plot?

I saw the '98 version of Psycho, understood it entirely, and thought it answered a non-burning question I'd had for a while. I've watched old movies and thought, "Man, I wish they'd done this in color or with better special effects." Apparently Van Sant had the same itch to scratch, but he's Van Sant, which means he gets $60 million back scratchers. I think it failed because Hitchcock's Psycho was not made for today's audiences.

Edit: sorry about the lack of spaces. I swear I know what a paragraph is.
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Actually, Carpenter's "The Thing" bombed at the box office when it was released.  It didn't find its audience until it became available on home video, and even then, it took a few years for it to achieve cult status.
In reply to: Texpundit

Word is they're working on a Neuromancer movie right now and rumor has it that Mark Wahlberg could play Case. Not exactly who I picture when I think "Case".
I read Zac Efron was attached.
Frankly, I'm more surprised when a movie remake DOESN'T change much. Case in point, one of my favorite movies of all time is 12 Angry Men. I really dug the original, but found the remake completely pointless. (And I'm only 29, so it's not nostalgia or anything talking.) The remake was practically a shot-for-shot remake with basically the entire script intact, other than two changes that stuck out in my mind for some reason. (In the interest of brevity, I won't bother describing it unless you want me to.)

After the movie ended, I literally closed the browser and my first thought was, "Why?" It just seemed like such a waste of everyone's time. Unless one has something really against black-and-white, or the all-white cast of the original, I have no idea why a remake was created.

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