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Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

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I was a pretty big fan of the original “Total Recall” film with Arnold Schwarzenegger, so when I heard they were doing a re-make, I was pretty revved up. Although not as hulking as Arnold, Colin Farrell is a good actor with a pretty decent resume. The film also stars Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, some serious eye-candy for us guys.

 

They changed a lot in this film with respect to the original. To a certain extent, that’s good. I find it kind of annoying to go into a remake and watch exactly the same film, but with different actors. Why bother? On the other hand, I think this film went too far in the opposite direction. The whole plot was changed. It doesn’t even involve the planet Mars at all. Everything occurs on Earth. They tried to preserve a number of elements from the original, but even these were altered for the sake of artistic liability. But, if you saw the original, the alterations don’t strike you as particularly creative. For example, instead of reaching up his own nose with a giant metal thingy to pull out a bug that’s on him like Arnie, Colin Farrell must instead cut open his hand and pull it out of his palm. That’s kind of like how in all the new vampire flicks when the master vampire is converting a victim to vampirehood, he must slash his own wrist, or arm, or knee, or whatever, so long as it isn’t his breast like in the original, to complete the conversion. Rather than come up with something completely new, we’ll just slightly alter what’s come before (I think in my own vampire book I used both breast and wrist). There were a couple other instances like that in this new version of “Total Recall.” But ultimately, the movie was a completely different story. I think they would have been better off naming it something else and not inviting the comparison to Arnie’s previous sci-fi blast.

 

All right, a little bit about the story. It is set in a futuristic Earth where much of the planet has been devastated by chemical warfare. Only the United Federation of Britain and The Colony (Australia) remain. The main character is “Douglas Quaid,” soon to be revealed as “Carl Howser,” a super-spy with his memory erased and an entire new life implanted. He’s living a quiet life as an assembly worker, building the super-robot police force for the evil chancellor, Mr. Cohagen. Then one day, Quaid decides his life is not what he wanted and he wants some new, more interesting memories, and he visits “Rekall,” a company specializing in memory implantation. All is well and good, until he sits down for the process. His operator realizes Quaid is really a spy, just before all hell breaks loose. The police come busting down the door, there’s a gunfight, and Quaid escapes. Thus begins his journey to reclaim his memory and stop Mr. Cohagen from taking over the planet.

 

Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie. I heard bad things about it going in, but gave it a shot anyway. It’s not as good as the original, and, like I said, I think they should have just called it something else and done away with the “Total Recall” connection entirely. Anyway, I’ll give it three stars out of five.

The Vampire’s Bite: Curse or Virus?

I have written previously of how the nature of the vampire has changed since the original writing of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”(the original blog entry is here). Where once they could move about during the day, they are now incinerated by sunlight. Where they could once turn into a bat, many modern varieties are limited to a human-like form. Etc… One thing I failed to touch on, however, was the manner by which the vampire transforms its unhappy victim into another vampire. By all accounts, it does so by biting his or her victim, and draining the blood to a certain critical point. Through the years, though, one’s understanding of the bite and how it ultimately works has changed.

 

At the time when “Dracula” was written, the bite was understood to be a curse. The vampire, as agent of the Christian Devil, bit the victim, and he or she was transformed into a creature of the night by the mysterious powers of darkness. The method of transformation was safely ensconced in the supernatural. It was beyond human understanding, and as such, offered no hope of redemption. Most modern people, as a result of the continuing advance of science, do not believe in curses. They require a more “scientific” explanation for the vampire. They want to see some mechanical explanation that is somewhat more plausible than some unfathomable “curse.” And so the vampire virus was born. I don’t know who first used the virus-explanation, but it seems quite prevalent nowadays. I remember seeing it once in a comic book years ago, and I thought it clever, then. They used it in the series of “Underworld” movies starring Kate Beckinsale, and earlier in the “Blade” movies starring Wesley Snipes. I’m sure I’ve seen it elsewhere, but precisely where, eludes me for the moment. Anyway, I’m starting to get annoyed with the vampire virus explanation. I mean, really, do we need a “quasi-scientific” explanation for a vampire?

 

Isn’t it more chilling and more sinister to have the method of transformation beyond mere mortal explanation? Although most of the tales agree that the virus is incurable, that aspect of the disease is a temporary state. There is no reason why a virus, in principle, could not be cured at some later point in time by scientific advance. Some movies have even incorporated a “cure” for vampirism in the plot line. And to me this just detracts from the supernatural horror. Give me the curse without a cure. The sentence of living damnation that cannot be suspended. I mean, we are dealing with supernatural folklore here. Why limit ourselves with “science.” The vampire virus was kind of cool and clever for a time, but nowadays, I’m starting to look at it as more of a cliché. I like the mysterious and the unfathomable; give me the curse with no cure. It makes for a much more chilling tale.

 

And, of course, I must shamelessly mention my fantasy vampire novel, Drasmyr—see the side bar under Publications if you are interested.

Movie Review: Underworld: The Awakening

This is the fourth installment (I believe) in the Underworld series. I’m more a sword and sorcery guy, but vampires and werewolves suit me, too. I saw the movie this afternoon. Overall, I’d give it about three out of five stars. It was okay, wasn’t spectacular. I think the Underworld series is doing the opposite of the Star Trek series. In Star Trek all the even numbered members of the series were exceptional, the odd ones were pretty humdrum (except III–I think). In Underworld, the odd numbers rule, while the even ones are a bit lackluster.

There was a lot of blood, guts, and killing in the movie. That will appeal to some viewers; I, however, like a better developed plotline. This one had a pretty basic plot–which in some ways is good because it’s easy to follow–there were even a couple interesting… I’ll call them developments instead of twists. Logically, the movie held together well… those things that made me go, “Huh? What?” were explained by the end of the movie. And that’s good. Still, there were several incidents which I’d seen before in other movies particularly in the big battle at the end (can we say “Pirates of the Caribbean”–sorry for the spoiler–there was even stuff borrowed from “The Matrix” earlier in the movie). I guess the biggest weakness was that I think it was kind of formulaic. The “cool” developments I mentioned above were not enough to make the movie stand out. The plot was too linear and the movie only lasted a little over ninety minutes, so I walked away feeling that something was missing. There were really only four different settings and the movie as a whole seemed largely a compilation of shots of Kate Beckinsale looking “cool” in black leather, kicking butt, and taking names. Which are all good things, but not enough on their own to carry the day.

Anyway, like I said: three stars out of five. It’s all right for a single viewing and to pass an afternoon, but I’ll won’t go out of my way to see it a second time.