First off I must say that I am a massive Arnie fan, I always have been and always will. Even his worst films make me feel warm inside and his most cringe inducing one liners make me smile. I will also be the first to admit that Hollywood is still stuck in a cesspit of creative decline and are needlessly remaking great films left right and centre while finding franchises in the most desperate of places...a film based on Battleship, really?
So why am I not utterly disappointed to hear that one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most loved film's is being remade? Well I'll tell you.
Is there anything wrong with the original Total Recall? Not really, it's very entertaining and quite intelligent and philosophical (it's Philip K Dick after all) and is one of Arnie's best films this side of The Terminator. It set out to be an above average action/sci-fi thriller and ends up being exactly that. This wasn't the case when David Cronenberg was attached to write and direct however, but that was why he left the production as he soon learned he was wasting his time writing a faithful and thought provoking version of Philip K. Dick's We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
The problem is that the genius of Philip K Dick gets lost in Arnie's star vehicle. Total Recall is a very good Arnie film and a cut above the rest of most mainstream tosh but it's only able to take the film's concept so far, not far enough. Sure the philosophy of the mind and memories are covered in a paranoid Orwellian space community but the film only ever touches the surface of such interestingly debatable ideas.
The true enjoyment of Total Recall should come from the spectator's disorienting journey as they are constantly keeping up with the twists and turns of who the real Douglas Quaid is, who is the real Douglas Quaid? Does it matter? And what are the moral implications of implanted memories? Such interesting arguments from the author of Blade Runner and Minority Report. What we get however is an action film starring none other than Arnie who we all know is a bad ass and probably used to be a badass before the memory implants, there is no disbelief when Arnie fulfils his reputation and starts maiming guards and henchmen. The book was showing us how important memory is in defining us and how delicate and distorted memories can be while showing us the dilemmas of technology going so far that we can choose our experiences , or in this case what others choose for us.
When the material hints that perhaps Douglas Quaid had a past full of adventure and violence at no point are we amazed at the film's concept of false memories, at no point are we stunned that a simple normal drone worker who lives a simple life with his wife used to be a leader of a violent resistance. We don't because we are watching Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger two time Mr. Universe who went to Hollywood to become the highest payed actor in the world by being a badass on screen.
You can talk all day about Philip K Dick's work and how they weren't delivered to the screen with the respect they deserve but I truly believe that Total Recall deserves another stab, I will continue to enjoy Paul Verhoeven's version as a Arnie fan but will look forward to a hopefully truer and tastefully done version that won't hide Philip K Dick's unique vision. After all Spielberg did a fine job at Minority Report and Blade Runner is one of the best films ever made...why should Total Recall suffer?
On this subject of a remake I think Arnie die hards are out of order.