Comic-Con 2011: TOTAL RECALL Panel Recap

     July 22, 2011


As I said with the Fright Night panel, remakes are tricky but at least the original Fright Night a pretty straight film.  Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is insane.  Not only does it have a twisty plot which it then drops half-way through, but there’s exploding fat lady heads, tri-breasted women, and the magnificence that is Kuato.  Even though the film only came out twenty years ago, it’s tough to imagine a big summer blockbuster being so strange.  I need to be convinced that this remake is necessary or brings something new to the table.  Sitting in Hall H for the panel, I want to be convinced.

Hit the jump for the recap of the Total Recall panel.

Director Len Wiseman comes on stage followed by stars Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Kate Beckinsale, and Colin Farrell.  Farrell quips, “Long time, no see.”  Wiseman says they’re not ready to show anything (they’re halfway through shooting) but they’re going to show something anyway.  The visual effects aren’t done, it’s cut together with pre-viz, but Wiseman wanted to bring something so we’re gonna see some footage.

We see Quaid (Farrell) going into Recall to have fun memories implanted.  Rather than a sleek futuristic setting, Recall looks like an opium den.  McClane (John Cho) sets up Quaid into the Recall seat (and the framing resembles the shot of Schwarzenegger from the original).  The Recall goes haywire, McClane realizes that Quaid is a spy but Quaid doesn’t understand.  He hits the alarm but suddenly a bunch of military guys storm the room, kill everyone except for Quaid and hold him at gun point.  A switch flips in Quaid’s brain and in one long shot he takes down every soldier in the room.  It looks a lot like a video game and that runs throughout the rest of the footage.  It’s not just because we saw some of the scene as pre-viz (and Farrell’s pre-viz figure has stubble because that was key).  Running from jets (is that going to be Wiseman’s signature from now on?), gun fights, and none of what could make Total Recall interesting.

I understand that action can help sell the movie, but in the original, when Quaid goes to Recall and it goes wrong, it’s not that he snaps.  It’s that reality snaps and that’s what keeps the movie interesting in the first half (and then when Quaid gets to Mars it goes campy and insane).  Here, it’s an intro to an action scene and I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to care about.  Maybe they haven’t shot any character stuff or emotional moments and again, action sells, but I’m not really feeling any thoughtful or inventive sci-fi from what we saw.

Cranston says he’s the benevolent leader of the world and even though he’s the villain, he wanted to shade the character with sympathy, compassion, and earnestness.  However, in an action film, it’s a struggle to keep that character in mind and not have them lost in the set pieces.  Cranston said he was seduced by the strength of the script and had a good meeting with Wiseman and they were off.  He adds that unless you have good characters and a good story, then you can have as many explosions as you want and it won’t matter.  Someone asks if we get to see a Walter White badass in Total Recall and Cranston replies, “Oh yes.”  He says just as Walt went from good to bad in Breaking Bad, in this film he gets to relish in the badassness.

Cranston gets a lot of questions because this crowd loves him and he’s got a sharp wit.  When asked about how playing a villain is different than just playing a badass, he says he wants to go deeper than just the moustache-twirling bad guy, you want to have a reason for it.  For example, his character kills a lot of people but he believes he’s right to do it.  He adds that he wasn’t quite sure what the tone was and he talked with Wiseman about making sure his performance was on the same page as the rest of the movie.kate-beckinsale-image

Beckinsale says she plays Quaid’s “lovely and understanding wife (or not)” and works for Cranston’s character.

Farrell says he plays an Austrian bodybuilder who becomes a big movie star who eventually gets into the politics where he’s far less successful.  In seriousness, he plays Quaid who thinks he’s living one life until he gets a wake-up call 15 minutes in from his trip to Recall.  Like with Fright Night he reiterates his respect for his original but appreciates how it differs.  He then pokes fun at how it kinds of sounds like bullshit when you’re giving the same tagline for two different remakes.

Wiseman says they drew from the original Philip K. Dick story to color the movie (yeah, right), but he moves more to saying that he was fascinated by the reality vs. fantasy element (again, having trouble buying that based on the footage we saw).  He says the fantasy or reality question is “very much alive” in the remake.  He says he will “keep it present” in the remake, whatever that means.

When Beckinsale is asked if she felt any pressure to take on the Sharon Stone role from the original she jokingly replies, “I do now…” and then she cracks a Basic Instinct joke.  Or rather the Basic Instinct joke.  There’s only one.

I know I’m being tough on Total Recall but it’s because I think it has such potential to be more than a generic action sci-fi flick especially when you’ve got great actors like Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston on board.  I’m still waiting to be convinced but the film is still over a year away and so there’s plenty of time to gain a new appreciation of Total Recall.

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  • Joe

    Jesus Christ! You really are a f*cking tool. You’ve done nothing but slam this film and Len Wiseman every single chance you get. I suspect it’s jealousy, but who knows. But the fact that you’re rendering a judgement and opinions of a film based on a small scene from a project that’s only halfway through shooting, proves your a tool. All of the other reports of the footage said it looked great.

    As for Verhoeven, he was a hack who made a monumental amount of shit in his career. He only ever made two good films in his life, and even those were filled with bad acting and horrendous dialogue. Those films are Total Recall And Robocop.

    As for the original, spare me the bullshit about how it was so great. It was typical Arnold 80′s action flick. Fun? Yes! Great? No! Deep? Hell no!! It was filled to the brim with bad acting and some of the cheesiest dialogue ever.

    I don’t give a shit what you like. But I expect someone who writes about this stuff to be objective and fair. You are neither, and since you’re opinion of this film has already been rendered, nothing you say holds any credibility. If the film was a masterpiece, you wouldn’t have the spine to admit it after all of the crap you’ve thrown at it.

    • Keith Ryon

      totally agree with you. I read the article and knew that it was MATT GOLDBERG who wrote it. i cannot believe he works for such a classy website. If this was a article about a mel gibson movie he wouldn’t talk about the movie, just the antics of mel in recent years. this is a MOVIE NEWS site.


      Puhhhhleeeeease. If anything, Goldberg is being pretty restrained in his appraisal. If we are going to talk about “tools”, lets talk Len Wiseman – the guy is the very definition. Few directors have made as much money committing garbage to film. There isn’t a single inspired moment to be had in any of his “work”. Everything about this project reeks of a trashy money grab. Had they gone with a legit director (Cronenberg would have been a stellar choice) we might have ended up with something watchable, even memorable. If you’re rushing to defend a Wiseman production based on his crap track record you’re either a mouth breather or a studio plant.
      Btw, Verhoeven is a subversive mad man with a genuinely unique style and true vision. You aren’t counting Black Book (a brilliant flick) or Soldier of Orange as good movies because you haven’t seen them and you aren’t counting Starship Troopers because you didn’t catch the fascist subtext. Forget about what I said earlier – you aren’t a studio plant, you just aren’t that bright.
      Have a nice day!

  • Scottybone

    Have to agree Joe, you obviously have a negative outlook on the film for no apparent reason, other than an unfinished scene. Plus, if you think the original is a masterpiece, than I dont trust your opinion on this remake.

  • aces15224

    ^^^ Idiot

    Total Recall is definitely not a typical Arnold flick, or a typical flick in any sense of the term. It’s wild, smart, and original.

  • Ethan

    If you’re going to hate on a pointless remake, Spiderman is far more deserving than this one. The 1st Spiderman isn’t even 10 years old yet, and hollywood is straight up remaking the same old origin story. Total Recall, on the other hand, is 20 odd years old, and nowhere near as popular or as fresh in people’s memories as Spiderman. It also seems like Wiseman is taking this one in another direction entirely different from the campy original. You hate on it for being an action flick, but if it comes out looking good, who cares? What’s wrong with another action flick? It already seems like a big departure from Veerhoven’s in story and style, and really, who is surprised that hollywood is going the remake route for brand recognition? The original is hardly a classic, and this updated version could very well be a fun, sleek action/sci-fi flick that works as a turn-off-your-brain popcorn movie. And again, what’s wrong with that?

  • bukowski1980

    They should have gotten david cronenberg to direct the movie,it would of been amazing.

    • News Hit

      “Running from jets (is that going to be Wiseman’s signature from now on?), gun fights, and none of what could make Total Recall interesting. I understand that action can help sell the movie, but in the original, when Quaid goes to Recall and it goes wrong, it’s not that he snaps.”

      It makes me laugh that Matt Goldberg is complaining about the amount of action in this film.

      A little background would explain: David Cronenberg was scheduled to make the original film. The Canadian director was fired from the project when the producers read the script and realized that he intended to make a faithful, introspective adaptation of the Dick story (with William Hurt to star). The producers told him that they simply wanted to make an action film – ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark on Mars’ – and hired a director that was willing to make an expensive, ultra-violent blockbuster devoid of the subtlety that Cronenberg intended to include.

      The first ‘Total Recall’ film was fun and a blast (with hints of subtext and ambiguity), but – please – don’t try to make it out to be anything more. It just shows cloying sentimentality: just because the film was important to your formative years does not make it an important film.

      Oh, and this is frustrating, as well: “Wiseman says they drew from the original Philip K. Dick story to color the movie (yeah, right)”

      You know what? I bet that Wiseman has done his due diligence and at least read the story. Have you Matt?


        You’re betting Wiseman has done his due diligence based on what, exactly? The attention to detail he clearly demonstrates in Underworld II: Evolution? The rich character development in Live Free or Die Hard? Or are you placing your wager based on his nuanced and restrained writing on Underworld III: Rise of the Lycans? Is there anything, anything at all, on LW’s cv that doesn’t scream commitment to craft?
        The fact that you feel the need to “bet” at all is tantamount to spitting in the face of genius. If you don’t have faith, absolute and unshakable, given the body of work, well…I just don’t know. We are talking about Len Wiseman here, people. His name is as close to a guarantee as you are going to get in the world of moving pictures. There is not a single shot…nay, a single frame in his oeuvre that begs the question “Did Len really give it his all here? Did he bring his A game?” Bring it? Len is the A game.

    • News Hit

      “You’re betting Wiseman has done his due diligence based on what, exactly?”

      Relax. I am betting that Wiseman has read the story based on … the fact that both he and his producer said the material will reflect the book more so than the previous version: Neal Moritz said “It’s closer to the book, the big difference is we don’t go to space.”

      I have not liked any of Wiseman’s work. He’s tacky, has ZERO understanding of compelling story structure and all of his characters lack personality.

      That does not mean, however, that I necessarily question his word out of hand. He saw the Die Hard films before he made his own version, for instance. His problem is not that he is stupid or irresponsible: after all, it’s rare for anyone to be successful – and maintain that success – in any business without doing their homework.

      Again: I think that he has at least read the source material, even if he chooses to ignore it completely. Has Matt Goldberg?

      P.S. your ‘jokes’ (e.g. ‘The fact that you feel the need to “bet” at all is tantamount to spitting in the face of genius’) show a Matt Goldberg-level of wit and charm: can I call you mini-Matt?

  • Cobby

    Not a remake it is a reboot

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  • mattdibz

    Its a remake

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  • Elitist Prick

    You know, people criticize Matt’s reporting of this movie and the panels and whatnot, but really, his jokes and opinions make it easier to evaluate what the movie could be. If he wanted to make the movie look bad, he could just convey all the worst details about the presentation without any of the positives in a straightforward manner. At least by providing his own opinion, we know that it’s coming from someone who might already be not-so-into the remake concept in the first place. He’s honest, and even if I disagree with him, I appreciate that.

    In any case, I don’t have anything against Len Wiseman, but I’ve just never bought into him being able to handle the general fuckedupness a good Total Recall movie would require. A straight-ahead action movie? Sure, but not this. It’s like getting Kevin Smith to do Cop Out: he can film dialogue scenes fine, but action? Not quite.


      Exactly. However, though your Kevin Smith analogy is apt, I think it could be stronger. Something like “Hiring Wiseman to direct a PKD movie is like hiring a rodeo clown to do an emergency appendectomy”.

  • Sean

    Am I the only one who thinks that a lot of the articles about the films at comic-con are just meant to bash these films which haven’t even come out in theaters?

  • Alex-mansy

    The premise of Total Recall is it’s real value, and Wiseman is almost a serious director with some depth in action genre. (almost)

    There’s little question it won’t be a decent action flick though, and Colin Farrel as action lead is underrated. (fantastic performance in minority report)

    Wiseman is no Verhoeven but who is? A total recall remake/reboot would never have resembled the original.

  • blane

    Effin hate C Farrel

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  • Grrrr!

    Why, oh why? There is no need to re-make this film, it’s tantamount to sacrilege!!!!!

    And as for Farrell, he is about as close to filling such a role as Ballykissangel is to an action movie……….I do not want to spend 90 minutes watching his eyebrows waggling at me from the screen once again!

    Have people fogotten what a turd Alexander was? Or SWAT?

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  • mattdibz

    Its funny reading the comments now that the trailer is out and it looks amazing.