Total Recall

I loved Schwarzenegger's "Total Recall." 

I loved the new one even more.

And now, for a moment of abjectly unrepentant hypocrisy: I was bored by the Spider Man reboot because I'm tired of that origin story. The new Total Recall is -- oh, hang on... SPOILER ALERT -- very nearly a beat-by-beat, scene-for-scene re-shoot of the original film, especially for the first two acts. But (and here's the hypocrisy) that didn't bother me. In fact, I kind of liked it.

The big changes? They replaced Earth with Great Britain, and replaced Mars with Australia, then declared everyplace else on the planet to be toxic and uninhabitable from "the wars." So yes, it's a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi action psychological thriller with a dead-sexy cast.

On Twitter I mentioned that I had to shut a portion of my brain off. Oh my yes. Here is a short list of the things I was not allowed to think about:

  • Why did somebody build a center-of-the-Earth Chunnel (called "the Fall" in the movie). Digging that can't be cheaper than traveling between the British Isles and Australia via aircraft, or even (the film's tech seems to support it) sub-orbital supersonic transport.
  • Okay, HOW did they build it? This is not a shovel-ready project.
  • "The Fall" takes 17 minutes, but appears to be mostly driven by gravity (hence the name of the system.) If we assume a constant 9.8 m/s2 of acceleration/deceleration (which we cannot, not at all*), seventeen minutes takes us to about one minute's travel from the center. It's another 18 minutes back out. I thought at first that maybe the cited time was just until turnaround, but a key scene at the end confirms the original down-then-back-up figure. 
  • All these military/police robots are built like people, right down to the way they hold weapons. This makes them a horrible tool against unarmed resistance fighters, since a fallen robot can easily be cannibalized for OH JUST GRAB HIS GUN AND NEVER MIND THE ROBOT PARTS.
  • This geopolitical power structure seems grossly oversimplified, even if there are only two nation-ish thingies in it. Also, importing cheap labor from Australia via the magic elevator Fall is economically ridiculous. I get how it's important to the plot, but it's still silly.
  • If that much of the planet is that irredeemably toxic, we're all dead, even the nice people in Britain and Australia. Earth's biosphere affords islands (even really big ones) a very small amount of ecological independence in matters like this. 

I realize most of this stuff was in the movie for one of two reasons: it's a shortcut, so the story can be told more quickly, or it allows the filmmakers to do something really cool in several scenes.

I already confessed to hypocrisy and brain-hobbling. Well, the story was great (even if I did know what was coming) and the cool scenes were quite cool. The acting was solid, everybody was pretty easy to look at (read: "Howard likes both Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel"), and the nods to the original film were delicious, dark chocolate Easter eggs to me. 

This one comes in at #5 for me for the year. Is Total Recall a great movie that will stand up to multiple viewings, and receive broad critical acclaim? No. But I had piles of fun. And I'll probably enjoy vivisecting it with like-minded friends at a DVD party years from now.

(*Note: the math for free-falling through the Earth is pretty complex, since you end up with a lot of the Earth above you long before you reach the center. Also, in the film the only point at which they experience free-fall is at turnaround. They should have been in free-fall the moment the magic elevator launched and began its descent.)