December 22, 2012 Film Reviews

One fable can generate two contrasting films. We Can Remember it for You Wholesale, Philip K. Dick’s 1966 short story on synthetic memories, secret agents and interplanetary wars, was adapted for the screen by Paul Verhoeven in 1990’s Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside.

The Dutch auteur amplified the philosophical implications of Dickian Sci-Phi to mind-bending frenzy by situating the drama on Mars and accentuating the plight of its grotesque mutant inhabitants. Fast-forward twenty-two years and American director Len Wiseman (of Underworld fame) has revisited and revised Recall for the new millennium.

Inspired by Dick’s short story, Wiseman’s earth-based adaptation, with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Bryan Cranston, maintains the philosophical currents of its predecessor, namely, the artificial orientation of memory and its integral relationship to identity, but filters them through trance-inducing visuals, breakneck-paced action and neo-colonial politics (the Antipodean colony defies the fascist Fatherland).

With every new adaptation a familiar question often divides critics and audiences alike: original recipe or new variety? For this writer, however, there are more interesting questions raised by the Total Recall franchise: is memory not dissimilar to filmic adaptations, where our remembrance of things past changes with time, is filtered through different lenses and inflected with multifarious voices? Is memory not cinematic?

– Dr. Varga Hosseini