As part of our video section os ds106 we have our students watch part two of Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix so they have an appreciation for the common borrowing of cinematic elements as well as to help them question the notion of “originality” (we ask thema s well to look at Raiders of the Lost Archive)

I rarely go to the movie theaters, but I do enjoy the experience of going especially with friends. I like the movie experience, it brings back a lot of fond memories (seeing the premier of Jaws the weekend before out beach vacation, umping out of the chair at the end of the first Friday the 13th…).

However I gotta say after my movie experience today, I am not feeling a lot of ferver for the potential of mainstream movies to be storytelling. I decided today to more or less pick a random showing as a way to spend part of the afternoon out of the moist Virginia heat. I looked onine and saw (hastily) that there was a showing of a new version of Total Recall. The reviews I scanned were pretty positive.

I think they were smoking crack.

Now, instead of a movie being “based on a book” we have feature movies that are “based on a movie that was based on a book’. Yep and you can follow that train of repetition farther.

WHile never claiming to be a movie critic, what I saw was totally devoid of anything of merit. What I saw from the whole package was that things have descended to new levels of lack of creative ideas, in fact, [ALmost] Everything in Hollywood is a Repeat.

The whole pre-movie sequence wa sno different from anything on comercial TV, and in fact was all promo for new TV shows like “Vegas” which, as far as I can tell is a bunch of washed up actors doing the Sopranos in the desert of Nevada. Maybe, did not really watch it that carefully.

Hmm, the previews included Liam Neeson (his agent must have been sleeping) doing Taken 2, his grizzled face going bad ass after his family gets kidnapped again. Don’t you think they learned anything the first time around? Then we have the all time repeat machine, James Bond, the 4th, 5th Bond? Gadgets and blown up cars and terse Brits. Yawn. About the most original idea in a trailer I saw was one for Tarantino’s Django Unleashed.

But on to the main feature. In this “new” movie, we have th same characters, Doug Quaid, ordinary dude, goes in for a memory game at “Rekall” – look at that originality! They made the “c” into a “k” Kool!. Something goes bad, he finds out his life is not real, he is a bad ass agent who kills thing and finds himself getting kicked in the ass by his hot wife. Who is not his wife.

Rather than the setting of the story being between earth and Mars, the whole world tension played out in the original story by Philip K Dick, this all takes place on a post apocalyptic earth where all that is left is the Controlling POwer in Britain and a “Colony” of workers in Australia. The workers have to transport on this giant tube called the “Fall” which somehow goes through the middle of the earth (and yeah, that makes total sense that there would eb NO gravity at the core?? Oh my physics).

And while I am at it, in an advanced future where they can tunnel through the earth’s core, the main weapons are still projectile bullets? (okay there was that spray rope thing, but there were a lot of bullets, right out of the Smith and Wesson age. Ok, you say, that worked in the Matrix).

The Colony is designed right out of Blade Runner, dark, rainy, and an Asian flavor.

Anyhow, Quaid kills a bunch of clones, narrowly escapes, finds secret messages, goes back to get his secret things, a woman who seems to know and love him that he doe snot remember (AND JEEZUS- WHY DOES HE NOT EVEN KNOW HER NAME?

I like in the beginning the not so subtle product placement when Quaid reaches in his refrigerator and pulls out 2 Heineken beers. I am glad they survived the war that wiped out the rest of the world (why was it not a British beer being that only the Crown has the places where life survived?). I noted later when Quaid goes to the bombed out exterior, there is a lingering shot of a Budweiser add on a building. I did like that touch.

Or how about this, when they go seeking the mystery rebel leader who is reclusive, they spend about 3 minutes walking and the find his henchman. That is tight security. Then they ride a train 4 minutes to get there.

And of course you have the classic scene where the hero (Quaid) is tied to a chair, and his arch enemy has the instrument to kill him, but he leaves it in te hands of some low level un named (red shirt) dude to carry it out. Do you think Quad will escape?

If you like a lot of lunching and people running through corridors of flashing lights, this movie is for you.

I can be okay for the retelling of a story in a new way to explore the story, but there is nothing here that does anything close to new ground. It’s bad enough there are so many sequels, but we have here a new form of doing the idea of a sequel that is the same decimal number as the original.

Do yourself a favor, if anyone suggests seeing “Total Recall” steer them elsewhere. Or go home and watch the original one on video. Or better yet, pick up a Philip K Dick book and get down to real storytelling.

But be ready when you sit back in the theater with your tub of popcorn and your $5 cup of sugar soda, what you are getting is Everything is a Repeat. Enjoy the show.

UPDATE AUGUST 6, 2012: I almost snorted my coffee when I got an email from Fandango (place I bought my movie tickets online) to rate this movie. Don’t they read my blog? If not, here is my review:

And I wonder why they were not clever enough to title it “Total Rekall”?

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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