Colin Farrell is no Arnold and the new Total Recall suffers for it…

Oh, Arnold Schwarzenegger! Little did we know how much we would miss you. Twice they have tried to remake one of your signature roles (let’s not forget the Conan fiasco) and twice they have failed to capture the magic, fun and muscles that made you a mega-star.  Give it up, Hollywood. It is not going to happen and plus, Arnold is coming back (like he promised).

The sad part is that the 1990 Total Recall could have benefited from a modern face lift and the trailer looked promising. The premise is clever enough that writers Kurt Wimmer (who has done some decent stuff that I really like) and Mark Bombach could have created a more realistic, gritty interpretation of the campy, fun original and although they tried–it never quite finds its feet (or mind…or whatever).

The 2012 Total Recall changes a lot of stuff up. There is no Mars, in any way, in this version. The world is darker and gloomier, but not necessarily more interesting. For the first 20 minutes I was hopeful. I liked the new look–the different direction they were taking, but then as it progresses, we are never invested in the dystopian society they have dropped us into. Since the politics of this society play a major motivating factor in the narrative, it feels empty and shallow.  In trying to be serious, they lose all the fun and the small attempts at humor or one-liners falls flat.

Director Len Wiseman, who started the successful, albeit shallow, Underworld series is no stranger to action, but manages somehow to make this bland and a bit boring.  All the sequences have been done and seen before in other sci-films and so…nothing feels fresh or exciting.

That leaves the acting. No one is awful. Actually, these are all capable actors. Well, except Jessica Biel, who is always stiff but not totally horrible.  Colin Farrell is fine, but he does not have much to work with here.  The wasted talent is Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy–they’re brilliant and unfortunately, they’re not even given the chance to shimmer.  The only shout-out I will give is to Kate Beckinsdale, who is the only character with a clear focus and drive and who can kick some serious ass!

Oh well. They tried to recreate a universe that has been memorably etched in most people’s memories, but they failed to capture the fun and even the innovation that the original achieved. Maybe those who have yet to see Paul Verhoeven‘s 22 year-old classic (wow! that’s crazy!) will find it okay.  But I will quickly recommend for them to go watch Arnold at his prime, as he will dishes out one-liners, blows up stuff and punches Sharon Stone in the face! Yeah…they will definitely have a better time with that version!

Underworld Quadrilogy is a fun diversion with a solid mythology!

10 minutes of plot.  Maybe, 10 minutes of light emotional content. 70 minutes of blood, fangs, fur and decapitations!!  SWEET!  Sometimes you want mindless fun and Underworld delivers that in spades!  You should know already that I love vampires and monsters–so when you mix badass Lycans (Werewolves) and some serious Death Dealers (vampires that kill Lycans)–I am in gory, brainless action-packed heaven!

Before we went to the cinema to watch the latest installment–Underworld Awakening–we decided a marathon was in order.  It was a good idea for me because I have only seen each movie once–at the time of release–so it was a refresher course on the mythology that Len Wiseman has created and that is the strongest aspect of these movies.  The background story is solid and they are very consistent with all the details and you have to respect that in a genre that usually doesn’t care about those things. 

My favorite is number 3–Underworld Rise of the Lycans.  This one, to me, has the best story.  It is a prequel and features my 2 favorite characters–Lucian (Michael Sheen) and Viktor(Bill Nighy)–played by two incredible actors (obviously getting a paycheck and having a blast).  The rest is pretty much a showcase for cool effects, prosthetics (which is a dying art) and bloody deaths and there is nothing wrong with that.

And that leads me to what else I like about the Underworld universe–it makes no excuses for what it is–if you want high brow, intelligent film watching–THIS is not for you!  But if you want to spend 90 minutes in an adrenaline rushed atmosphere where Kate Beckinsdale is running around in a tight, shiny black outfit and kicking all sorts of ass!  Leave your brain at the door–grab some popcorn–and enjoy the ride!!  Bring on Underworld 5!