Sunday, 23 September 2012

Total Recall 2012 vs Dredd 2012

I've debated about whether I need to write reviews for these two remakes of popular 1990s sci-fi films, which were in turn inspired by a short story and comic series, respectively. Honestly, I have no good excuse to write this, except to get it off my chest!

I'm not a sci-fi fan - and have never been. But I have watched many of the 'essential' films, to better understand the genre. Also, growing up in the '80s and '90s meant that, like it or not, some of the biggest blockbusters I watched invariably had elements of a stark world of the future, where the existence of cyborgs is common, and even humans are more mechanical.

Total Recall (1990), which over time has adopted cult status, always seemed to me, to essentially be a B-movie. It is garish, with awful acting and many scenes set up to make the audience laugh. It is, at the heart of it all, just a fun, cheesy ride. It helped in creating Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'legend' status and is probably Sharon Stone's second most famous role. Why, just after 22 years, they decided to remake the film, is beyond me (besides the obvious hope to cash in loads of money). Yes, the special effects now look dated, but the film is not old enough to need a remake, and still commands a fair fan following that would not like it to be tampered with.

To justify this effort, I guess, 'they' have made some minor changes to the look and feel of the film. The new Total Recall is greyer and quite humourless. By casting Colin Farrell, whose selection of films is really diverse, they have hoped to bring in an actor who is not yet typecast, but generally respected for his work. And with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, 'sexy action' can be expected, so that should bring in the lads. Unfortunately, what they forgot to bring to the table was a new angle to the story. And though I enjoyed the 'look' of the film (in all its shades of grey), I'm not really sure if the screenplay, the dialogues, the action or anything really impressed me. Yes, Colin and Kate look hot, and that should be reason enough to go to the cinema, but there wasn't much that made me want to stay.

I wasn't thoroughly bored. I was just thoroughly confused about why 'they' felt the need to make this film. With very average action and acting, it's a very average film, which will be massively panned by anyone who actually loved the previous version.

My experience with Dredd was even worse. Judge Dredd (1995) was a fairly miserable film, but here too, over time there was a cult feel about it. Most action fans have seen it, and remember it well, and will probably list it amongst Sylvester Stallone's top films. When the trailer for the new film came out, I wasn't sure if I was quite excited about it, because though Karl Urban doesn't have a half-paralysed face like Sly's, his constantly down-turned mouth, underneath the helmet, seemed like he was aping Stallone (which is weird, because why would you want to repeat a portrayal that has been mocked for almost two decades?). When I finally watched the film, I was further distressed by the fact that his voice kept changing from gruff to normal, like he couldn't make up his mind whether to 'copy' Stallone or not.

The film makers did try to bring something new here though. They did not repeat the story from the first film. Since this character is from a series of comics, there is a definite possibility of bringing new ideas to the table (unlike Total Recall, which is based on a short story). So, what did the writers do? They wrote something completely 'new', that is heavily inspired by an Indonesian film Serbuan Maut (The Raid, 2011), and hoped that no one will notice! Unfortunately for them, The Raid not only had an international release recently, but has been so highly regarded all over the world, as one of the greatest action films ever, that the cat is, sort of, out of the bag. Of course, in the US, where international cinema isn't that widely distributed, it will be business as usual and I am sure this 'new' story will be appreciated.

Except for the stunning visuals and clever cinematography, Dredd bored me so much that I contemplated leaving the cinema a few times. The story was copied, the acting was dull, the dialogues were as cheesy as can be - and the only reason a cheesy action film works (the 'action', itself) was so slow and ungratifying that I really did not see the point of putting up with the movie.

So, in my opinion as dull as Total Recall is, it's still a little more interesting than Dredd - but if I could have my way, I'd go back in time and remove the idea of remaking these films in the first place.

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