monday morning movie club

What’s Up With Bryan Cranston’s Hair? (and Five Other Total Recall Questions)

Colin Farrell (left) and Jessica Biel star in Columbia Pictures' action thriller TOTAL RECALL.
Colin Farrell (left) and Jessica Biel star in Columbia Pictures’ action thriller TOTAL RECALL. Photo: Michael Gibson/Columbia Pictures Industries

Up against The Dark Knight Rises in that film’s third week of release, Total Recall, the remake of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven film, still failed to make any significant inroads, notching just about $26 million (about the same opening weekend gross as the Schwarzenegger original). We liked the zero-gravity scenes and that awesome touchscreen fridge … but that was about it. Still, we decided to call a meeting (of one) of the Monday Morning Movie Club to hash over a few things. Obviously, spoilers follow.

What older sci-fi film did Total Recall most resemble?
The concepts and looks that Total Recall owes to other science-fiction films: The “synthetics” (or, robocops) that Chancellor Cohaagen wants to use to invade the Colony closely resemble those from I, Robot and the second and third Star Wars prequels; the Colony’s cramped, rain-soaked, Asian-inflected design is straight from Blade Runner; the United Federation of Britain’s blue-steeled, flying vehicle look comes via Minority Report (another Philip K. Dick tale) and its multi-leveled city has been seen before in The Fifth Element and, oh, 1927’s Metropolis, the granddaddy of all science-fiction films. This is not a knock on Total Recall as much as it is a statement on the seeming difficulty of coming up with new visions of the future. Even the recent five-minute trailer for Cloud Atlas showed a futuristic landscape that looked pretty darn familiar.

Apparently, it’s good to be the director’s wife.
Kate Beckinsale is pretty fierce in this movie, as she is in the Underworld films, the first two of which were also directed by husband Len Wiseman. Not that she actually has much range to show off here, mind you. Her role consists mostly of shooting while looking kickass, walking hard while looking cool, jumping and landing on things while looking kickass, appearing out of nowhere while looking kickass, and kicking ass while looking kickass. The film’s essentially a giant mash note from Wiseman to Beckinsale, which is sweet. The studio must feel good about helping keep the fire alive there.

The running and the shooting and the jumping and the falling.
As our David Edelstein said in his review, the film contains so much of the above four elements that it becomes practically numbing. Once Colin Farrell’s character finds out that his wife is not his wife, he becomes Usain Bolt (“I just ran, pretty much”). Once in a while here at Vulture, we’ll go to a movie and tally up something — all the lines Rihanna says in Battleship or the amount of time each Avenger is in The Avengers, for example. If we had to do that for the number of bullets fired in Total Recall, though, we’d have to see the film a half dozen times. There are so many bullets. Just take that one scene in the apartment building lobby where Bokeem Woodbine is trying to convince Colin Farrell to kill Jessica Biel’s character. At that scene’s end, there are easily two dozen synthetic cops shooting at them to no avail. Just pouring bullets out like nothing. In slow-motion, naturally.

What was up with Walter White’s hair?
If you haven’t noticed, Bryan Cranston’s all over the big screen this year, but in relatively small roles. And in each of them he has hair and it’s very bizarre to see. In John Carter, he had those General Custer locks; in Red Tails, as another military man, he rocked the simple side part; in Rock of Ages, he kept it short and conservative; and in Recall, you just wanted him to flip that damn front lock off of his forehead.

As with many action films and trailers these days, the most memorable parts of this movie’s completely forgettable score were the Inception-like horn bursts. Hans Zimmer’s reign as Hollywood’s most unintentionally influential composer continues.

That three-breasted woman was completely unmemorable.
Just to close the loop on this, it’s hard to believe that any 13-year old who goes to see this movie will have this image imprinted on their brain the way young men did upon seeing the 1990 original. We’ll just blame Internet porn for this.

What’s Up With Cranston’s Hair in Total Recall?