Saturday At The Movies – Total Recall 2012 vs Total Recall 1990

Dear movie studios,

I hate to say this because I like the guy, but if you’re looking to make a splash at the box office during the summer movie season, you must not put Colin Farrell in your tent pole release. No matter how great your film is, no, scratch that. No matter how good or even average your movie is, it will severely underperform if Colin Farrell is your leading man.

It’s a fact. Find out why after the jump.
Last summer Farrell starred in the horror remake Fright Night, patterned after 1985 classic with Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowell. Farrell was the lead, playing vampire Jerry Dandridge. Very cool, very scary and very badass. It was a solid horror flick, but it only grossed $37 million worldwide, just slightly over its $30 million budget. Farrell just couldn’t bring in an audience. Fact.

This summer we have Farrell in another remake of a classic genre flick. Total Recall 2012 is based on the Phillip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, same as the 1990 film. But whereas the original Paul Verhoeven/ Arnold Schwarzenegger film followed the short story very loosely, this remake is a full-blown adaptation. That means no trips to Mars – this story takes place on Earth. No mutants – except for the reappearance of a certain three-breasted prostitute. No Kuato – sorry folks.

In the hands of director Len Wiseman, What the film does have is non-stop action, amazing Blade Runner-esque effects and scenery, and great performances from leads Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biehl, Brian Cranston and, yes, Collin Farrell. In his role as Douglas Quaid, the ordinary average guy who discovers he may or may not be a superspy, Farrell delivers as an action hero. He goes from suitably stunned to deadly killer at a moments notice – it’s a great performance in a film that’s a lot of fun. For my tastes, this Total Recall may even be superior to the original. The special effects will certainly hold up over time much better than the original films, which I recently rewatched. While Total Recall 1990 still has it’s great moments, some of which the remake gleefully recalls (“two weeks”), time has not necessarily been kind to it.

The unfortunate thing is, regardless of how good the remake is, nobody is going to see it in theatres. It debut last weekend with just $26 million, and there’s no question that it will drop this weekend. In my estimation, it’s not because of the quality of the film. It’s simply that none of the lead actors can bring an audience to theatres. Kate Beckinsale has an audience when she does the Underworld flicks, but other than that she needs a strong leading man to help her open a film. And in 2012, Colin Farrell just doesn’t cut it, regardless of the talent he possess.

It’s time for Colin Farrell to start taking on smaller, supporting roles. Roles where he can demonstrate his talent, but that won’t rely on him for its success. If studios keep banking on him to carry their films, they’ll just keep being disappointed. In the meantime, if you’re a sci-fi fan, do yourself a favour and check out Total Recall on the big screen. You won’t be disappointed.

Unless you’re looking for Kuato. Can’t help you there.

4 Replies to “Saturday At The Movies – Total Recall 2012 vs Total Recall 1990”

  1. Interesting thesis. Can you offer an opinion as to why Colin Farrell doesn’t pull an audience? What is he missing?

    1. Basically, Farrell just lacks an appeal as a A-list draw. He hasn’t been in enough blockbuster films that have allowed him to build a siginificant audience. Much like a Jude Law, for instance. Both solid actors, but ones that haven’t been leads in blockbusters (i.e. a Michael Bay flick that would introduce them to wide audiences who would then follow them to other films).

  2. Alexander!

    (Well, that had a lot going against it, but I really liked it, and I thought he was excellent in it. Didn’t make a cent.)

    Miami Vice!

    (Michael Mann adaptation of Michael Mann’s genre-defining work – the stylish procedural, restylized. Very quiet showing.)

    In Bruges!

    (Sublime black comedy featuring Brendan Gleeson. Critical smash; “Indie” level success.)

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