The remake of Total Recall is going to be written by Kurt Wimmer, writer-director of Ultra Violet and Equilibrium, and writer of Sphere, The Thomas Crown Affair, and the fairly poor Street Kings. First Showing describe the Neal Moritz-produced project as ‘a contemporary adaptation’ of Philip K. Dick’s short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’, which deals with a drab future citizen who can’t afford a holiday to Mars and abreacts when he buys fake memories of such a visit – because he turns out to be an ex-Mars operative with forced amnesia.
‘Contemporary adaptation’ is a strange description for a story set so far in the future, and dealing with themes of identity so outlandish, but the gist seems to be that the new film will return to the original yarn itself. That’s pretty much like tearing up the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, since the story itself never even gets to Mars. Screenwriters Ron Shusett and Dan O’Bannon did a fantastic job of injecting a high-adrenaline action movie with exactly the kind of mindfucks that PKD would have appreciated, though many of them were either invented for the movie or loosely extrapolated from the writer’s many other works and musings on the subject of memory and identity.
It’s analogous to John Carpenter returning to the original 1930s Campbell short story ‘Who Goes There?’ for his 1982 remake of The Thing. What we were left with in that case were two excellent movies (including Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World) that shared a little DNA but which both made their own mark in very different ways. Moritz & Co. will be fortunate indeed to have as good a result.
However, since the 1990 Total Recall is firmly from the present age of the blockbuster, there will be a lot of pressure to make endless nods and winks to the Schwarzenegger version, risking to cheapen the project, in my opinion.
What Wimmer’s involvement with the project signals about the intent of the movie is unclear from his output so far. Clearly he knows sci-fi, and at rather more than a Michael Bay-level. Equilibrium had a lot of problems, but it was a very high-concept science-fiction movie for Hollywood. The sad thing is that the utterly risible Ultra Violet seems more or less an apology for it.
Others have feared that the extreme gore which caused some controversy in the Verhoeven Total Recall will be absent from the new film, which rather indicates to me that people are expecting a remake instead of a new adaptation. There’s nothing terribly violent in ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’; that wasn’t the kind of violence that Philip K. Dick dealt with. But if Moritz and Wimmer have a genuine feeling for a new take on the original story, I’m suddenly more interested in the project.