The early reviews for Total Recall are trickling out as Sony’s embargo has been lifted. We all kind of knew that the movie was not up to snuff because critics were silenced until about a day before the film’s release, but this is very disappointing to say the least. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the movie at 18% after 22 reviews. While this is still less than the 30-or-so it takes to solidify a rating, the number is south enough to throw in the towel and call this one as a classic stinker.
The problems being mentioned though do not sound too bad for those of you who really just want to see an action movie. Chief complaints are centered on the assertion that there is too much happening. Yes, you heard that right. Too much. It may sound ridiculous, but the problem with that is that there is not enough character development for the audience to actually care about what happens to the film’s stars. By one critic’s estimates, the film is 75% Colin Farrell running or jumping.
Furthermore, many are saying there are dialogue problems which is very interesting because the much-loved original Total Recall was devoid of any quality in that regard. In fact, the movie reeked of one-liners as is the style for Schwarzenegger films. Who is getting the blame for this? Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard director Len Wiseman.
Nowadays, it is expected that if a script is not working, a director will step in and take some liberties to make things work which might be unfair, but with a $125 million budget you would expect this Joss Whedon-like Avengers approach from pretty much anyone. For the record, Kurt Wimmer (Live Free or Die Hard) and Mark Bomback (Salt) both have screenplay credits for the new Total Recall.
It is not all terrible though as many are regarding the big budget blockbuster as what it is: a popcorn movie. Perhaps everyone got used to seeing gems in the action genre and saw what films truly tend to be like and rejected it. This would suggest a negative effect due to following The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man which were both highly regarded July releases.
Total Recall has at least one major backer though in Roger Ebert. The veteran film critic calls it a well-crafted, high energy sci-fi and overall liked the film, but even that comes with a caveat. He did not like the casting of Farrell as the story surrounding this franchise really fit someone of Arnold’s build a whole lot better.
All-in-all this is going to be very bad news for Sony as the studio has poured $125 million into this feature. It is also going to be bad news for Len Wiseman as this was by far his biggest film to date–really his chance to be another Michael Bay. While it looks grim right now, it is rarely the case where a blockbuster offering like this with such poor reviews finds its way into the hearts of moviegoers and find profitability. The Transformers sequels both did it, but then again this is not Transformers or Michael Bay.