The Total Recall remake continues to take shape, regardless of whether we agree with that shaping. Casting Bill Nighy, which The Hollywood Reporter says is in the process of happening, is a fine, encouraging step. Putting him in the role of resistance leader Quatto, the Earthbound equivalent of the original Paul Verhoeven film’s mutant Martian Kuato, is not.
That’s not to say Nighy can’t play the role; that man can do anything. No, it’s the presence of Quatto as a character that causes my face to immediately descend into my palm. Verhoeven’s movie was great, and unto itself. It didn’t really resemble Philip K. Dick’s fantastic short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, but it was great fun. This project once had a vision of doing for the source what Verhoeven’s effort never did: truly adapt it.
Let’s look back to the 2010 press release announcing Len Wiseman’s appointment as the film’s director (thanks to /Film for keeping it handy). Columbia Pictures President Matt Tolmach said at the time, “Len has an incredible love of the genre and a great gift for action. He’ll bring a contemporary feel to the film while taking care with everything we love about Philip K. Dick’s original story.”
Kuato is something I love about the Verhoeven movie, but there was never any kind of resistance leader in the original story. Fail. Then there’s Wiseman’s comment: “I’ve always been fascinated with Philip K. Dick’s short story, and I’m excited at that prospect of diving even deeper into the type of world it evokes and the questions it asks. I love that the most crucial mystery our character is trying to solve is the one of his own soul.”
Okay, he kind of leaves himself an out. He says he wants to dive deeper into “the type of world” Dick’s story evokes. I’m not sure the remake’s tale of two warring nation-states and a factory worker who “begins to believe he is a spy” necessarily speaks to that though. Ultimately though, I have to bring this back to the question I keep coming back to every time new information on this movie emerges…
Why on Earth are we calling this Total Recall?