Total Recall Director Len Wiseman Explains Why His Remake Failed

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This past August, general audiences and critics were less than thrilled by Len Wiseman’s Total Recall remake. His cold and dull version of Philip K. Dick’s short story pales in comparison to Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 version of the same source material. With a few months to reflect on the shortcomings of Total Recall, Len Wiseman has finally figured out why it failed.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Len Wiseman blames Total Recall’s lukewarm response on the audience’s memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the original Total Recall film from 1990. Keep in mind, he’s not blaming the bad movie he made, he’s blaming audiences for “not getting it.” Wiseman explains:

I felt like we were really battling nostalgia. To remake nostalgia is quite tough. I was surprised by the amount of love there was for Arnold’s portrayal of that character. While I was in college I read Philip K. Dick’s story and it was shocking to me how different that character of Quaid came across in the story to the film that I watched when I was a kid. So I was excited by the idea of not in any way trying to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger but to present a new type of Quaid not a new type of Arnold.

This seems like a foolish attempt to get audiences to watch the director’s cut of Total Recall. It’s inept to think that the movie is fine and the audience has the problem. While Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is a far better film, Wiseman still used many elements from Verhoeven’s version to make shortcuts in his movie. He often played on the audience’s nostalgia for Total Recall to make his film work. The sad part is that narrative device didn’t work and just seemed lazy.

If Len Wiseman wanted to make a Total Recall completely divorced from nostalgia, Paul Verhoeven, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, then he should have done that on the page and on the screen instead of blaming the audience for calling out his bullshit! It’s easy to say “the audience didn’t get my vision” if you’re an artist like Terrence Malick or Lars von Trier, but if you’re Len Wiseman, you’re nowhere near that level of director or artist.


  1. Sorry, probably not suppose to admit it, but i loved it. Actually liked it a little better then the original.

    • I agree. I actually quite liked this version…it seems that’s not the ‘cool’ view to have though…:/

      • Unfortunately people have gotten so lazy to think that a remake must follow the old movie move for move. I’m not brain-dead so i dont want a movie that just redoes the movie scene for scene. This movie had bits that followed or tied into the original but also had enough that was new and stood on it’s own. I liked it as someone who had seen and liked the first but i have had family that loved it and hadnt seen the original. Winner in my book.

    • I feel the same! People are so idiotically nostalgic. Arnold is a lousy actor, his portrayal of Conan did the same; people hated the Jason Momoa one while I, on the other hand, felt it to be far, far closer to the character as he was written. People are imbecilic children that only like to eat what Mommy cooked for them when they were little. Whatever, screw ’em.

    • Sarawen says:

      Same here. I enjoyed the original but this film is a whole different feel. And Colin Farrell really works the action scenes.

      • Matt says:

        from accounts his movie wasnt much like the book either and he took more from the arnie movie than the book, so he only has himself to blame, and it was kind of lackluster. also i liked jason mamoa as conan, but the villain and story werent very good. these directors and writers arent concentrating on all aspects of a movie.

      • coolbikescustom says:

        it did, he did, but I didn’t like the film.

    • James Vetzal says:

      me too, truer to the original story and wonderful design, i expected a terrible movie after what i heard of this, i was very pleased and it’s definitely nostalgia that killed this one a lot, i know people that said total recall isn’t total recall for instance without 3 tits.
      remakes can so rarely win though, if it’s shot for shot then it’s considered a rip off, if it changes things it’s considered blasphemy by fans

  2. Re-makes are just a lazy way to make films. When will producers/directors get enough talent to make new movies rather than trying to rehash perfectly good movies?

  3. Brian C. Ray says:

    I quite enjoyed the newer version. It wasn’t campy, had a fairly believable plot line, and had some awesome sets/digital effects. I think the problem is that the audience is spoiled on the twist at the end, and that while we see all these synthetic troops, and the people they’re supposed to massacre, we don’t get to see enough to care for the people that are going to be wiped out.

    • coolbikescustom says:

      I didn’t think the effects/set were good but i agree they didn’t devolop the charactors enough for us to sympothize. I don’t think they devoloped the characters at all really. Knowing the end does take away but they should have assumed everyone knew the ending and made it so the movie was more about how it played out. I know who killed Laura Palmer but TwinPeaks was, and still is engaging to me.

      • We know the ending of every film if you want to go that route. I am thinking you havent seen it because its not the same story as the first so I am not sure how anyone could know how it was going to end other than the good guys win like they do in most movies. I havent seen Star Trek 2 yet but I know it ends with the crew of the Enterprise winning. How exactly I dont know but its obvious. Wont stop me from enjoying it.

  4. Herman Fasbender says:

    Yeah I liked totall rekall for what is a good action movie

  5. Yeah, I get what he’s saying. Nostalgia for previous characters and style is probably what caused the 2009 “Star Trek” movie to fail.

    Oh, wait a minute…

    • CourtyC101 says:


    • Joe_HTH says:

      ROTFLMAO! Star Trek was not a remake dumbass. That is not even close to being a reasonable comparison.

      The movie failed not because of the quality of Wiseman’s film. The movie failed because people didn’t want a Total Recall remake. His film could have been a masterpiece, and it still would have failed. It wasn’t a bad film, it was just an unnecessary one.

      • VoiceofReasons says:

        I believe the “oh, wait a minute” from Jerry Anderson was what you might call tongue in cheek sarcasm. Why are true dumbasses always the first to call names? I guess it points to the fact that insecure people often criticize in others what they see as a failing within themselves. Others, such as myself, like to call a spade a spade.

    • Joe_HTH says:

      Star Trek wasn’t a remake. Star Trek was a prequel. So try again.

  6. Criss Poyner says:

    the problem isnt with the audiamce and his commentas are insulting and have made sure i will never watch any film he is connected with. as for remakes if you want original ideas why use a name/icon/idea in the first place that is lazy as you are trying to use a previous fambase to guarentee success. looks like it didnt work if he has to blame the movie goers. for all he said all i heard was “if you dont like my film your stupid” so F him and F his future projects. for me what he said is unforgivable the film to me was 50/50 but thanks to that statement he has pissed me off so much. now im going to watch something where the director knows that movies can be hit and miss amd takes it like a grown up when he hears a negative outlook and moves on.

    • Joe_HTH says:

      “his commentas are insulting and have made sure i will never watch any film he is connected with”

      Like I said before, I’m sure he’s cries himself to sleep every night because some idiot on the internet won’t see his films.

  7. Deggsy says:

    For me, it didn’t so much fail as fail to make an impression. Its look, its action scenes, its dialogue and characters all felt like they’d been cobbled together from half a dozen other movies, including Minority Report, I Robot and various Mission Impossible movies. The idea of the tunnel through the Earth’s core was ludicrous, and there was zero chemistry among the principals. Most of all, this lacked the *fun* of the previous movie, which wasn’t faultless but which could be watched repeatedly.

    • coolbikescustom says:

      EXACTLY!!! I thought the same thing while watching it. Battle driod/i,robot/storm trooper with cheap digital display? Yeah, the tunnel thing, posted about that. No chemistry, yep. Bill Nye was good. That man’s a professional.

    • Voice of Reasons says:

      Agreed with you on the cobbling aspect. Even the set design looked like a rehash in certain scenes from the original and also movies like Blade Runner – especially the Asian town scenes.

  8. Matt Smith says:

    I loved futuristic scenery. And the action wasn’t so bad. Bryan Cranston is of course awesome villain. Only why did he had to fight ? Why ? It was so awkward. Farrell was ok. I just can’t see him in any other role after In Bruges. Action hero ? Naaa…Irish thug ? Yes !
    If this movie had different name, and all shot to shot nostalgia (like 3 boobed woman) were removed, it would’ve been great.

  9. DTH says:

    Bah. This was a silly film. Stole the style of Minority Report, concocted a ludicrous idea of a tunnel through the planet and was generally dull. Not terribly but fell very short of the mark.

  10. Neil Steel says:

    While you’ll never top the 1990 version with Arnie – I personally liked Len’s new version for what it was and thoroughly enjoyed it! It looked great, the actors all did a great job, well done!! 😀

  11. Jamie D says:

    It was all right. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it left a lot to be desired. I mainly went because someone paid my way in. In my opinion, it wasn’t the nostalgia factor that made me not like it. It was the fact that I couldn’t get lost in it. A truly good movie will pull you in, regardless of genre. This movie didn’t at all, which was a shame. The new Judge Dredd movie did a better job of that, at least for me and that one wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece either, but you could see where they were trying to take it.

  12. I did not find the remake as bad as many critics. I also found it surprising that the original had so much nostalgia associated with it, and that it was hailed frequently at being such a great film given its limitations with more careful scrutiny. For an alternative perspective see my post at http://www.theofantastique.com/2012/08/07/total-recall-2012-a-pleasant-cinematic-surprise/

  13. Dave Carroll says:

    Seriously, i enjoyed it, what is everyone on about, go watch the original again if you really think it was so good. The world is full of people who think they can do it better…………..

    • John says:

      You do grasp this is a REMAKE right? So your entire premise faults Wisemen for thinking HE could do it better…(this flies right over your head)

      • Joe_HTH says:

        Going by your logic, who are you to question Len Wiseman. He’s a successful film director, and you’re just a loser on the internet. The man has forgotten more about filmmaking than you’ll ever know. That’s what flies right over your head.

    • coolbikescustom says:

      LOL! The original IS dated, campy and full of “product placement”.

  14. steve c says:

    like the Dredd remake,which completely rocked,this was a great update of a cheesy ah-nold flick, which,back in the day,was just fine. with modern computing power added to the films visual style,the recall flick blew the original away, stylistically. and for sci fi,you want the out of this world visuals. i enjoyed this more than the original,and compared to the original dread,a cheesy stallone vehicle with rob schneider, the new one was simply stunning. how it failed at the box office was beyond me. like this one,it should have made a ton more. if you havent seen dredd, be prepared to be blown away in style.

  15. Agog says:

    Sorry Rudie. I also found this remake almost spot-on perfect, and one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. (Yes, I was a big fan of the original as a kid; but I could connect to this remake on a whole higher emotional level.) I guess the dichotomy is just modern day audiences are pretty fragmented in what we want these days. And those of us who did love this movie just weren’t enough to save it at the box office. Pity.

  16. JessSayin says:

    I liked it…a LOT!
    But I can see why it failed: Colin Farrell. Name ANYTHING this guy has done lately that didn’t fail with him as the leading ‘Man’.

  17. John says:

    Great article,& I agree 100%. I knew this remake would bomb as soon as I saw who he cast as Quaid. It doesn’t take a genius to see it from a mile away. Despite Arnold’s unique take on Quaid, the major difference is we actually want to watch Arnold portray the character. Nobody give’s a rat’s rear about watch Farrell pretend to have talent. The rest of Wisemen’s mistakes only reflected how he even managed to screw up such a vital aspect of casting. His post release remarks are that of a clueless whiner.

  18. Cleveland Brown says:

    The main thing that killed this for me is that they don’t have the tecnology to clear the skies, but they somehow found a way to make a tunnel through the center of the earth that defies the incredible heat and radiation that literally melts all material on earth. Couldn’t get past that. It’s like someone slapping you in the face while you are trying to watch the movie. Incredibly distracting. Other than that If I pretend the original didn’t exist, this one would be okay. Definitely not buying the DVD.

  19. Ms Lee P says:

    I watched it last night and I loved it …. I actually watched it twice because the first time I kept watching the special effects more than paying attention to the movie, they were great. It was every bit as good at the 1990 version. Anyone who didn’t like it just wasn’t paying attention.

  20. Pubes says:

    What a wanker to say what he said….. Wiseman is just another lucky untalented hack who gets to make Hollywood movies, just Paul WS Anderson…..
    All of Wiseman’s movies have been horrible, but Total Recall took the biscuit. It was dire, boring and very unexciting. It’s am sci fi action movie for fuck sake!!
    I was gutted after I saw it. What a let down!!

  21. Tom says:

    I agree with you guys, I was actually surprised at how good this movie was. I think all around everyone did a great job. Especially all the little details of the futuristic world. I feel bad for the director.

  22. Stan Reeves says:

    I think Rudie Obias needs to STFU… what an umitigated asswipe…. Critics may have no lved the movie, people may nort have wanted to sehll out 10-15 bucks to see a movie different than the one they saw in the 1990’s but that doesn’t meqan it was a lzay omovie or could not stand on its own merits… the 2 movies that caused a lot of specualtion this summer, Total recall and Prometheus… I happen to love, wen to see both at the theaters and purchased both on blu-ray and would do so again..as far as Len Wiseman being in the same catagory as Terrence Malick or Lars von Trier… who watches their movies except pseudo-intellectuals who have their haeds crammed so far up their asses that only shit comes ou of their mouths… SO Rudie Obias….. do the world a favor and shrivel up and die, because you are no worth to anyone on this site anyway

  23. Jess Hurley says:

    I normally like your articles and this is an amazing site, – but Len is dead on. I don’t think audiences got it at all. This movie had a lot more to offer than it is getting credit for and people will see that when FX is playing it 90 times a month over the next 4 years.

  24. skeets11 says:

    I have an idea. How about creating something entirely new. Yeah, I know crazy me. Why go through all the trouble of using your imagination when you can just check out the viewing guide on your TV and see what 30 year old movie has not been redone too many times.

  25. coolbikescustom says:

    In all the thousands of times I watched awful movies this is the first time I’ve become enraged, and I mean angry, hateful enraged, not at a thing or anyone but just enraged by the pure torture of watch this film. After 15-20mins in, I though “just shut it off” I wish I did. I’ve stopped a film or two because it wasn’t gonna do it for me, not my thing, and have seen films that were crap, VERY BAD CRAP and finished them and said “wow, total crap!” but this film.. made me understand that blind hateful emotional rage of people like Westboros & the people that kill abortion doctors. Now I’d like to make VERY CLEAR that I don’t understand the reasoning but now I understand those broken brain emotions that possess them. I will take the opinion of GFR to heart for now on you said “don’t bother”, I did & feel defiled. I mean COME ON!! A TRAIN THROUGH THE CORE!! MAJOR IMPOSSIBILITIES. heat in the tube, heat venting the tube, thats gotta mess up the rotation of the core & therefore the magnetic field (oops! now we have no atmo.) OH..THERES MORE… but I stop now. Big Love for the big Robot. -CBC

  26. If one totally turns one’s brain off when one goes in to watch this film (as Mr. Reeves appears to be so mad excellent at), then it is an enjoyable action flick.

    But the sheer stupidity of a tunnel through a scorched earth was like a fart in the face. Especially if one stops for a second to contemplate the physics of it.

    And did anyone but me notice that the little helicopter that lands on the TOP of this giant building sized commuter car at the start of the final descent is there, again, on the TOP after it pops back up the other side? There is no mechanism shown or implied that would have made that happen. So add laziness to stupidity, and throw in a lot of “lack of chemistry…”

  27. Movies that nailed it don’t need a remake. This is another shining example of Hollywood being lazy. Go ahead and be lazy. We’re not buying it.

  28. Joe_HTH says:

    Rudie, I doubt Len Wiseman gives a shit what some whiny loser on the internet thinks. He’s rich, good-looking, and married to Kate Beckinsale.

    You can also please spare me the Terrence Malick is an artist bullshit. Malick is a wacko whose films are idiotic and boring. The man is shit on by the very actors that work with him. You want a concise of analysis of Malick, here, watch Christopher Plummer and Clooney rail on him.


  29. lew is says:

    nah,bad decisions..2d revenge flick..shallow director…moronic

  30. gdhdhdnnx says:

    How does this dickhead keep getting work?! Now he’s remaking the mummy! Come up with an original idea!

  31. samson says:

    “Len Wiseman blames Total Recall’s lukewarm response on the audience’s memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the original Total Recall.”
    Hahah. HAHAH.
    Younger folks who never even glimpsed the original Total Recall were bored by this vomit-indulging piece of garbage.
    The response was “lukewarm” (it was generally COLD) because it was a POORLY DIRECTED FILM.
    Of course, this film was directed by the same man who blames his failure on “our” perceptions of the original.
    What a genuinely disgusting human.

  32. Do you know what's what? says:

    Lucked out, actually was a good movie! It’s a bandwagon thing. There are movies that bomb at the box office that later go on to become cult classics and crap movies that rake in the cash like pacific rim. 2013’s biggest blockbuster Iron Man 3 had so many plot holes it didn’t even make any sense at all and actually made the previous 2 movies pointless after he has the un- removable shrapnel magically removed at the end. Some can do no wrong and people will follow with the blinkers on regardless of movie quality.

  33. Danny Vaca says:

    i never seen the original but i really loved this movie it was a very good movie!!!
    but leaves u wondering the end is it real or not

  34. Joe_HTH says:

    I’m sure Len Wiseman gives a shit about your opinion Rudie. Why don’t you call us when you do anything constructive or worth talking about, other than tearing down far more talented and successful people and their work.