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.