We Can Change It For You Wholesale

23 Jan

The have now been two films with the title “Total Recall”, the original in 1990 and its remake in 2012. Both are supposedly based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, but the 2012 version fails to capture the spirit of the short story. (We suspect that the original 1990 version fails as well, but we didn’t see that one, so we don’t know for sure.)

We remember finding Dick’s story in a dog-eared, secondhand paperback (“Nebula Award Stories Number Two” published by Pocket Books, second printing December 1969, if you must know) and thinking that it was an interesting idea with an amusing ending. The word “cute” crossed our minds.

So what happens when Hollywood gets hold of this material? Well, they amp up the violence for one thing, they toss in a whole bunch of material that’s not in the original story, and they jettison the original story’s ending (which for us was the heart of the thing) in favor of a cliché ending.

We’re not saying we didn’t find things to like in the 2012 version (we rather enjoyed Kate Beckinsale’s over-the-top portrayal of a relentless, malevolent agent determined to take out the main character played by Colin Farrell.) However, the film is essentially one long extended chase scene from a video game; “The Super Mario Brothers Go To the Future” would have made an excellent alternative title.

A version that is faithful to Dick’s intention would be much shorter and would call for a somewhat lighter touch. It’s possible that someone will make that version someday. We’re just not holding our breath.

Philip K. Dick

They changed your story, Phil

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