Apparently, it wasn't total recall.
Movie fans forgot why there should have been a "Total Recall" remake to begin with, as the much-hyped second coming of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film did a mere $26 million opening last weekend. That's a lot of money on a winning lottery ticket, but not so much on a debut summer weekend with little fresh competition, when the studio needs $125 million to break even.
Maybe the producers forgot that Colin Farrell, even on his best day, can't drum up the affection that America had for Schwarzenegger, who always seemed to have his tongue firmly planted in his Austrian cheek when dropping ominous catchphrases. He wasn't a great actor by any stretch, but he was likable and people rooted for him (at least before he became a politician) -- especially in sci-fi movies that always seemed cheesy, yet were based on semi-original ideas that turned out better than anticipated.
In a way, it's a good thing that "Total Recall" tanked. Remakes usually are money grabs that do nothing to further a story we already know. And half the fun of a good film is not knowing what's coming. The more remakes die on opening weekend, the more time studios might put into developing fresh ideas.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Some remakes have done a great job of freshening up a story, or taking it somewhere new. Here's a few of the best that I can recall:
"Cape Fear": Remember when Robert De Niro was still
"Scarface": It's barely a remake. "Scarface" moved from 1932 Chicago bootlegging to 1983 cocaine dealing. Though the premise was basically the same, a frenetic Al Pacino (in perhaps his most iconic role next to "The Godfather's" Michael Corleone) makes all the difference. Director Brian De Palma dramatically captured the ugly side of '80s excess.
"The Magnificent Seven": Patterned after Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai," it wasn't a strict remake. The premise was the same, however, and the change of scenery to the Old West was perfect. Forget "The Expendables." This was the original dream team of film badassery: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach and James Coburn.
"Ocean's Eleven": It didn't take much to outdo the original "Ocean's Eleven," which was really just an excuse for Frank Sinatra to hang around his pals in Las Vegas for a few months. Much of the dialogue and many of the plot points were created on the spot. No doubt the same motivation brought together the all-star cast of the 2001 version. But there also was a solid, if not classic, heist film underneath all that manly bonding in the remake. Both still are fun to watch, though only one can really be called a good film.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers": The 1978 version of the 1956 film is one of the most underrated horror films of all time. The first one was scary. The second one was terrifying, with an updated plot, a move to San Francisco and a last shot of Donald Sutherland that no one who wasn't expecting it will ever forget.