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Trailer Review: You Say You Want Some Action Movie Clichés?

By / Posted on 20 April 2012

Total RecallThe problem with revamps is that they are invariably compared to their earlier incarnations, which is, to a degree, unfair to the vision of the new project and the creative people involved. So, for the sake of objectivity, let’s forget all about Total Recall, the 1990 Paul Verhoeven blockbuster that convinced audiences worldwide that Arnold Schwarzenegger had a respectable degree of talent beyond flexing his muscles for the camera. While we’re at it, let’s also forget about the 22-episode 1999 Showtime series Total Recall 2070, which served as a prequel to the film, as well as THQ’s Red Faction series of videogames which, while not directly related, are clearly inspired by Total Recall. You know what? For good measure, let’s also forget about 2002′s The Minority Report, as directed by Stephen Spielberg, as—at one point—that film was under development as a sequel to Total Recall.

Okay, have we forgotten all that? Great.

Hey look, here’s a trailer for this new movie called Total Recall! Let’s check it out!

Okay, we get it, classic Philip K. Dick story, modern action stars are more believable than the action stars of the 80s and 90s, the filmmakers were heavily inspired by the Bourne films and Splinter Cell videogames, blah blah blah. You know what excited us the most about this entire trailer? The sneering appearance of Bryan Cranston at the very end. Aw man, everybody’s favorite nice-guy-turned-badass Bryan Cranston plays the bad guy in Total Recall? That’s actually worth getting kind of excited for. The other “bad guy,” you may have noticed, is Kate Beckinsale of Underworld fame. Wait… Kate Beckinsale of Underworld fame? You don’t suppose Len Wiseman’s involved in this movie, do you? (checks credits) Yup, Len Wiseman directed it. Ah well, there goes pretty much all of our interest in this film.

“Oh, and by the way, you haven’t even begun to see me try to kill you.”

That may be the single worst line of dialogue we’ve ever heard in a movie, let alone a trailer. It’s trying to sound badass, but it only comes across as overly complicated and trite to the point of boring. Isn’t a trailer like this supposed to show us all the good parts of the movie, to make us want to see more? That one line of dialogue brings us out of the moment with every viewing, making it very hard to stay interested in whatever the rest of the film may be. And the director gave this terrible, willing-suspension-of-disbelief-destroying line of dialogue to his real-life wife! Don’t you want to portray her as less of a terrible actress, lest you wind up sleeping on the couch forever, Len?

Ugh, that took a turn for the worse real fast. Come on, Hollywood, what else you got?

Wow. Now that was a palette-cleanser. There was just so much cheese and cliché without ever once winking or flinching that Lockout seems almost… refreshing? Are we alone in this feeling? Apparently not, as it’s North American release last weekend ranked it at number nine at the box office (which is not actually all that great for a big budget movie, but it did beat the two-month-old The Lorax). Reviews have been middling, as expected, but come on! Every single line in this glorious montage of sci-fi shlock is action cliché gold!

  • “It’s the world’s most secure prison. It holds the planet’s deadliest criminals. It’s impenetrable because… it’s not… on Earth.”
  • “He’s got a gun!”
  • “Mr President..?” “My daughter…”
  • “There’s only one man who can get her out… He’s the best there is, but he’s a loose cannon.” (Seriously, they actually say “but he’s a loose cannon.” Who does that?!)
  • “God, I hate heights.” (Aww, a humanizing weakness, a la Indiana Jones’s fear of snakes…)
  • “You’ve got to trust me on this.” “Really?”
  • “What the hell is happening here?” “It’s falling out of the sky.”
  • “What if this doesn’t work?” “Well, then we’re probably going to die.”

The script for this trailer reads like a liberal arts student’s idea of what an action movie should be, only without all the teasing and gentle ribbing and winking at the audience about how ridiculous this is. We don’t care what the critics say, one of these days we’re going to eat some greasy, disgusting fast food, drink entirely too much of a giant sugary beverage, turn off our brains, and watch some Lockout.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.