There is plenty wrong with the 2012 refresh of Total Recall, but entertainment and quality aside, the biggest issue is the role of woman in modern action movies, as the recent history of the 1990 original provides an interesting case-in-point.
Jump ahead 22 years and we have Kate Beckinsale subbed in for Sharon Stone and Jessica Biel subbed in for Rachel Ticotin. We see less of the “good housewife” act by Becksinsale and instead jump right to what we all want, mindless, fast-paced action. We don’t get a juxtaposition or social satire because she basically goes from smiling to killing within minutes. Though Beckinsale continues as a badass, a la Sharon Stone in the original, yet she never sweats, or bleeds, and even her hair looks better than anything you’d see in a shampoo commercial (even after falling off some crazy multistory, subterranean elevator [spoiler alert] that has just exploded). She maintains the badass but loses anything remotely human in the process. They could have easily rewritten the character as an implanted killer robot, programmed to pretend to be his wife.
And now we have the real problem. Melina, the character played now by Jessica Biel, has become a demur, wounded soul, who’s pretty and fragile. She’s no longer sleazy or sexual. She may still be fighting for the rebellion, but not for ideology, really it’s just so she can find a good man and settle down (preferably with a less fascistic government, you know, so the kids will be free to run and play…). Every opportunity she has to be a tough, independent woman, she chooses her man instead. Even when she’s being a badass, her man must save her in the end.
We’re not looking into the future; we’re projecting the past into it. I wonder how well 2001: A Space Odyssey would have been received if woman were not allowed to fly spacecraft in that future world. Probably still better than this piece of crap.