'Total Recall': Five Things We Learned At Comic Con

Over the weekend at the San Diego Comic Con, Sony showed off the first footage from Len Wiseman's new version of Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell. The director and star appeared on a panel along with Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston and John Cho to talk about the movie. What we saw positioned the film as, well, very Len Wiseman. The slick style that he displayed in Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard is very much in evidence. The footage was flashy and full of CGI-stitched camera moves that make the action look as much like something out of a game as out of an action movie. We've got some thoughts on the presentation and a few new facts about the film after the break.

Here's what we learned:

1) Rekall, the company that will implant fake memories into your fantasy-starved noggin, looks a lot like an opium den. Or a dream level from Inception.

The footage we saw followed Quaid (Farrell) as he entered Rekall's space, which was all wood and Asian flair. Blond technician McLane (John Cho) explains to Quaid that Rekall can implant memories, with a catch: implanting a memory that is similar to something the person has actually experienced can cause a little mental meltdown. Ask for spy memories when you're really a spy, for example, and boom. Or something like that. And that's what happens: Quaid starts to get his fantasy memory system when some alarms go off. McLane tries to stop the procedure, and stormtrooper-like soldiers swarm the room. Quaid, cornered, unleashes some Bourne-like moves (moments after the shot pictured above) and fights off quite a few stormtroopers.

2) While the official line is that this version is a blend of new ideas, material from the 1990 film and inspiration from Philip K. Dick's original short story We Can Remember it For You Wholesale, it seems pretty obvious that some significant bits are taken directly from the '90 version. (Quaid retains one of his famous lines, "If I am not me, then who the hell am I?" We may not hear "Consider that a divorce," however.) And yet a few things are already noticeably different.

The footage ended with a sequence that played out mostly in animatic format, with Quaid escaping Rekall and navigating the megalopolis outside its confines. We'll see more of the city, too, as Kate Beckinsale explained. She plays Lori, who she describes as Quaid's "lovely, sweet, understanding — or not — wife. And I work with Bryan [Cranston's character]." Sharon Stone only had a couple scenes as Lori in the '90 film, but Ms. Beckinsale explained that she's got at least one different action sequence in this one, where she is trying to run Quaid and Melina (Jessica Biel) off the road as they both pilot the hovercars shown below.

3) We'll see some serious future-tech.

The hovercars and intimidating armor of the Total Recall police force are just the beginning. In the footage shown in Hall H, the cops trying to gain entry to the room in which Quaid is hiding fire a projectile filled with tiny sensors. It explodes inside the room and the sensors land on surfaces everywhere, then transmit a 3D model of the room to the cops/soldiers outside. It's a pretty great visualization. More of that and less of the swooping CGI-assisted camera moves that make the action feel overly slick and composed, please.

4) Bryan Cranston, who plays Vilos Cohaagen, is a villain in the classic sense: in other words, he knows that he's right.

The actor says he is "the benevolent leader of the new world. The center of the movie, the moral core of the movie." OK, those were all jokes. But he did explain, with some seriousness,

I am a world leader and a general and a very, very dear friend of [Quaid]. I wanted to instill a sense of compassion and earnestness to Cohaagen. Some believability as to why people would follow his word. He truly believes people should follow him... You can't judge your character, you have to find the reasons that he or she is doing what they're doing, and support those reasons. Instead of playing the mustache-twisting bad guy, you have to have justification for what you're doing. So even though I send a lot of people to their death, they deserve it! I really believe that the world is better off without them.

5) Jessica Biel isn't sure what's going on.

She plays Melina, and says she is part of "a group of resistance workers, trying to help Quaid understand [what's going on] and at the same time I don't know what's going on. So there's a lot of confusion."