We Can Remember It For You Wholesale vs. Total Recall vs. 2012 remake

It’s a battle royale of artistic interpretation: Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” vs. Ronald Shusett’s Total Recall vs. Kurt Wimmer’s 2012 remake. While I am a Philip K. Dick fan (who isn’t, being the writer of stories that became not only Total Recall, but Blade Runner and The Adjustment Bureau?), I am ashamed to admit I never read “We Can Remember If For You Wholesale” before today.

I am struck by several things after putting it down. First, it is brilliant. The concept that a person is essentially a double-agent in his own mind as the result of memory implantation mirroring past life experiences is a wonderful sci-fi idea, and that Dick mixed in elements of cloak-and-dagger spy thrillers is a recipe for success. But it is very talky, probably because the idea needed a longer story to breathe. I mean, I enjoyed it, but if I had handed that to an editor (and I have written similar, as-yet-unpublished stories), I would have been told that it bogs down in the middle. Makes me wish my name was Philip K. Dick.

Second, Total Recall (1990) was really only inspired by the concept. If you think you don’t need to read “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” because you’ve seen Total Recall, you can stop thinking like that. Because the story is both ruined and improved in the big screen treatment. True, Shusett’s version is not talky (how could it be, as it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger?) but it is also somewhat cartoonish. If you don’t remember it, here’s the trailer:

That’s why I’m excited to see the 2012 remake starring Colin Ferrell. There seem to be enough new elements (and changed elements) to make this a more serious movie than the 1990 original, and I suspect it won’t be as “talky” as the novelette. There’s no trailer for it yet, but here’s a couple of clips from the ‘Total Recall’ Comic Con Panel:

So, in a fistfight, I bet the Schusett/Schwarzenegger version would win, mostly because Arnold Schwarzenegger is still in better shape than most people will ever be, but I’m hoping this summer’s remake will be the best of both the “talky” novelette and the “cartoonish” original Total Recall, making for some kind of genetically-enhanced cyborg of awesomeness that is both cerebral and exciting.

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