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culture

Reel Toronto: Total Recall

The sci-fi remake shows off a surprising amount of Toronto scenery.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

We’ve followed Total Recall from when it was announced that the film would be shot here in Toronto, at Pinewood Studios, to when it was completed and released.

It’s a fascinating movie, because it’s not horrible. It’s not a great movie, either, though, and that makes it kind of redundant, considering the existence of the Schwarzenegger original.

It is, however, the biggest film ever shot in Toronto (at least until Pacific Rim is released) and we confess we went in thinking there would be a lot of green-screen studio sets and not much local scenery to see. But we were pleasantly surprised.

One of the film’s cooler ideas is that there’s a huge transit system called The Fall that takes people under the earth, through the core, allowing them to travel between Asia and Europe. The Asian station is actually the Meeting Place at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus.

So, Ford Nation, be happy: a subway for Scarborough!

The futuristic transit station at the other end is actually the lobby at Roy Thomson Hall…

…supplemented by a bunch of green screen.

Similarly, there’s a huge scene at this office building with a distinctive, semi-circular front. It was actually shot at the south entrance of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, right beside the CN Tower and the dome.

The European scenes are supposed to be in futuristic London, and a bunch of our popular quasi-European streetscapes make appearances. This is Melinda Street, looking east to where it jogs at Yonge Street, and becomes Colborne Street.

While the cityscape of London is almost entirely CGI, the odd local landmark is recognizable. You can actually see the entrance to One King West on the left up there.

Back on ground level, if you do a 180 and look west on Melinda, you can see that scenes like this…

…and this, were shot in that little piazza behind Commerce Court.

If you’re shooting any kind of post-apocalyptic movie in Toronto, you just have to use Lower Bay Station…

…and ride the train, if you can.

This is neat-o and random. It’s supposed to be post-apocalyptic London and obviously there’s a bunch of CGI going on. The street itself, however, is actually in downtown Guelph. If you look, you can recognize McCabe’s Pub on the right.

Also out of town was this scene, shot at an auto plant in St. Thomas. Apparently, Colin Farrell and company took the time to hang with the workers, which is cool.

Back to that Guelph scene—the building they’re approaching is the hideout of the terrorist leader, Matthias. As much as we love Bill Nighy, come on, he’s no Kuato. (And while we’re happy it gave a local actress a gig, if the logic of dropping Kuato comes from dropping the mutant storyline, how do you explain the three-breasted hooker?) Anyway, despite the special-effects destruction, you might recognize this…

…and this…

…and this, as U of T’s Knox College, hosting pretty much the whole cast for a crucial sequence.

Even Bryan Cranston! Nice! That’s the coolest Knox appearance since Lou Ferrigno and Edward Norton in the Hulk movie, yo.

You probably remember the biggest scene they shot publicly was a car chase under the Gardiner (no, Jessica Biel was not hit by falling concrete [rim shot!]), but don’t expect to recognize it. They basically used real vehicles to get the motion and then replaced the exteriors for this chase scene.

Other elements were shot out at CFB Borden, where they’ve got runways to spare. This is a cool little featurette on how they turned that footage into the final film.

They do, however, crash down right here, in front of U of T’s Convocation Hall. (And, yup, that’s Knox on the right, again.)

We’re always amused when real local media figures pop up in movies, and we’ll be gosh darned if that ain’t CTV’s Merella Fernandez.

For all the money it cost them, it’s hard not to watch Total Recall and wonder, “Why?” every now and then. But it’s a decently made film as far as it goes, and after watching other locally shot movies with less than spectacular production values, we hope that this is the start of bigger and better, more blockbuster-y things for our town.

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