When Universal moved "The Bourne Legacy" off this past weekend, blinking in its box-office staring contest with Sony's "Total Recall," it seemed a clear indication that the latter was primed for success. The remake had all the elements: well-liked stars, a title that conjured goodwill (but not fierce protectiveness) and, now, a clear calendar.
Yet the science-fiction action pic mustered just $26 million in domestic dollars, failing even to win the weekend, let alone make much of a dent in its roughly $125-million budget.
What happened? Here are five things to learn from the sputtering.
* The right name doesn't mean much. For years, Hollywood has believed remakes work because they come with a marketing head-start. But "Total Recall" is the latest, and possibly the most potent, example to disprove this way of thinking. In theory, this was the perfect candidate for a remake. Paul Verhoeven's original, also loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story, was regarded as a classic, but of the pop kind. People remembered it, but few were offended that it was being remade. Yet that seemingly perfect combination didn't give it a boost.
* The wisdom of Wiseman? After a couple of "Underworld" movies, Len Wiseman seemed ready for the tent-pole big time when he stewarded "Live Free or Die Hard" to $380 million in worldwide box office in 2007. Several years later, Sony hired him to tackle this premium property. Yet the opening was below even the far more modestly budgeted -- and marketed -- "Underworld: Evolution."
* Beautiful women are no guarantee. The conventional thinking is that an attractive young female lead will bring in the men even when the action won't. And two attractive young female leads, such as Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale, are even better. Yet the duo offered no help at the box office.
* The effects error. When moviedom's effects era began, filmmakers and studios were downright gleeful about what technology would let them do -- and how a visually oriented culture would turn out to see them do it. Everyone praised the sleek look and sharp effects in the new "Total Recall." But a comparatively small number of people bought tickets to see them.
* Farrell's folly. Last year at this time, Colin Farrell had another studio-driven reboot -- "Fright Night." It too was a revival of a genre-y hit from several decades ago. He couldn't get us to see that either.