[Review] – Total Recall

9 Aug

Title: Total Recall
Year: 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, based on a screen story by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povil and Mr. Wimmer, inspired by a short story by Philip K. Dick
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language
Runtime: 118 min
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Metacritic: 44

The original Total Recall movie, the one from 1990 that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and was directed by Paul Verhoeven, was a huge commercial hit and stands as one of the seminal science-fiction movies of the past few decades. The new Total Recall, the one we’re getting now in 2012 that stars Colin Farrell and is directed by Len Wiseman, will have to be lucky to get back its production budget, and will be forgotten by the time the year ends. That’s just the truth of the matter; yes, there are a couple of slick action set pieces, but what really made the original so great, the humor and the fully dimensional characters and that awesome plot, is just nowhere to be found here.

Now, to be fair to this one, this one isn’t a reboot of the 1990 movie as much as it is just another interpretation of “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story that serves as inspiration for both of these films. So yeah, there are differences between the two movies, so you could make the point that you can’t compare them fairly because of that, but, I mean, even if this was a super faithful adaptation of the Paul Verhoeven film, it wouldn’t stand a chance.

It sucks, by the way, that this film didn’t turn out nicely. I mean, the trailer looked slick but it also got me thinking that this one was just trying too hard to be a sci-fi blockbuster, but I still wanted this one to succeed because I think big-budget sci-fi films are awesome when they’re done right, and because I really liked some of the people involved with this one. I mean, Colin Farrell may not be the best actor in the world for the most part, but not only do I really like the guy, but I’ve seen him be absolutely stellar in Martin McDonagh‘s brilliant In Bruges, and even if that’s been his only truly impeccable performance, one of his other good ones was in Minority Report, which was also based on a Philip K. Dick story. And then there’s the fact that Bryan Cranston plays the villain here, and I can always get behind more Bryan Cranston on our screens.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this Total Recall is just absolutely horrible, I’m just saying that it could have been far, far better, and that I personally wouldn’t recommend it. Now, I do, however, think that if for some unthinkable reason you haven’t seen the original Total Recall, then this one might actually work for you. It might work because you won’t really know exactly what you’re missing, you might think the twists these one throws at you are cool even though they are absolutely nothing compared to the super intricate mind games and plotting the one that came over two decades ago presented you with. This may somewhat work as a sci-fi movie, it just doesn’t work as one with that title it has.

The film is set at the end of the century, after a global chemical war has split the world into two superpowers, the United Federation of Britain and The Colony. The character Mr. Farrell plays, Douglas Quaid, is a factory worker in The Colony who’s tired with his monotonous life (which seems impossible since his wife is played by Kate Beckinsale) and goes to Rekall, a company that implants whatever memories you wish into your brain so that your life seems a bit cooler. As you might imagine, the second Quaid makes that decision, to have the memories of secret spy implanted onto his brain, things start going horribly wrong for him.

So the film goes off from there, and one good thing you can say about it is that at least it never stops going, it’s just action-y stuff from then on. Though, of course, it’s PG-13 action that’s sort of safe for kids, and not the R-rated spectacle that was the original; again, if you haven’t seen the 1990 film then chances are you’ll have a much better time with this one. But we follow Mr. Farrell along anyways, as he starts realizing that everything he thinks he knows about himself is a lie, that all of his life has been implanted on his brain, and that’s he right in the middle of a struggle between a totalitarian movement and the resistance.

It also looks pretty slick. The hover cars are as awesome as ever because that’s just a sci-fi staple that you can’t go wrong with, and director Len Wiseman (who’s married to Ms. Beckinsale in real-life, the lucky bastard) and his crew make the world look like you would expect it to. It just sucks that the characters are so busy falling and shooting and driving like crazy in it, and we don’t really get any kind of real development among them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the action sequences in sci-fi movies as much as the next guy, but they’re so much better when the stakes are higher, when you have a human connection to these characters so that the big set pieces actually matter.

This new Total Recall is a far cry from the 1990 one. It doesn’t have a trip to Mars, it doesn’t have Ah-nuld, and it doesn’t have an emotional impact like the original did. So, no, this remake or reboot or whatever you want to call it is not necessary in the slightest. I appreciated the attempt, though, I think sci-fi movies with a budget like this one should be made, and I think the attempt was honorable because there were some really neat ideas here. It’s just a pity that they weren’t really explored at all.

Grade: C+


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