Total Recall Review

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Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1 HR, 58 MIN

Director:  Len Wisemen
Writers:  Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
Starring:  Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho, and Bryan Cranston


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For the second summer in a row Colin Farrell is starring in a remake of a cult classic.  Instead of donning Chris Sarandon’s vampire fangs in Fright Night he’s filling the very large shoes, shirts, and pants of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role in Total Recall.

In a post-apocalyptic future where only United Federation of Britain and The Colony (Australia) are fit for human life a dissatisfied factory worker named Douglas Quaid thinks he was meant for greater things.  He decides to visit a company named Rekal, who claim to be able to implant fake memories that are just as realistic and vivid as his real ones.  The implantation doesn’t go according to plan as finds himself on the run accused of being a spy.

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The original Total Recall isn’t a film that I held in such high esteem that  the idea of remaking it was blasphemous.  It’s not Schwarzenegger’s best, nor is it Verhoeven’s; it is however a fun but ultimately very silly action film taking place mostly on Mars and is filled with three breasted women, mutants, machine gun toting little people, and Schwarzenegger as the universe’s most conspicuous spy.

In lieu of a trip to Mars the updated Recall is completely Earth bound but ‘heart’ of the story is relatively familiar, Quaid heads to Rekal, something goes wrong, and suddenly he’s a spy who’s switched sides and is one run from his former employers.  Some roles, like Quaid and the villain Cohaagen stay mostly the same, othersroles are expanded like that of Quaid’s best friend Harry who in the original was a fat ‘Italian’ guy who is now black.  The biggest character change comes in the form of Quaid’s wife Lori who’s  role combines  that of the original Lori (Sharon Stone) and her boss Richter (Michael Ironside).  The combining of their roles works to some degree but it’s hard to replace the intensity of Michael Ironside with anyone no matter how beautiful she is.

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Colin Farrell doesn’t exactly disappoint in the lead role but he doesn’t inspire either.  Even though Schwarzenegger isn’t a great actor he is commanding, Farrell never commands when he’s onscreen.  He keeps the story moving but he not memorable while doing it.  Combining Lori’s character with Richter’s is a double edged sword, Kate Beckinsale does a good job remaining pretty while appropriately bloodthirsty but her character motivation is cloudy at best which diminishes her effectiveness.  Jessica Biel, like Kate Beckinsale is pretty but unfortunately like usual she’s about as interesting as a sink full of dull dishwater.  Most disappointing is Bryan Cranston; he’s not disappointing because of his acting but because of his lack of screen time.

Since the planet Mars doesn’t play any kind of role in the new Total Recall a new threat had to be created.  That’s where the cracks in the facade begin to appear because even by remake standards Total Recall starts to rip off more than it can chew.  Since Total Recall is based on a Philip K. Dick story I expect to feel a certain amount of familiarity with the story and the settings but here it was taken to a whole new level.  A strong sense of déjà vu quickly set in; the scenes in The Colony were almost a direct rip off of Blade Runner while the United Federation of Britain scenes could have used left over footage from Minority Report.  Philip K. Dick was no stranger to stories featuring androids or robots but the filmmaking minds behind Total Recall must have recently seen I, Robot because my déjà vu meter once again went off the scale.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but if you’re going to remake a popular film don’t rip off a bunch of other films in the process because that just adds insult to injury.

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2012’s Total Recall isn’t a terrible film; it’s competently shot, it looks slick (thanks mostly to ripping off other, better films), and has an above average cast.  None of those factors save the new Total Recall from being a forgettable film.  In the end it’s just not as much fun as watching Arnold kickass across Mars.

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Written by

Nicholas Herum