Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback (screenplay), Phillip K. Dick (short story)
Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston
Release date: August 3rd, 2012
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Running time: 118 minutes
Best part: The action sequences.
Worst part: The generic plot.
The problem with both 2012’s Total Recall and many remakes of its type, is that they ask the audience to endure a completely useless and unoriginal experience. Straight from the Hollywood cash machine, this interpretation of Phillip K. Dick’s short story ‘We can Remember it For You Wholesale’ is ironically forgettable and lifeless despite its interesting and relevant premise.
Borrowing straight from the original 1990 film at every turn, Total Recall presents a familiar story with shallower ideas. factory worker and loving husband Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is sick of being the average workaholic struggling to move around a cluttered, favela-like environment. Working for the upper class in one of two remaining districts on Earth at the end of the 21st century, his trip to a memory recall clinic reveals more to his life story. A spy in hiding now brought back to the surface, His deadly conflict with wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and ongoing war with Cohaagen (the ubiquitous Bryan Cranston) over both cities will reveal Quaid’s importance in the crumbling remains of 21st century living.
This action packed yet dull and humourless interpretation loses both the campy fun and thought provoking subtext of the Paul Verhoeven satirical version. Total Recall is a strange broth of other Phillip K. Dick adaptations, CGI effects, action set pieces and wacky mise-en-scene, none of which congeal to create a worthy sci-fi entry. The film represents the problem with most sci-fi flicks in modern Hollywood; it loses the grit, violence and ambiguity of its 80s and 90s predecessors. without the witty humour, brutality and mutant-filled weirdness of the revered original, the film creates a lurid feeling with every multi-layered green screen sequence. While the lack of emotional depth throughout this chase story leads to a confused and bland final third. The settings of Blade Runner, chases of Minority Report and The Fifth Element, and plot twists of I, Robot create nothing but this prime example of derivative and uninspired blockbuster filmmaking. Len Wiseman (Underworld, Die Hard 4.0) directs with eyes set on visual flair but sorely forgets brains, brawn or heart. The ambiguity behind Schwarzenegger’s character “gettin’ his ass to Mars” created a puzzling and entertaining sci-fi actioner once before.
“Trust me, baby, you’re gonna wish you had three hands.” (Three-breasted woman (Kaitlyn Leeb), Total Recall).
Wiseman, however, loses this tone, explaining everything to you in its simplest, spoon-fed form. Quaid is a character simplistically lost in existential crisis, struggling to create emotional resonance between every thrilling car chase and gun fight. Awkwardly proposing Inception-like questions separating reality from fantasy, this version loses every chance at tension and grit with Quaid’s gruelling search for identity. Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine and John Cho try their best with the tiny character development given to their bland, small roles. While Farrell, suitably intense in dramatic roles from films such as Tigerland and In Bruges, struggles here to maintain any charisma, attained comfortably by Arnie in the original. This noisy and explosion-friendly version also loses the thematic subtlety significant to the sci-fi genre. The two districts themselves create visual metaphor as obvious as a man’s attraction to a three-breasted woman. Featuring a war for living space between an over-populated and decaying society known as ‘The Colony’ (‘cleverly’ representing Australia) and the United Federation of Britain, Bryan Cranston’s Cohaagen is nowhere near the only over-the-top, underused and stupid aspect of this unnecessary and simplistic questioning of reality itself.
Sadly, despite the exorbitant budget and A-list performers thrown at this production, the Total Recall remake is a bland, cumbersome creation. With Len Wiseman’s hack direction sinking this space craft, adaptations like Minority Report and A Scanner now look a helluva lot better!