Total Recall Directed by Len Wiseman
Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho
Rated PG-13 | 118 Minutes
Release Date: August 3rd, 2012
“I don’t wanna spoil it for you, Doug, but rest assured, by the time the trip is over, you get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the entire planet. Now you tell me… isn’t that worth a measly 300 credits?”
Based on the Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall was first adapted in 1990 by director Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop), based on a screenplay by Alien scribes Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon.
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Give these people air!”) and Sharon Stone, Verhoeven’s Total Recall is considered an influential, mind-bending sci-fi satire. In Hollywood, if something is “influential” that means there’s still some money to be squeezed out of it, which means it’s ripe for a remake. Enter Len Wiseman, director of the Underworld films and Live Free or Die Hard.
Directed by Wiseman and written by Mark Bomback, James Vanderbilt, and Kurt Wimmer, this “new” Total Recall feels like a combination of I, Robot, Minority Report, Blade Runner, and pretty much every science-fiction film made in the last 20 years. Set in the grim future of 2084, Earth is controlled by The United Federation of Britain, led by Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Unlike the original film, which takes place primarily on Mars, Wiseman’s remake replaces the red planet with The Colony, a wretched hive of scum and villainy where all the middle-class, blue-collar folks are forced to live.
Colin Farrell stars as Doug Quaid, a factory worker who visits Rekall, a business that provides its clients with artificial memories of the lives they’ve always wanted. Dissatisfied with his mediocre existence in The Colony, Quaid downloads a super-spy fantasy filled with plenty of intrigue and espionage, complete with fighting moves from The Bourne Identity.
Quaid returns home to his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) who, after trying to kill him, explains that he really is a secret agent and she’s not his wife, but rather a UFB agent assigned to keep tabs on him. It should be noted here that Farrell and Beckinsale have a lengthy Mr. and Mrs. Smith-style fight where Beckinsale performs a sliding crotch attack, smacking Farrell in the face with her naughty bits.
After escaping his so-called-wife’s thighs, Quaid leads the UFB on a merry chase through The Colony, eventually joining forces with a freedom fighter named Melina (Jessica Biel) as he tries to piece together the puzzle of just who in the Hell he really is.
Wiseman’s Total Recall is one big chase movie sprinkled with Jason Bourne fight choreography and some Casino Royale-style parkour through sets that appear to be straight out of Blade Runner. The film’s biggest crime is that it’s totally forgettable – a hodgepodge of too many other films to be considered original in any way.
Wiseman does a decent job of paying homage to the original film, but this remake feels exceedingly generic, lacking Verhoeven’s signature satire and Rob Bottin’s awesome makeup and special effects. Without the backdrop of Mars and its mutated inhabitants, this Total Recall is just another futuristic sci-fi movie with flying cars and robot police officers.
Yes, there’s a three-breasted hooker in this film, but why the Hell does she exist if Mars and mutants aren’t involved? Are we to believe in the future women will actively seek out a third-boob implant? It’s just a throwaway reference – fan service without any real connection to the story, making it as pointless as this remake.
It’s unfortunate, because the original Total Recall was already a very loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, which hasn’t been accurately adapted yet. It would have been far more interesting to re-visit the original story and find a different angle instead of rehashing the 1990 film. While Farrell, Beckinsale, and Biel do a serviceable job of bringing their two-dimensional characters to life, Wiseman’s film is a brainless, messy redundancy.
I’m not saying Verhoven’s film is a masterpiece by any means, but at least it was original. It had some terrific special effects and plenty of satire and wit to keep you invested in the over-the-top performances. The remake, however, replaces all the fun with by-the-numbers hover car chases and wooden dialogue straight out of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
I didn’t hate Total Recall, but I can’t exactly recommend it either. It’s pretty to look at, and if you haven’t seen the original, it may feel like a new film to you, but for anyone initiated in the ways of Verhoeven or the science-fiction genre in general, there’s nothing new or original about this one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to climb into this weird looking chair and have John Cho erase the memory of this film from my brain and replace it with a trip to Mars where Sharon Stone (circa 1990) is my wife…