Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall stood out in the 90s with a science fiction setting, extreme violence and special effects. It pushed the “R” rating, as bullets tore people apart and a woman made guys “wish they had three hands”.
The reboot of Total Recall finds it tough to do anything that unique or very memorable…
The remake has a PG-13 rating, a change of venue, and a significant upgrade in the visual effects. The story is still intact as Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) visits Rekall; a company that gives customers fake memories, and then loses his grip on reality. After requesting a fantasy to be a spy, he finds himself and a mystery woman (Jessica Biel) hunted by authorities, without knowing why.
Fans of the original film will notice this Quaid never goes to Mars. This film takes place on the continents of Australia (now known as The Colony) and Europe. The rest of the world has been destroyed and citizens travel from one side of the world to the other via a tunnel in the Earth.
Even in a science fiction movie, I had so many questions about how casually workers made a commute through the center of the Earth. This became a common problem as the movie does several things to take you out of the world it creates.
Director Len Wiseman (Underworld) seems to be paying tribute to his favorite movies by using elements of them. The planet bears a striking resemblance to Blade Runner. Rainy streets and large crowds of Asian residents had me waiting for Harrison Ford to walk by. Robotic police look like George Lucas’ Storm troopers.
Visually, this movie is amazing. It’s easy to see where every dollar went. If Blade Runner were made today, it would look like this. The action, though not bloody, is excellent. Pacing is handled very well so that you don’t wait long for a gunfight or punch.
A chase in a series of elevators has everything, from close quarters combat to robot gunfights, in one of the best sequences of the film. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel’s fight is one of the best I’ve seen this summer and one that most guys won’t soon forget.
The worst thing about Total Recall is that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the whole film. The audience is almost walked through the story with no surprises. Quaid’s wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) can’t be trusted, which would have been a nice surprise for new-comers. Sadly, Hollywood told the major twists in the trailer, missing a great chance to let a new audience share this experience with the protagonist.
Homages to the older film are nice; like a disguise that changes faces, a new version of the nasal tracking device and a hotter lady with a third body part. These moments get ruined by bad writing, as Quaid easily trusts strangers, even though he doesn’t know who he is. Dialogue is loaded with clichés, like “Leave her out of this. It’s me you want,” or Kate Beckinsale’s awkward “I give good wife”.
Bryan Cranston as a villain feels wasted, since he’s presented more like the dad on Malcolm in the Middle than his ruthless Mr. White from Breaking Bad.
Total Recall visually stands with the best science fiction films of today but does so by mainly regurgitating their ideas. The action is great but also worth waiting for a rental. In this Total Reboot, Farrell never gets his ass to Mars but I don’t think we’d remember if he did.