Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Total Recall (2012)

Director: Len Wiseman
Notable Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Alba, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, John Cho

Growing up a fan of the original "Total Recall" and being a fan of Phillip K. Dick's original short story that this film is based on, I was actually kind of excited to see what this remake would do with the mind bending tale of memory lapse, spies, and science fiction. Yet the negative reviews for Wiseman's modern spin on the film poured in and I decided to wait for home video to see the science fiction actioner. Although I wouldn't claim it to be quite as bad as it was painted, "Total Recall" isn't good either. It's simply unmemorable overall. It somewhat just runs through the motions and fails to ignite any kind of emotional response to any of its events. In fact, I would consider the film to be a rather sad affair as it just falters to live up to any of the unique ideas or stronger potential it had.

Douglas Quaid (Farrell) seems to be at the top of his game. He's been successful at work and his wife (Beckinsale) supports him with loving care. There are just these dreams he has been having where he is in a gun fight with police. It disturbs him enough that he decides to visit Rekall, a synthetic memory implantation center where he can live out what happens in his dreams...too bad something goes wrong. Those dreams might actually be memories and now the police are after him accusing him of being a man named Hauser, an agent in a resistance against the government.

If I went to Rekall I would have them wipe my memory of playing Bullseye. I mean, if I was Ferrell.
As a fan of both the original film and the original short story, I was shocked at how little this version of "Total Recall" places on the mystery and twists of 'reality.' It follows almost the exact same pattern as the 1990 film in progression. Same twists on which side he is an agent for. Same beats for bad guys to become good guys and good guys to become bad guys. There really isn't any true unique elements to the film and it rarely plays off on the emotional roller coaster this kind of journey should be for the characters. Not only that, but it also doesn't come off as effective in how it distorts reality either. You get one good scene with Farrell and his old work partner in a shoot out, but that's it. Seriously?

"Be quiet! There's a plot point coming...quickly, we need to leap into another action sequence!"
And yes, they did change the basic plot foundation from one where Quaid/Hauser is fighting for a resistance on Mars to this one where he is fighting for a resistance in Australia (known as the Colony in this post apocalyptic world). And in all honesty, I felt like the idea of playing up this issues of social class and economic strife would have been a fresh and relevant take on the basic ideas of this story...but like the reality twists, "Total Recall" fails to take this concept any further than surface level.

Explosions count for character development. Just ask Michael Bay.
Beyond the issues conceptually, "Total Recall" falters on a lot of levels. The acting is decent enough (it's a damn fine cast), but the characters tend to be a little...well, underwritten to be fleshed out. And the film doesn't spend enough time building the mystery, the plot, or the characters as it desperately fills its time with relentless action sequences. Normally I am not a man to complain too much about relentless action, but even Wiseman's ability to craft stylish action seems to be a little by the numbers here. It ends up being some pretty standard work here, a nice foot chase to kick it off, but then it sort of drifts through the motions.

Overall, I would rarely call this film 'bad'. Never was I slapping my head in disbelief at it, but I was finding myself wondering just what happened to the soul of this movie. It's unmemorable as a science fiction tale. It's unmemorable in its action. Hell, its even unmemorable as a bad movie...which is probably the worst thing that could have happened to it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Still think that perhaps "Total Recall" can reset those memories? Perhaps the director's cut is much better than the theatrical cut like I saw. Either way you should click on the links below if you feel the need.


  1. This remake blew major chunks. I wish Recall really existed so I could erase the memory of this insult

  2. The cast and action make this predictable story a whole lot more enjoyable, but it’s still the same, old formula as the original. Except this time, it’s without all of the hilarious Arnie one-liners. Nice review.

  3. Haha! After reading your Riddick and Star Trek Into Darkness reviews I was ready to come in swinging but I actually agree with you for once - Jimmy S

    1. Glad you agree! I desperately wanted this film to be as fun and smart as the first "Total Recall," but it just feels lacking on all levels.