Total Recall (2012) Directed by Len Wiseman. Starring: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine and Bryan Cranston. IMDB says: ”A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led – goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.”
The new Total Recall film will undoubtedly be labeled a remake by most but it would be more apt to describe it as an adaptation from the source material. The now classic Phillip K. Dick story (“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”) is being translated on screen again but not at all to the same effect. This new film keeps close to the original short story in ways that benefit both the small details and big ideas presented to the viewer. Trying to match the amazing special effects Rob Bottin pulled off in 1990 would be a difficult task for any, but the filmmakers in 2012 clearly know what they’re doing. They masterfully incorporate CGI with brilliant practical solutions for many of the eye-catching scenes in the film. The problem with this new version of Total Recall is that while there is a lot going on for your eyes to enjoy, there’s not a whole lot for your mind to chew on.
The film is marketed as “Is it real or is it Rekall?” and the story stays true to the idea. Set in the future, the movie brings the audience to a dystopian view of what’s left of Earth. Bio chemical warfare causes most of the planet to be uninhabitable and living space becomes the world’s most precious resource. The two places left to populate, The United Federation of Britain and The Colony, are located on opposite sides of the globe and in order to travel from one place to another the government has created a gigantic transportation device that runs through the core of the planet. The Hi-Tech subway is referred to as The Fall and considered a sign of oppression among most of the public because it operates as one of the only sources of employment (“The Fall Will Enslave Us All.”) I specifically wanted to touch on this because it’s one of the best updates from the original. Not only is the actual “Fall” kind of fucking awesome, but it plays out a hell of a lot better than the Mars/Oxygen plot in the 1990 film. In fact, every update made to the story here is done really well. All the little details make the world feel believable, almost too believable actually. Almost as if they didn’t stretch certain concepts as far as they could have in order to keep us in a world we could relate to somewhat. Helping hand in hand with the story updates are the phenomenal effects at work. I can’t really stress enough how impressive a lot of the special FX-heavy scenes looked and won me over. Visually, it’s a movie that benefits from being watched on a big screen and that’s a big plus in my opinion.
But even though this film did a lot right, it’s got a major flaw. The plot follows protagonist Doug (Colin Farrell) as he becomes the center of a winding game of cat and mouse after a trip to Rekall (a place where someone can go to have memories implanted in their mind) goes horribly wrong. For the bulk of the film’s two hour running time, we are treated to action sequence after action sequence and wondering what reality is truly taking place. The surplus of action doesn’t bother me at all and in fact moves the film’s pace along nicely. What I do take issue with is the lack of complexity in the story. With all that’s thrown at you in the film, there surprisingly isn’t a whole lot of intrigue. The desire to find out the truth parallels that of Farrell’s character and like Doug, you eventually just settle into the idea that what you see is what you get. There’s no real twist or grand exciting turn and as a result the fun times had with the film’s action loses its ability to stick with the viewer. The film isn’t a mess or convoluted, it’s just weak in its intention. It’s like having a dull conversation with an attractive dude or dudette. You’ll remember their beauty for a short time, but ultimately forget what it was you even talked about.
The film shouldn’t be written off completely. I really enjoyed most of it and its biggest crime is its inability to withstand the test of time. Ultimately, I think it would make a great matinee for anyone slightly interested in it.
Random Side Note: While Colin Farrell’s eyebrows and Kate Beckinsale’s… well everything were both delicious treats, I couldn’t help but focus on Jessica Biel in the movie. I feel like she is looked at as a throwaway actress most of the time, but I think she could easily be doing any role Scarlett Johansson gets. She can be a strong and sexy lead while still maintaining a believable on screen presence. She doesn’t get the respect she deserves. Given the chance, I think she’s an actress that has the ability to surprise us.
Total Recall opens in theaters August 3rd.