Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, John Cho, Steve Byers, Bokeem Woodbine, Ethan Hawke
RunTime: 1 hr 58 mins
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Official Website: http://www.welcometorecall.com/
Opening Day: 2 August 2012
Synopsis: Total Recall is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.
The irony of Len Wiseman’s ‘Total Recall’ is - if its audience were suffering from amnesia like its protagonist Douglas Quaid, this would be a perfectly serviceable summer popcorn flick. Unfortunately, most of its audience would recall the Paul Verhoeven original that starred action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger at the time of his peak, and would inevitably measure this too-soon remake against that standard.
Indeed, the foremost question on your minds probably is whether this remake is in fact better than the original. The answer is a definite no – apart from boasting slicker visual effects, this soulless sci-fi action bombast offers none of the guilty pleasures of its predecessor. Certainly, it says something when despite all the explosions and other cranked-up sound effects, you find yourself getting bored slowly but surely.
The fault lies with both Wiseman himself and with his scripters – Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback – though we think more blame should be laid on the latter than the former. When it was first announced, both writers had taken pains to emphasise that this wasn’t so much a remake of the sci-fi classic than a reimagining that went back to the heart of Philip K. Dirk’s short story ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’. But apart from keeping the setting Earth-bound (instead of transporting it to Mars), Wimmer and Bomback seem to have based the rest of the movie on the 1990 picture by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman – all of whom are given story credits.
Fans of the original can almost see how the writers must have used a checklist in their scripting – starting with Quaid’s dream sequence, waking up next to his beautiful wife, procuring Rekall’s services despite being explicitly warned against it by both his wife and his best friend at work, remembering his past even before the ‘secret agent’ alternate identity he chooses kicks in, and then getting rescued by his former flame Melina from a life he cannot remember. Not only are the plot points similar, the sequence by which they unfold in the movie hasn’t changed, and that only speaks of the amount of imagination – or lack thereof – Wimmer and Bomback had.
To a certain extent, Wiseman does compensate by keeping the action relentless, going from one loud sequence to another with minimal exposition to propel the story along. And as he has demonstrated with ‘Underworld’ and more recently the reboot of ‘Die Hard’, Wiseman has a knack for coming up with exciting routines to keep your adrenaline going – including a particularly memorable one where our heroes Douglas and Melina have to escape through a labyrinth of fast-moving elevators going in all four directions. Nonetheless, though the action is busy, it doesn’t engage as much as it should, coming off as more perfunctory than inspired.
What does come off fresh is Patrick Tatopoulos’ elaborate production design in creating the United Federation of Britain and the Colony, the two remaining inhabitable areas on the planet at the end of the 21st century thanks to chemical warfare. We shan’t say more about both these territories lest we spoil the surprise for the uninitiated, though those who have seen the original can certainly draw the parallels between them and that of Earth and Mars in the first movie. Thanks to Tatopoulos, the future looks better than it did in Verhoeven’s version.
The same however cannot be said of the characters nor the actors. Gone is the self-deprecating personality that Schwarzenegger brought to Douglas, the quips delivered in deadpan fashion by the actor one of the genuine pleasures of the original. Here, Colin Farrell plays it straight and serious – think of him as a futuristic Jason Bourne – and despite possessing athletism to boot, we much prefer Schwarzenegger’s take. Just as forgettable are Kate Beckinsale as Lori and Jessica Biel as Melina – Wiseman’s decision to keep this PG-13 ensuring that the garish pleasures we had from Sharon Stone’s vampiness are no longer present here.
Of course, we might have been unfair to this movie by comparing it so much against the original, but really Wiseman and his screenwriters do themselves a disservice right from the start by sticking so slavishly to the original, changing neither the characters nor their inclinations. If you’ve never seen Verhoeven’s version, then count yourself lucky – for everyone else who has, you’d wish this remake were wiped from your memory.
(Save for the slicker visual effects, this is an unnecessary remake that offers less of everything that the original had)
Review by Gabriel Chong