Opening 23 Aug 2012
Writing credits: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Jon Povill
Principal actors: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy
Surprisingly, it is possible to consider Total Recall a success because it manages to remain generally entertaining despite its less-than-stellar beginning. First, it is a big-budget remake of a beloved campy action film, part of a trend of the unoriginal machine that makes up modern Hollywood. Second, Colin Farrell plays Douglass Quaid, the main protagonist, and his recent acting attempts have resulted in mediocre reviews and box-office business. Finally, the new Total Recall is directed by Len Wiseman, whose previous attempts at filmmaking, Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, and Live Free or Die Hard all leave much to be desired. Despite these aspects, Total Recall succeeds in entertainment value even though it fails to be a good film.
Total Recall begins with an overview of the post-apocalyptic Earth of the future. After a world-wide chemical war, only two areas are still habitable, The United Federation of Britain and The Colony (essentially, Australia). These two areas are connected via a giant elevator called "The Fall" which goes directly through the center of the Earth. Using this elevator, The United Federation of Britain is able to exploit the people in the poorer Colony. Douglass Quaid is a poor factory worker living with his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale). He dreams of being a spy with a beautiful woman (Jessica Biel), and in reality he longs for a more exciting life. Therefore, he visits Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories that are indistinguishable from real memories. However, a problem occurs during the implantation, and he is accused of being a spy and is almost captured by government agents. Confused, and without knowing whether he is living in reality or in a dream, Quaid must discover the truth of identity while escaping capture by the government that is trying to kill him.
The greatest weakness of Total Recall (2012) is that it must always be compared to the original Arnold Schwarzenegger Total Recall of 1990. Some aspects have been greatly changed, such as the setting (the original was the future in Mars and Earth, and the new film is only on Earth and in a post-apocalyptic world), but the majority of the film is identical to the original. There is the infamous three-breasted mutant prostitute, the mucked up costume at passport control, and even the way that he learned about his old identity from a recording of himself. So many aspects are paralleled in the two films that one can not help but compare them, and unfortunately for the new Total Recall, it comes up short. Sure, there are fancier graphics that make it possible for long hovercar chase scenes and fancy explosions where the original only had campy make up and masks, but the original had more heart and despite its 1980's Blade Runner-esque vibe, it was an original concept and interesting. And here is where Total Recall (2012) completely fails. It is not interesting. In the original, the viewer is always left wondering as to whether Quaid is living in reality or whether he is in a dream-like state caused by problems with the Rekall implant. In the new film, this conundrum is solved relatively early on and never really becomes important for the rest of the film. The viewer is made to assume that Quaid actually is a spy, and that takes away the tension, for undoubtedly the hero will win in the end and get the girl, for that is what occurs in all action films.
So Total Recall (2012) fails at keeping suspense, is completely unoriginal, and is nowhere near as good as the original film it remakes. Despite this, it is entertaining and mildly enjoyable. Colin Farrell is attractive and charismatic enough to make the viewer want to see a little bit more, and the story is different enough from the original that you will stay in your seat... even though you probably won't be on the edge of it. Overall, it is worth a watch when one has nothing better to do and wants to a see an action-film. However, if you loved the original and want something similar, you will probably only end up disappointed. (Rose Finlay)