I vaguely remember the original version of Total Recall from 1990. I know that it had a ton of violence, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone in a skin tight fitness outfit and a topless woman with three breasts. Out of all of those things that stuck out to me the most, I'd say that the woman with the three breasts was easily the most memorable. Not because it was nice to see or anything. It's the most memorable because it freaked me out. I had never seen anything like that before and I was hoping to never see it again... Then I heard that they were remaking Total Recall with a 2012 release date.
Replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger in this remake is Colin Farrell. He stars as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker who lives a simple yet frustrating life with his lovely wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) in a small worn out apartment. In order to get away from his frustrating life, Quaid decides to visit a company called Rekall. Here, they can take any of your wildest fantasies and turn them into what feels like reality. But there is a catch for anyone who gets linked up to this machine. There's the potential for permanent damage and you might end up confusing reality with fantasy in the process.
Despite warnings from his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), Quiad enters anyway and finds himself immediately in trouble when a group of armed gun men rush into Rekall not long after he takes a seat and gets hooked up. Is it real or is it fake? Quaid doesn't know, but he also doesn't know what's going on and he finds out that he might not be able to trust anyone either. With the situation becoming more dangerous by the second, he finds himself on the run from several people who are trying to stop him as he desperately attempts to find answers to the mysteries that surround him.
The first thing you might notice in Total Recall is the level of beauty that is on display in the film's scenes that take place outside. The beauty of these outside surroundings reminds me a little of movies like Minority Report and I, Robot. It's dark, grayish and sometimes rainy, but it is nice to look at. Based on some of these shots (especially during some of the action sequences), this would have been the perfect film to use 3D. I think that these graphically rendered backdrops do help sell the movie and I think it would have done wonders for all of the stuff that appears on-screen during this time.
Now notice, when I was talking about beauty in this version of Total Recall I was specifically pointing out the outside shots of the film's environment. That's because it's rather plain and vanilla when ever they move indoors for a scene. No matter where they are these sets are stripped down and have very little personality or character of it's own. It's so average that I could have went to a store, bought the material myself, designed it and pocketed the rest of the money saved these guys some money. I've never really done any interior design or anything, but I surely could have done just as good as these guys did here.
Outside, inside, beautiful or average looking, none of that stuff is important in the grand scheme of things. Total Recall is a movie that cares about action and action only. They use some small scenes featuring dialog just to set up the inevitable action that's surely going to follow. Other than that, there is no real use for any dialog in this movie. The film's entire set up is kind of like a video game in that sense. There's some shooting and fighting followed by more shooting and fighting with maybe a little chase scene tossed in between. Every once in a while they'll stop and talk only to begin the action all over again.
When you rely this much on action or any single aspect of film, it better be amazing. I would love to say that all or most of the action is just that, but I'd be lying. The action in Total Recall isn't bad, it's just normal and common place. They don't do anything that flashes out at the screen and there's nothing that will make you take notice. Everything that we see here are things that we've seen in plenty of other movies. You can also say that it was done better in a bunch of movies. I would have loved to have seen some more innovation and something less generic. With all of the high tech weaponry and the two plus decades in between Total Recall movies, they certainly had some things to work with, but they decided not to use any of it.
The action also loses some steam to me, because of a particular character's ability to smack grown men around despite the fact that she's a very petite woman. It's hard for me to believe a female who's barely one hundred pounds is having competitive back and forth fights with a fully grown man who can take out ten to twenty armed and trained killers by himself. In some movies I can look past this, but in others I can't. Sooner or later the sheer physical aspects of these battles would have to actually have some kind of importance to the fights. I think the extra one hundred or so pounds that he might have on this chick might eventually come into play don't you think? That's especially true when he's supposed to be the best at what he does.
What do I think of this version of Total Recall? Well it's not bad per se, but it does leave a lot to be desired. Not only do they have the flaws and repetitiveness that I already mentioned, but it also hurts itself in other ways. They use the same tired "Leave her out of this" and "Let her go" types of lines that we've heard a million times before.They even use some of the usual bad guy movie mistakes that I would classify as being vintage James Bond stuff. As the audience we're also never in a position to get to feel anything for the characters whether they're good or bad, because there isn't much time for dialog and/or character development.
Those things do hurt the movie, but as I said earlier, not everything is bad in Total Recall. There is some decent (although familiar) action through the entire film, Bokeem Woodbine is back from the dead after not being heard from since like 1995 and Kate Beckinsale is as lovely to look at as she's always been. I'm also happy to announce that the woman with the third breast didn't freak me out as much as it did when I was a kid. That's probably because I'm a little more mature now and the scene appeared to be a lot quicker this time around. Remember, unlike the original Total Recall, this 2012 version is PG-13. That might be why the scene was so quick this time.
When I take a look at all of the positives in Total Recall, I can see some people enjoying this movie based on the entertainment value that they may find in all of the running, shooting and fighting. I even liked those parts of it myself to an extent. It's just that I would have wanted more out of this movie and I simply didn't get it. When you remake a movie, you should make one with the hope of being better than the original. You might not accomplish that, but why else would you want to try? That's the question that the creators of this remake need to be asked.
Director: Len Wiseman
Film Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Distributor: Columbia Pictures