Total Recall (2012) Review
August 29, 2012
Twenty-two years since the release of the original Total Recall, Len Wiseman's reworking of the cult classic is now out in cinemas. With some serious changes to the plot; is it as good as the Arnie version? Fans might be disappointed
This may come as a surprise, but I’m not a fan of Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall (1990). Thanks to Batman & Robin and Jingle all the Way; I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, which may contribute for my dislike of the first Total Recall. Only watching it a couple of months ago in preparation for Len Wiseman’s adaptation of the Philip K Dick short story, I was pretty apprehensive that the remake would be too similar to the original for me to enjoy, or worse: far inferior to Verhoeven’s version.
Following chemical warfare at the end of the twenty-first century; the Earth is largely uninhabitable. Only the Colony (formally Australia) and the United Federation of Britain remains. Our protagonist Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), despite having a beautiful wife that loves him (Kate Beckinsale) is stuck in a rut and begins to question his daily activities, in particular his monotonous factory job void of any career progression. Discontent, he visits Rekall; a company that can turn your dreams into memories. Instead of the holiday he hoped for, Quaid’s life is turned upside down as the procedure goes horribly wrong. A hunted man on the run from the police; he soon finds himself fighting against dictator-esque Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), forming an alliance with the head of the resistance (Bill Nighy) alongside a rebel fighter from his dreams (Jessica Biel) in the hope of restoring equality to all.
Anyone familiar with the plot of the first Total Recall will recognise specific elements and homages in Len Wiseman’s version. Although more aesthetically pleasing than its twenty-two year old sibling, it isn’t quite as fluid as its older brother. Whilst some parts make more sense as they are more relatable (the shortage of habitable space on Earth being an issue rather than air), other elements don’t add up. Verhoeven’s version explained the mutant race as a product of over exposure to radiation, whereas Wiseman’s adaptation fails to mention the mutants; leaving the “you’re going to wish you had three hands” lady redundant and completely out of place. Despite glaringly obvious plot holes such as this; I did enjoy Wiseman’s Total Recall.
Those that have a nostalgic fondness for the original will no doubt be disappointed in Wiseman’s Total Recall. For some, this reworking won’t be as fun without Arnie, void of the mind-bending reality that makes a holiday to Mars plausible; Wiseman’s version is arguably an unnecessary remake. Although those who haven’t seen, or like me didn’t like, the original won’t suffer the same betrayal. Still, no amount of flashy set design (at times evocative of Lockout) or good performances (Bryan Cranston especially) can make up for the repetitive, too frequent chase sequences that slow the plot down rather than the consistent, speediness that is clearly intended.
As a standalone movie; Wiseman’s Total Recall is standard adventure fodder: a fast-paced opening with some serious action shots has only Kate Beckinsale’s acting to apologise for. Sadly, my enjoyment levels dropped considerably following the appearance of Bill Nighy and his unnecessary American accent. Fans of the original won’t be as favourable, as Total Recall takes itself far too seriously without Arnie in it.