Total Recall (2012) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

There is a central misconception regarding reboots, it is as if filmmakers are forced to acknowledge hallmarks of the original, while still attempting to expand and position themselves as the better entertainment. This trend continues with the shiny, new update of the Paul Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger sci-fi (semi) classic Total Recall. Director Len Wiseman practices an almost slavish devotion to the touchstones of that 1990 predecessor, after a while I was making a mental checklist of the similarities and differences. Maybe, it is impossible to appreciate this picture without having an affinity with the original? However I think those uninitiated, will find even less to like about this expensive retro fit.

That is not to say that this $125 million dollar production is a total let down, it’s just that Total Recall unfolds in a wearyingly familiar futuristic grungescape: the inevitable amalgam of Blade Runner and Minority Report. But the sets, all neon clutter and looming skyscrapers, are genuinely spectacular. One of the many chase sequences manages to thrill by making the cityscape look like a M.C. Escher dreamworld. Collin Farell steps into the role of Doug Quaid, assembly line worker by day who dreams of an exciting life as a secret agent on a difficult mission. Life doesn’t seem so bad for Quaid, he is married to, Lori (Beckinsale), a loving wife content with their station in life. Still this is not good enough for Doug, so one night he visits Recall, a company that specializes in fake memory implants. The sparkling, clean Recall offices in Verhoeven vision have been supplanted with a back alley massage parlor vibe in this retelling. I digress, before the implant can be completed the military attempts to stop Quaid from preforming the procedure. All of this leads to a story revolving around a man that has to differentiate what reality to believe. Is he a lowly worker or a government agent involved with the rebellion?

There are a few new touches in this version, particularly the absence of Mars. Most of the original took place on the Red Planet, whereas this time around we are stuck on Earth. Though, things aren’t too rosy for us here, either. It seems there is only two livable continents, connected by a trip through the earth’s core that results in moments of suspended gravity. It is a neat idea, and fits in with the central theme that Quaid and his peers are a type of slave labor, workforce for the construction of a droid army. Total Recall is serviceable entertainment. If I can’t work up much enthusiasm for it, that is because the sets are so nifty and detailed, and Kate Beckinsale pumps so many rounds of bullets into each one of them, that the movie, by the end, practically seems intent on destroying itself. The deafening action becomes monotonous by the final act, thus visiting crippling injustices on a movie that’s a weak case to begin with.

Director: Len Wiseman
Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel

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