The original 1990 Total Recall is a cult classic, its pure popcorn science fiction that is charismatic and clever enough to hide its many faults. Unfortunately the new Total Recall is anything but, ditching anything even remotely appealing from the original and replacing it with wall to wall shootouts and special effects. No doubt someone thought in these slower economic times something familiar might make us part with more of a hard-earned cash, but in this post Nolan’s Batman era of blockbusters audience expect character and plot to be just as prominent as the explosions.
Douglas Quade (Colin Farrell) is a disenfranchised Factory Worker married to a seemingly disinterested wife (Kate Beckinsale) and stuck in a unrewarding job, Douglas wants more from life. Lured by this dream he goes to Rekall, a service that can implant fake memories as convincing as your own of anything you can dream of. Douglas chooses to play out the fantasy he is in fact a spy and as the implant begins all hell breaks loose. What follows are the revelations he is a spy and the implant has opened a memory cap implanted to convince him he isn’t one.
It’s the same plot as the 1990 original, albeit set in a completely different world. There is no Mars, instead its conceptual equal is the “colony” of Australia and instead of a space flight people take a train through the center of the Earth to get there. If that sounds stupid, rest assured it is. It’s one of many “what the” moments in a story that takes nothing of interest from the original, and adds pure nonsense with a dash of farce. At least the original tried to explain why a woman would have three breasts, in this version she just does, so you know, deal with it.
It didn’t dawn on me at the time, but the film starts by flashing the title of the production company Original Film. Excuse me while I swallow that giant bit of Irony because this movie is anything but. Honestly, it’s as if the six writers (yes six) had a pizza night and watched as many popular Science Fiction films as they could. It probably went something like this … Writer #1: “Hey what should our world look like?” Writer #2: “Lets watch Blade Runner” Writer #3: “Hey everything is Asian in this movie, lets copy that”. And so it goes with just about every element of the film … If it’s not a rip-off of Blade Runner, then it’s I Robot, or Minority Report, or Star Wars.
The pain doesn’t end there either, the performances are basically phoned in, and I found it hard to distinguish between the female characters in the story too. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel were basically the same person as far as I was concerned, I even wondered if they were computer generated at one point. I mean the Director Len Wiseman is married to Beckinsale, which probably explains why she looks more like a model in the movie with the right lighting, make-up, body pose, yeah well you get the idea.
Total Recall is pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as remakes go. It offers nothing outside of special effects, which are quite good, and it looks like a pure and simple cash grab. How these kinds of projects can continue to find the funding they do is really beyond me. I know audiences tend to see movies they are familiar with, but surely there is more money to be made in credible film making even if the concept is recycled? My suggestion is to go and see a different movie, or if you really want your science fiction fix then go out and hire the original.