Movie Review – Total Recall
August 6, 2012 Leave a comment
You will not find a bigger fan of the 1990 version of Total Recall than me. Nary a chance goes by me to use the “See you at the party, Richter!” line for appropriate and inappropriate occasions. I love the rough, over-the-top violent nature of Paul Verhoeven film where the boundaries of R-rated violence gets pushed to the bring. I love seeing Arnold and his thick Austrian accent shout out his lines and make silly, guttural noises as he shoots an untold amount of people. I love the absurdity of the characters from the titular (ha) three boobed hooker, mutant baby thing Kuato and eye-bulging atmosphere of Mars.
So like any good thing, Hollywood can’t let it be. The recent “remake” to come out of Hollywood basically takes only the name, characters and three-boobed hooker and decides to turn down the volume on the ultra-violent, futuristic action film of 1990 to that of a PG-13 CGI fest starring really pretty people.
The 2012 remake of the 1990 classic, that’s right classic, is Total Recall in name only. Absconding with the Mars setting and supplementing it with chemically destroyed Earth of a future not to far off in which land is the only valuable resource left on the Planet. We meet Quaid (Collin Farrell) a worker for a factory that makes Synthetic machines that are used as a military force (plot point!). He is married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and is looking for an escape from his vivid dreams of a facility breakout. He seeks out Rekall, the memory implant company that somehow triggers his fighting/shooting skills that he didn’t know he had. In typical Recall fashion, the mind games happens as Quaid and companion Melina (Jessica Biel) look to meet up with the Colony and their resistance movement to stop a plan by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) to take back the land.
So yeah, no Mars, no arm ripping, no real visceral violence that made the original one a cult favorite. So why is this called Total Recall? If anything this could have been called anything else but Total Recall and it wouldn’t have to endure the comparisons. The only thing tying this remake to the original is the three-boobed hooker, the characters who have the same names and that’s really it. This is just about as generic is a science fiction action film can get, except it is really pretty too look at.
The positives of this movie is that there are some interesting setups for the world they live in. One where land is a scarce resources and the only places that are inhabitable are connected by a device called “The Fall” which is a transport that goes through the middle of the Earth to connect Australia and England. The city scape looks gorgeous and vibrant, compacted with the citizens of numerous nations that managed to survive the wars, but the housing is surprisingly spacious for a world that doesn’t have a lot of land to build on. The pretty veneer of a 150 million dollar budget does offer up gorgeous visuals and very intricate action scenes that involve expansive chase scenes on a magnetic road to a confusing and ever changing elevator system that seems too big for its own good. All of this is what makes up the slew of remakes, bigger budgets and pretty visuals.
To go along with the science fiction visuals, the cast is very nicely put together. Farrel isn’t in enough bigger budget movies and I think he is good in his role as Quaid. He isn’t as imposing as Arnold, but the squirrely mentality and presence offers up a convincing role as a man who is struggling to cope with latent memories and dealing with an altered state of mind. Cranston is a badass as usual as the party leader Cohaagen. He isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and shows a few shade of Walter White while he is knifing up the place. The true star of the film is Kate Beckinsale as Lori. She exudes both sexuality and a penchant for ass kicking that seems to be her calling card in films as of late. She is the true villain of the film, never relenting on her quest to capture Quaid and gets into a sweet catfight with Biel.
The negative unfortunately outweigh the positives. Jessica Biel’s character Melina could have either been played by any woman in Hollywood or really just cut out altogether. Her sole purpose to be a character that drives the narrative of the film and is a motivating lynch pin to Quaid’s character. That purpose could have been fulfilled with her absence, but hey, any excuse to get TWO gorgeous women into this movie is all the better. In terms of action, this is about as PG-13 as action can get. Gone is the gratuitous violence of arm ripping, human bullet shields, massive body count and graphic eye-bulging decompression. Instead we get synthetic robot violence, free-floating gravity shooting, and other generic things that action films have these days. The shootouts aren’t that great, but pretty to look at and it just doesn’t have that Verhoeven feel to it. It just feels like a futuristic Live Free or Die Hard.
I wish that this movie was just named something else entirely. It could have been and this review wouldn’t be as bad as it is. The whole movie instead is just a constant wink to the audience that remembers the movie from 1990. Director Len Wiseman is hoping that you will recall very ancillary moments from the original so that you remember this is a remake of Total Recall. Hey you remember the three-boobed hooker? She is in her and busty as ever? You remember Quaid, Melina, and Cohaaegen? They are in this movie in name only and with better looking actors. You remember that scene in the original where Arnold tries to get through security looking like a ginger hair, fat lady that explodes? Well there is a woman trying to get through security that looks like here but doesn’t mean anything other than wink and nod to the fans.
You remember all that sweet, gory violence from Verhoeven as he tried to push the boundary of R-rated filmmaking? Well this is a PG-13 movie so there is none of that.
In all honesty, you probably won’t Recall this movie 3 months down the road. It’s pretty and interesting to a point, but the overuse of the Recall plot theme is just pounded into us and the action is good for a PG-13 movie. The cast is interesting, but sadly constrained with a weak script that just wants action beat after action beat instead of exploring the world and implications of the land grab scheme. It’s a visual roller coaster that serves up a tamer version of Total Recall, but without all the things that makes fondly remember the original Total Recall.
Rating: 2.5 boobs out of 5
*images via RottenTomatoes