Total Recall Review
Director: Len Wiseman
Writers (screenplay): Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback
Writers (story): Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill, Kurt Wimmer, Philip K. Dick
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessical Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho
Cinematography: Paul Cameron
By now we’re all familiar with the Hollywood standard known as the re-make. Studios see dollar signs whenever there is a built in audience who will pay to see a movie, because there is less of a risk involved when the story has already been a success. In the case of Total Recall, the original is a cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie featuring a three breasted prostitute and the kind of barely intelligible one-liners that have made the Governator famous. I myself have never seen the original 1990 version of Total Recall. My dad (who can only stay conscious in a movie if it has a bunch of explosions) has seen it and loves it. But with the idea that I should go into the new movie with an unbiased opinion, I decided not to rent the 90s version until after I’ve seen Colin Farrell give it a shot. He’s hotter than Schwarzenegger anyway. The latest version is supposed to be grittier and more realistic (everyone tries to be Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies). But can they really turn a corny action movie into something worth watching?
Many years into the future, most of the world in now uninhabitable due to chemical warfare. The remaining population is divided into the two remaining regions, the rich live in Great Britain while the poor are crammed into Australia. Factory worker Doug Quaid is one of the millions who travel through the Earth’s core to work for the rich on the other side of the world, doing the same thing every day. Tired of his monotonous life he visits a Rekall lounge, where they can implant memories into your brain that feel like real life. Once he’s plugged in, it becomes clear that something has gone wrong. Especially when police enter the room to arrest Quaid and he manages to kill all of them. Suddenly Doug Quaid is unsure of his true identity and where his loyalties lie as he fights to survive when the world turns against him.
I‘m a big fan of the two main characters, Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale, who have both done other awesome action movies. There is no shortage of great effects shots and some graphic beat downs that look amazing. It’s hard to take over from Arnold Schwarzenegger (the king of the action movie genre) and Sharon Stone, but they do a great job. Colin Farrell looks really hot as he beats the crap out of robots. And Kate Beckinsale always does an great job in action movies, which makes it a really good thing that her husband directs so many of them (she’s married to the director Len Wiseman). The two of them combine to create some really great fight scenes, whether they’re battling it out against each other or against a robot sentry. The ass-kicking will definitely keep you entertained.
Very Cool Setting
The look and feel of the world is really interesting. It’s not Mars, like in the original Total Recall, but I think that adds to the story line. If we’re talking about two areas on Earth that are separated by a mere train ride, it makes the economic difference between them all the more upsetting. And the fact that the train goes through the core and reverses gravity makes for some very cool zero gravity fighting (which instantly reminded me of Inception, but considering how cool that movie is it’s not a bad comparison). I particularly like the poor part of the world, where everything is crammed in together to create more living space. Besides the fact that it is ALWAYS raining there, it looks really cool and boxy.
It’s the little things…
When you’re making a science fiction movie, especially one that promises to be less of a cheesy action movie and more a gritty look at a grim future, you need to pay attention to the small stuff. People like me (nerds), are going to be a bit picky about how we’re presented a story. There can’t be a bunch of holes and little questions after you leave the theater. If there are a bunch of big questions that you debate about with your friends (like with Inception, The Dark Knight, etc.), that’s a good movie. But when you leave the darkened room scratching your head and wondering how they could smash the windows to an air tight building without everyone dying from the poison gas outside, it’s not a good thing. Another example of this weird logic is when they have this really cool fight on the tops of elevators. While it looked amazing, I also found myself wondering why every building in the city is equipped with Wonkavators (that can move sideways, and slant ways, and longways, and backways…). I mean, when you have flying cars what’s the point in flying elevators too. There are some other little things that you notice, especially in the ending which I won’t give away. When you’re making a straight sci-fi movie, it’s important to make sure things add up.
While Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale did an awesome job, I wasn’t really that happy with the third member of the love triangle. Jessica Biel is normally pretty good (I enjoyed her in Blade: Trinity), but I honestly had to look at the credits in order to be sure of what her name was in the movie (it’s Melina by the way…). There’s supposed to be this great love story between Doug Quaid and this girl, and I really do not see it at all. There is more passion when Kate Beckinsale literally attacks Colin Farrell with her thighs than in Linda/Melina/whatever’s little tearful “you don’t remember me?” looks. And for a freedom fighter, she sure doesn’t do much of anything unless Colin Farrell is leading the way. Her fight with Lori Quaid (Beckinsale) kind of makes up for some of that, but I still don’t think she’s developed enough to get Doug Quaid to want to trust her when everybody is trying to kill him.
It’s a little predictable
I made sure not to watch the original Total Recall in order to go into this movie with a fresh mind. But even though I didn’t really know the whole story going in, I wasn’t at all surprised at how things went. I suppose it’s the curse of the re-make that everyone already knows the plot of the movie, but it wasn’t just that. The only thing I’ve seen for this movie is the trailer, but I somehow knew exactly who Doug Quaid really was in the first few scenes of the movie. We’re not kept guessing at all, which is unfortunate. It’s a cool premise that your memories might not be true. They should have toyed with this idea a little more, and maybe changed up the ending so that it wasn’t so straight forward. I like a little more mystery in my sci-fi.
Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5
I can’t really say anything that terrible about Total Recall. It’s an enjoyable movie that will keep action movie buffs entertained. But it’s missing a little something in the way of plot and just plain fun. When you have Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, you have some laughs just because he’s a crazy Austrian with a gun and a cheesy line. With Colin Farrell you have someone trying to be serious, and failing to deliver all that you want from the movie. It’s still a pretty good show, with some great effects shots and action. I recommend it if you’re looking for a good time, just don’t expect to leave the theater with anything other than smiles and some jabs about how silly that three breasted prostitute looked.
Total Recall Trailer