Director: Len Wiseman
Writer: Kurt Wimmer (screenplay & screen story), Mark Bomback (screenplay), Dan O’Bannon (screen story), Ronald Shusett (screen story), Jon Povill (screen story), Phillip K. Dick (short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho
A factory worker named Douglas Quaid feels discontent with his life and turns to a memory implant service called Total Rekall to add some excitement to it. Things go awry and Quaid soon finds himself on the run, trying to piece together just who he really is.
Here we have the 2012 redux of the classic Paul Verhoeven film of the same name. The original starred Arnold Schwarzenegger along with the likes of Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside and Sharon Stone, and went on to become a pretty big hit. There was a lot to love about the movie with its campy nature, but it was still a heavily flawed movie — especially with its third act and its deus ex machina-like ending. Twenty-two years later, we have this Len Wiseman-directed remake with a more serious take on the original short story by famed science fiction writer, Phillip K. Dick. So the question is: Could this remake hold a candle to the original?
My answer to you all would be that yes, this 2012 redux does more than enough to stand on its own. I will say that there are numerous nods and references to the original film in this movie, but they aren’t done in an intrusive way. They’re thrown in here and there and blend in naturally with the events going on. The tone of the film is completely different, removing Verhoeven’s trademark campy feel and satire in favor of a more traditional straightforward telling of the story. Though it doesn’t provide as many laughs — and how could you not laugh at the combination of Verhoeven’s satire with Arnold’s acting — Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is just as entertaining from start to finish. Most of the nods and references are made early in the film, so from there on out the movie does its very best to stand on its own, which I felt it did a fairly good job at.
First thing’s first: I loved the change in the background of events going on in this movie. I know there are many people out there who love the Mars element of the original 1990 movie, but I for one don’t like it at all. Considering the ending, it felt stupid to have the movie partially take place on Mars. Having the film set solely on a pseudo-dystopian Earth where there are only two livable regions left on the planet connected by an underground bridge that goes through the Earth’s core really sets this version of Total Recall apart from the original.
The look of the film itself gives a more futuristic sense to the movie. The looks of the United Federation of Britain and The Colony — which I believe was called either New Asia or New Shanghai originally — are gorgeous. The visual effects for this movie were well worth the money they invested, giving the movie a more expensive feel than its reported production budget. The two regions of this Earth have polar opposite looks and help convey the issues this movie centers around.
As for the cast of this film, how would Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel stand up compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rachel Ticotin? Well, Farrell’s Douglas Quaid comes off as a bit more bland than Arnold’s in his performance early on, but there’s a lot more depth to his character this time around. Farrell does a good job, but his performance wasn’t all that spectacular overall; it’s enough to get you through the movie. As for Jessica Biel, she really doesn’t feel like she’s given much to do, but then again the same went for Rachel Ticotin’s Melina in the original. Her character is still only there as a love interest, but she does come off as a bit more of a badass, especially during an elevator fight sequence with Kate Beckinsale.
And if there’s one thing this movie has plenty of, it’s action. Len Wiseman is known more for his action direction than anything else, with films like Underworld, Underworld 2 and Live Free or Die Hard under his belt. With that in mind, I went into the movie with a certain level of expectation, and though I wasn’t completely blown away, the action sequences in this movie are still highly entertaining. The biggest highlight of the film is still the single-take sequence at the Rekall center that is the centerpiece of the film’s numerous trailers, and though I’ve seen it countless times by now, it is still an amazing sequence to take in with how Len Wiseman filmed it. There are some other great moments to take in as well, including the car chase sequence, along with sequence that take place within the maze of elevator shafts. It’s definitely more engrossing than what the original had to offer, which is more of a run-and-gun type of action.
The best thing about this movie, though, is probably Kate Beckinsale. And why wouldn’t she be when her husband is the director? This is in fact their first collaboration outside the Underworld films, but even so Wiseman still knows how to make full use of his wife on camera. Her character Lori — played by Sharon Stone in the original — comes off as more of a mix between the original Lori and Michael Ironside’s Richter of the original film. Thus, she’s twice the badass the original Lori was, and she also sells it on camera as well. She holds her own multiple times in the movie, and the switch from sounding American to having an accent once the jig is up added to her character. That accent just really gave her a different feel from her facade.
It’s not as if there wasn’t anything bad about this movie, though. The biggest disappointment I had was Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen. This is another role in the long line of minor bits Cranston has taken on in an effort to get into Hollywood (following roles in films like Contagion, Drive, Red Tails, Rock of Ages and John Carter), and this isn’t one of his better roles. I figured with him starring in a hit show like Breaking Bad he’d be perfect for the role of Cohaagen, but he just comes off as a dull villain. Compared to the original’s Cohaagen played by Ronny Cox, Cranston feels like he’s taking things safe with the role, making his version pretty bland. The climax of the film also leaves much to be desired, along with the resolution of the Lori character.
Aside from those complaints, I found the the 2012 remake of Total Recall to be a solid summer action blockbuster. I wasn’t really looking to be surprised with this remake, I was just looking for it to be able to stand on its own. And for what it shows you, this Len Wiseman-directed remake does more than enough, providing solid entertainment and good action.
If you are looking for something more than what the original provided, I wouldn’t say this is a movie for you, but if you’re just looking for a solid sci-fi action film, then you’ll have a good time with this redux.
GO Rating: 3/5