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'Total Recall' Would Be Great If It Wasn't Called 'Total Recall' [Review]

Total Recall is a terrible remake, but it's a decent science-fiction film.

This post may have spoilers since everyone's had the chance to watch the original. There are no new twists in this film.

Total Recall (2012) is a remake of the 1990 film. Both are loosely based on the 1966 short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick.

The story is about Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker in the future world where all land is destroyed except two continents. Austrailia, now called "The Colony," and Britain which is now the "United Federation of Britain" (UFB). The two are connected by an elevator, The Fall, that goes through the center of the Earth. The poor people work on one side of the Earth and commute to the other rich side. The political system is highly unstable. Quaid goes to Rekall to get memories of being an exciting seceret agent and discovers he really is a secret agent. The movie follows him on the run from the government as he tries to rebuild his memories.

The acting is solid. Kate Beckinsale plays Quaid's wife Lori and does a great job as the supportive wife and traitor. In this version she's a highly skilled fighter and agent and has a lot more to do. Jessica Biel plays the mysterious woman Melina who seems to know a lot about Quaid's past and they have great chemistry. Bryan Cranston plays Chancellor Cohaagen, the ruler of the UFB. Ruthless doesn't even begin to describe him. He gives every line with a snarl and a threat. Unfortunately, this film lacks the character development from the first film. But, that's just the beginning.

The key ingredients of a good remake is taking what was great about the original and expanding on it. Total Recall throws out ideas from the original and takes it in a completely different direction. That could be a good thing, but in this case it's not.

Mars is gone, but so is the theme of adventure and exploration. Its replaced with a yearning to be something more. The mutants are gone and replaced with the lower class colonists. This takes away the theme of bigotry and replaces it with a class society. Most of the plot twists were in the original film. That means there are few surprises. The ones left are decent though. Cohaagan's plan is interesting, but lacks the power of the first film because we don't care about any of the characters.

Director Len Wiseman has a Blade Runner style vision of the future and it works. The most amazing scenes are set on 'The Fall' and they're spectacular. The special effects and action scenes are amazing and powerful. Every now and then they throw in a reference to the first film (like the fat "Two Weeks" lady) and it feels forced. Frankly, the plot and concepts are original enough that it didn't have to be a remake at all. Take those elements out and you have a decent sci-fi film.

Overall, it's not a bad movie. It's pretty good in some places. The biggest flaw is it's trying to live up to the reputation of the first film. Which is too bad because it could have aimed higher. The original short story is brilliant. 2 out of 5 stars

Would you see this film? If you did what do you think of the remake? Have you seen the original?
[Image Source: rottentomatoes.com]

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  1. The problem in Hollywood right now is they're terrified of doing anything new or original, so everything has to tie in an established property whether it's a comic book, video game, series of novels, or a prior movie despite that this can set movies like this one up for failure because people compare it to the original instead of viewing it on its own merits.

  2. I love the short story and I loved the original film. I was skeptical about seeing this even though Colin Farrell is tons more talented than Arnold. Len is usually a hit or miss director so that did not raise my expectation level, either. I think I'll wait til Netflix after reading your thoughtful review.

  3. Taking Mars out was the first misstep. Didn't they learn with John Carter that taking Mars out is NOT a good thing? Shame, I'd looked forward to seeing Kate in a bad girl role.

  4. jeremy [retro-zombie]August 14, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    i refuse to see it... boo on hollywood!

  5. It is not a remake!!! Also, would someone please explain how the first Total Recall has suddenly gotten a Star Wars reputation?

  6. Hollywood has been playing this game from the very beginning. The only thing that;s changed is the presence of the Internet.

  7. Pat, they're trying to cut advertising costs by using a product everyone knows. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

  8. Melissa, this is a rental movie. Not bad, but not worth spending money on. Now if they actually did a movie based on the short story it would be great.

  9. Kate was fine in this movie Alex. When she switches from an American to a British accent it really sells her character change.

  10. I am surprised how many people love Total Recall Tony. It's an OK movie, but pretty cheesy.

  11. I remember the humor from the original total recall movie. It has memorable moments which are funny. Remember when the taxi guy says 'Hey I got 4 kids to feed' Quaid doesn't fall for it. 'So what happened to no5?'
    Ahh shoot! You got me!
    In any case I'd say Colin Farrel makes a fair hash of it in the remake.


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