Total Recall (2012)
Director: Len Wiseman
Writer: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill
Based On: “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966 Short Story) By: Philip K. Dick; “Total Recall” (1990 Film)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy
Country: USA & Canada
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 118 minutes
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
USA Release: 8/3/2012
On DVD (USA): 12/18/2012
Like every year it seems we can not escape the notion of remaking a film whether it was good or not. “Total Recall” is now just another to add to the list, although the original is mostly considered to a cult classic that delivers a great story, Hollywood has decided it needed a face-lift after 22 years. It’s said that this version is suppose to be closer to Philip K. Dick’s 1966 short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, now I don’t know about that since I haven’t read the story. But we will just have to see if the balance between action and story-line are anywhere near even.
After a global chemical war at the end of the 21st century, only two powerhouse nations rose from the ashes although will very little habitable space in either, one is The United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the other is the Colony. Over the years since the war ended the two have fought over who shall be the supreme nation, UFB seems to have more control due to there more structured living environment, where as the Colony resembles something of the slums of today, overcrowded everything. Citizens of either nation can travel back and forth between the two via “The Fall” a huge gravity elevator the goes through the Earth’s core. Our story though revolves around Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) a factory worker who lives in the Colony with his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Quaid, tired of the same routine day in and day out decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories of your choosing. But as the procedure is about to happen Quaid is suddenly told he already has fake memories in his head currently playing out. Soon the police are there gunning everyone down, but Quaid now confused without thinking is able to take out all of the police and escape. On the run Quaid must now figure out who he is, why everyone is now trying to kill him including his wife Lori and how the girl in his dreams Melina (Jessica Biel) is apart of it all.
While there are some great things happening in this remake, the biggest problem for the film lies within the story-line. Now going into this having seen the original 1990 film I knew what the story was going to tell me and of course bring the question that seems to go hand-in-hand with any Philip K. Dick story, could this actually happen one day? The reason of course being that like many science-fiction stories or at least the really good ones, they always have this overwhelming feeling of possibility somewhere in the story. With the adaption of Dick’s stories into films I always seem to walk away feeling that way. But getting back on track, while I walked away liking this movie, I was still disappointed by the lack of storytelling. This version just seem to take advantage of today’s audience lack of attention span and not wanting to think when watching a film. Because this version had tons of action scenes (and yes they are amazing) it unfortunately left little room for the script which seemed to have only 20 pages of dialog. It’s a pity too, because I think if this version was more well scripted instead of relying on action it would have been a really great and appreciated film.
There are also a lot of plot changes from the original and while that is all well and good it still kept things from the original film and what was taken is very watered down and kind of skipped through quickly. It’s like the writers took this in mind when penning the script, “well, if there are people who are seeing this for the first time having never seen the original they won’t really know anything so we can just hardly give them a script beside they are just here for the action. And for the people who have seen the original well then they know the story already so anything we skip over or leave out, then they can just fill in themselves.” Even if that wasn’t what went through their minds, that is the way it comes across after watching this. Either way we avoid Mars altogether except being said in maybe two lines in the whole film and while it seems like the whole oxygen thing is still amidst the storyline in this one, it’s not a major one like in the original. One thing I thought might have been a good thing was the combination of characters like for instance Kate Beckinsale is a combination of Lori (the role Sharon Stone had in the 1990 version) and Richter (played by Michael Ironside in the original version) who was Cohaagen’s chief lieutenant in the original film. It gave Beckinsale a lager role instead of being killed off quickly like Stone was in the 1990 version, but by the end of watching this version I wondered maybe this shrinking of the character list is another reason why it seems like something is missing story wise.
Anyways getting to the rest of the film, I enjoyed Len Wiseman directing, it moved fairly quickly, keeping the overall pulse of the film rather high. The action in the film is beautifully executed and shot, Wiseman definitely know how to make the action really pop just like with the “Underworld” series. They gave the film a nice technology upgrade from the original which you figure since it’s been 22 years. But I think it’s getting kind of clichéd now that every sci-fi film has to resemble a place like “Blade Runner” where it always gloomy and raining. But that aside the set design is probably the best thing going for this film, its very intricate and well thought out. One side is clean and brilliant with elaborate elevators, while the other side resembles the shambles, with the building stacked on top of one another in such a manner that it looks like a child’s building blocks. Before going in to this I was most excited by the car chase scenes I saw in the trailer and I wasn’t disappointed by it in the film, the cars looked amazing (I wish they really existed, I bet everyone does too) and thee chases were high octane. But even with all the intense action sequences with car chases, fighting in elevators that go in al directions, I was still a bit disappointed with the fact that the script wasn’t as well thought out as the set design and action scenes were, I just wanted a little more meat to the story.
As for the cast they all do pretty good jobs in there respected roles, unfortunately some only had short scenes, for instance Bill Nighy and John Cho each only had one scene in the film, but like always it was a joy to see them even if it wasn’t for very long. Some with longer scenes were Bokeem Woodbine and Bryan Cranston, Woodbine played Quaid’s best friend who tries to convince him not to go to Rekall in the first place, aside from seeing him in the beginning Woodbine only pops up in a couple other scenes, his performance wasn’t too bad. For Cranston he played Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen who controls the UFB, and of course he is a bad guy. Cranston shows that he can changes his colors many times over by playing this ruthless dictator who wants to destroy Quaid no matter what.
Left now are the leads, Jessica Biel who plays Melina doesn’t seem to get the opportunity to act which disappoints me because by the end although her character is around from much of the film, on the run though she isn’t given too much dialog just running and fighting. Now that isn’t much difference to the rest of the actors involved in this since I said in the beginning this isn’t much of a story drive film, but I would like to see her really act more, although many think she can’t act, I have to disagree as I thought she was fantastic in “Easy Virtue”, I think that is her best acting to date. As for her rival in the film, Kate Beckinsale I thought was marvelous as a villain, something we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing her do. She was even more ruthless than Cranston’s Cohaagen and had a lot of amazing stunts, which is no surprise after seeing her do most of the “Underworld” films, there were even times I expected her to jump off a building and just walk away like it was nothing just like her character does in “Underworld”. And like I said before although it might have contributed to the missing feeling I had with the story I quite enjoyed having the role of Lori stretched out I think Sharon Stone would have had just as much fun in the original if it had been the same way for her.
And of course we can’t forget Colin Farrell who played Quaid, I think that Farrell did a good job and brought his own to the role. He was great doing all of the stunts which is a given and you can see he give it his all. Unfortunately while Farrell did a great turn as the character he never seems that totally lost and confused you would expect from what just happened to him. His mouth might say he is confused but his body seems to know what to do and where to go and how to react. Where as in the original I think that Schwarzenegger did a better job at getting the point across about how confusing this all is and having no idea what to do or where to go. Yes Schwarzenegger had similar reactions when someone threatened him or was trying to kill him, of course being such a big guy as he is I think his character knew he could taken them, but there was still a sense of being totally confused about how he knew to do such things, and that’s something I didn’t see completely happening with Farrell.
Overall, “Total Recall” isn’t a complete waste, but if your looking for something well balanced and mind bending, look elsewhere. While it boasts some great action sequences and an interesting concept, it’s let down by a script that is obviously suppose to be one that makes us think but it never really gives us much to think about. It could have been something like the “Bourne” series but instead is just a fun little flick like “Lockout“, something to come turn your mind off to, kind of like doing the whole rekall thing itself. Just don’t come in expecting it to be like the original, treat it as a movie that just happens to share the same name.