The original 1990 “Total Recall” is one of my favorite science fiction films of all time. Despite the usual Arnold Schwarzenegger puns spread throughout, the film’s core entertainment was largely emphasized through its complexity of the human memory, frenetic action and satirical elements on society in the future. However, as we fast-forward to the present day where Hollywood being the greedy bastards they are, the film has been remade and modernized for the current mainstream audience. This just makes me continue to ask the question, “Why, Hollywood?”
Likewise to the original, this remake is also a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” which focuses on bored factory worker Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell). Except for having odd dreams and being married to Kate Beckinsale (how could you be bored with her, seriously?), Quaid doesn’t have too much excitement in his life at all.
He decides to go to this place called “Rekall” to have new memories implanted in his head, but something goes wrong in the process where he’s soon pinned as a rogue secret agent. He soon goes on the run from the forces of Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and forms an alliance with a Resistance soldier (Jessica Biel) to fight back.
Compared to Schwarzenegger, Colin Farrell’s performance as Doug Quaid is quite average. He brings more subtle qualities to the character but lacks the exquisite charm that Schwarzenegger had in the original. However, he did manage to kick copious amounts of ass at a similar level in comparison.
Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel both shine most in their action scenes, but they’re still mostly serving as notable eye candy given the film’s grittier and more serious tone on the source material. This is still the best I’ve seen Beckinsale in a while, but it’s also the same kind of performance I’ve expected from Biel in every film she stars in, which is subpar in every quality.
Bryan Cranston is one of the greatest actors working today, especially for starring in the lead of my favorite TV show “Breaking Bad.” Unfortunately, the “Bryan Cranston Curse” has been bestowed upon us yet again, where the character he plays in a film is severely underused when compared to his sensational acting talent.
Cranston’s portrayal of Cohaagen is significantly more serious and sly than Ronny Cox’s in the original, yet the character itself only really appears in the last act of the film. Ironically, the underused villain aspect is something that both this remake and the original share on a profoundly equal level.
On the other hand, from a directing standpoint, Len Wiseman lends a serviceable style infused with solid visual detail and a smarter than average sense for shooting the grand scale action sequences. He also paces the film quite well for the film’s first two acts, where the events occur at a similar frenetic pace off of which the original version thrived. Furthermore, he tips his hat to the fans of the original film several times with a cleverly constructed homage to several classic scenes from the 1990 version.
Unfortunately though, it’s easy to pinpoint that Wiseman shows more interest in the action scenes than the actual story of the film itself. This distraction leads to key story elements being rushed, especially the whole “Is it real or not?” aspect which is slightly touched upon in the first hour, but then completely forgotten in the last act.
All of these problems soon culminate in the film’s climax, which is overdrawn, slowly paced and follows the common clichés of the genre one after another.
Overall, this new version of “Total Recall” is quite a forgettable one, which is a shame because its more serious tone could’ve made it something on par with the original. Despite boasting some thrilling, well-shot action scenes, the rest of the film devolves into an overdrawn, jumbled mess that doesn’t even come close to the having the ability to stand alongside the classic Arnie version.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5