Release date: December 26th, 2012
Running time: 118 minutes
Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Mark Bomback, James Vanderbilt, Kurt Wimmer, Philip K. Dick
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston
In the future we’d like to think all our problems today will be solved. Hunger, disease, homelessness, global warming, war and greed would all be things of the past and we’d wonder how our present selves lived so long struggling with so many things that kept us from moving forward as a civilisation. Yet we rarely see this kind of utopia presented in our movies. Perhaps we just can’t imagine such a life ever being real…
Whatever the case, Total Recall is a film which presents us with a future that’s technologically advanced but in other ways is very much like our present; one where people probably still dream of a better life, if not for the world, then certainly for themselves.
Based on the 1966 short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, this is its second retelling; the first came in 1990 with the Paul Verhoeven film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. This time round it’s Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid, the factory worker who tries to have artificial memories implanted in his mind by a company called Rekall. Before the procedure can take place though, Doug learns he’s actually a spy who’s already had a set of memories implanted.
Realising his entire life as he knows it is a total lie, including his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), Quaid is forced to go on the run as he tries to figure out his real identity and who he can trust. With law enforcement and a team of highly trained killers after him, the pacing of the film becomes frantic with Farrell going into action mode as he teams up with Melina (Jessica Biel), a woman he’s been dreaming about who can tell him more about who he really is and why Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) is after him.
For those who enjoyed the 1990 version and the way Verhoeven directed the action against the backdrop of a Martian landscape, this new version of Total Recall may come as a huge disappointment. Without that backdrop and set entirely on Earth at a time when it’s divided into two territories — the United Federation of Britain and The Colony (formerly Australia) — after the Third World War, it’s t a cold and hostile environment with hints of a steampunk style that would fit right in with 80s science fiction films, but it lacks atmosphere and a sense of humour which I think would’ve helped me engage more with its characters.
Though its lead actors play their parts well, it’s not what I would call inspired casting and for the most parts I found it very difficult to feel involved with what was happening on screen. Yet what it lacks in story, atmosphere and humour it tries to compensate with its action sequences. It doesn’t really help though. The characters are never convincing and for the most part they don’t have anything interesting to say. As for Kate Beckinsale’s character, just how many times she came back to life I lost count. Her relentlessness might’ve added a humorous touch if the film didn’t take itself so seriously for the entire duration.
By the time Total Recall reached its finale and the showdown between Farrell and Cranston arrived, I kind of wanted it to be over already. I’m not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed it had I not been so familiar with the previous version, but while that one remains so memorable after 22 years, this one fails to leave any impact at all.
While younger audiences might find the action and CGI pleasing, those who remember that science fiction is more than that might not find this remake as enjoyable as its predecessor. I can only hope that if another 20 years there’s another remake there’ll be more life in the story and more excitement with what we see on screen. Although by that time, with the advancements in technology and research into how the brain creates and stores memories, we might not even need films anymore if we can have the ideas implanted to make us believe we’ve been on the adventures ourselves.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .