Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

Columbia Pictures
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence ad action, some sexual
content, brief nudity, and language)
Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
Starring: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan Cranston
Action | Adventure | Sci-fi

The forgettable Total Recall is a noisy, CGI-embellished hoarder’s closet full of hand-to-hand combat, droids, fast camera position changes, and explosions…and that’s about it.

It may be inspired by the disturbing, brain-bending classic that was Total Recall (1990), but is this lifeless and soulless shell of a movie trying to actually destroy our minds like the poor saps who were said to have been lobotomized in the movie? Well, you might guess so, and maybe even if you are too young to have seen the first film.

Only a few things remain the same and quite a lot has changed. Mars is no longer in the picture. Everything happens on a dystopian earth where chemical warfare has ruined the planet and a corrupt dictator, “Cohaagen” (Bryan Cranston) oppresses the masses while ruling with an iron fist. And he laughs maniacally while doing so. That three-breasted whore in the Martian bar, she’s back.

“Douglas Quaid” / “Carl Hauser” (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker, who, despite having a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale), decides to visit Rekall, a company that turns the fantasies of its clients into implanted memories. When a trip to use their services winds up with him on the run from the authorities, he begins to suspect that he is a spy with a past that would – should he be able to remember it - not make him proud. In a desperate measure to find the meaning behind it all, Quaid / Hauser must let “Melina” (Jessica Biel) and “Matthias” (Bill Nighy) help him to save himself and potentially millions of lives.

Now should you decide to pay your hard-earned money to see it, you had better be über-bored or else what will definitely not be saved is the value of your dollars spent. What starts out with a faster and more aggressive pacing than the original film starts to lose us with the very visuals it so impressively offers up as part of its total package. The cities are perfect for the kind of “leaping without looking” that is done in chase scene after chase scene where there’s almost no way to fall to your death since you can always catch onto something. And the nick-of-time saves from certain doom around every corner are passed out liberally like lollipops at a 1950s democratic presidential campaign.

So much is happening on screen at any given time. The robots (called “Synthetics”) are just like Star Wars storm troopers, just less effective at their jobs (in fact, they seem to get in the way most of the time or else get destroyed). But the guns, they sound cool as hell, as are most of the close-quarter brawls and martial arts sequences. And if the object of a movie were to have a lot of techno-crap on screen, with constant whining and starting and stopping, this would be competing side-by-side with some of Michael Bay’s crap for the title of World’s Best Movie.

What we don’t have much of is, well, a movie. On any other project, Farrell would be using his magnetic personality with that deadset-ness in his eyes of a super cop or war hero, but here, he’s a noticeable step behind Arnold whose bulging biceps glistened while his face contorted in screams when braving exposure to the unforgivable Martian atmosphere.

Beckinsale’s “Lori Quaid” is intense enough, but like Cranston’s Cohaagen, we never buy into what they give us. Only those with the lowest viewing expectations would or could be won over by anything offered here, whether they’ve seen the first movie or not. And another thing that lags behind is the shell-shocked emotion, that under-your-skin creepiness that came with the crafty humor, which was quickly burned into memories the world over with the 1990 film. Not here.

The unnecessary speeches, the dialog that has a hard time selling itself, weak writing, and an utter lack of wit, are what won’t allow this to succeed. Even the characters, which by themselves would fair better, don’t have the diversity of development to make us care about them, leaving this to take its place as yet another pointless and bad remake for 2012.