Total Recall

Or you could also call this film Total Rehash.

Remakes are always tricky. They shouldn’t be, considering there is usually about a decade or so between the original and the remake. In this case, Total Recall is remade 22 years after the original. At face value, this gives the new makers the advantage of using technological advancements in film production compared to when the predecessor was made. However, no matter how many times a film is remade, the only true constant is the story. How it is told defines the necessity of the remake and its reception. As far as reception is concerned this is the kind of movie where the audience claps in the end. Only because it finally ends.

 Towards the end of the 21st century, Earth is decimated by chemical warfare, thus displacing human population into just two inhabitable territories – The United Federation of Britain and the Australian continent renamed as the Colony. People in the Colony, a select few, work for people in the Federation (UFB). This makes the UFB the ironfisted aggressor while the oppressed citizens of the Colony are secretly assembling a resistance. With a revolution on the horizon, Colony worker Douglas Quaid (Collin Farrell) has to console himself with a nine-to-five job at a UFB robot factory. Jaded with this routine, Quaid decides on an artificial memory implant at Recall. Almost instantly, all hell breaks loose. Quaid becomes a high priority target of the UFB and wanted as a covert member of the resistance.  Worse, his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) turns out to be a covert UFB agent hell-bent on taking him down. Confused and on the run, Quaid finds Melina (Jessica Biel), a woman who holds the key to his true identity.

 So far, the plot feels like a recall, if you will, of the 1990 original. The execution however, leaves much to be desired. On the upside, returning viewers will find some well-placed icons borrowed from the original, including a woman capable of nursing triplets simultaneously. Paul Cameron’s cinematography deserves a mention for being a cross between Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. For a 2012 movie, this is nothing new but deserves a nod for art direction. That being said, some viewers may find strong lens flares and strobes annoying enough to induce epileptic seizures.  The downside is just about everything else.  There is a heavy dose of action but it soon gets repetitive in nature. Quaid and Melina are expert platform jumpers. They get to do this a lot; on and off and through elevators that seem to move in all directions. Between elevators they also get to dismember a hoard of forward marching robots. All 50,000 of them. Between robots our protagonists must jump across more platforms to evade Beckinsale’s Lori, who keeps up with the chase like a product placement for a heavy duty battery. All of this goes on like a medley, and then you clap at the end.

Bringing back characters from the original would have been a good thing if these characters were given adequate depth to drive the story forward. Instead, director Len Wiseman has the odds in favour of high octane action while snuffing out the humane aspects of thriving in a post-apocalyptic world. With Mars and mutants out, the story leans toward an altered ending by relying on the manner in which people travel between both territories. This is where the remake branches off from the original in giving the story some originality. Viewers who have not seen the original may also find Farrell better suited as Quaid than Arnold Schwarzenegger was. Then again, in retrospect there is simply no replacement for those cheesy one-liners that made Arnie a popular action movie icon. Our lovely ladies Beckinsale and Biel are best seen in cat-fight mode although the former has some of the meatier butt-kicking scenes and ends up as the main antagonist. Their inclusion adds to the eye-candy, no doubt. Other supporting roles are interjectors at best, from Bokeem Woodbine as Quaid’s friend, and Bill Nighy and John Cho in roles too short to be considered cameos.

In the end, the impression left by the original remains stronger. Objectively, this remake doesn’t even qualify as popcorn entertainment irrespective of one having seen the original. What do they call leftovers packed into a pie and thrown back into the oven? Rehash! Only this one is half-baked.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.