Total Recall: slicker but soulless

By Kelly O’Brien

The latest movie remake to spring out of Hollywood in recent months, Total Recall boasts an all-star cast of Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston. While this reboot, besed on the 1966 short story by Philip K. Dick, retains the original title from the cult classic 1990 Arnie movie, it seems to have borrowed pretty much everything else from the most successful action/sci-fi movies of the past decade. In other words, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Directed by Len Wiseman of the Underworld films, Total Recall is not only fast-paced and adrenaline-pumping, it’s astonishingly well-made. On paper, it’s a box office smash of epic proportions. In reality, however, it’s just another in a long line of technically impressive yet ultimately forgettable action films.

In a dystopian future, the majority of earth’s landmass has been devastated by chemical warfare. Only two habitable areas remain – the United Federation of Britain, and the Colony (Australia/Asia). The only means of transport between these two landmasses is by way of “The Fall” – a mega-elevator of sorts that tunnels through the Earth itself in no less than 17 minutes.

Colin Farrell, a dab hand at sci-fi action at this stage, plays robot-factory worker Douglas Quaid, a melancholic individual living in squalor with his beautiful wife Lori (Beckinsale). Depressed by the life he leads, Doug longs for something more meaningful. His dreams of secret missions lead him to Rekall – a business that promises “real” memories, for a price.  When Doug goes to get his new set of chemical memories, it turns out that the fantasy is a little too close to his existing neural patterns… suggesting that Douglas Quaid, factory worker and married man, may have been a fake memory implant to begin with.

As stated previously, Total Recall is incredibly impressive from a technical standpoint. The visual aspects are second to none, and the CGI works wonders in bringing this terrifying future to life. The acting is also excellent. Beckinsale is not a woman you want to mess with, Cranston, as ever, cannot be faulted, and the only disappointing aspect of Bill Nighy’s performance was that it was far too brief. So why, with every aspect so carefully tailored to the blockbuster specifications, is this film so mediocre?

The problem with Total Recall, is that it’s too perfect. Wiseman is as sleek and slick as his movies, yet doesn’t seem to take any chances with them. This remake seems to get rid of everything that made the original a cult classic – the mutants of mars, the disfigured and pre-cognitive rebel leader Quattro, the unapologetically fake gore… gone are the cringe-worthy one-liners and flawed intricacies that made the original Total Recall so enjoyable. In fine-tuning his remake, Wiseman only succeeded in ridding it of character proving that sometimes, things truly are better left alone.

Last edited: 14/08/12
Reason: misleading sentence modified



9 thoughts on “Total Recall: slicker but soulless

  1. Hey Kelly, calling this film souless might actually be too kind 😉

    However, I did not stop by to simply dump on this lame remake. In reality I saw you had recently joined the LAMB and I wanted to stop by and say hello and welcome aboard. Hope to see you on the forums.

    • Darn it anyway, and I proof read the hell out of it!!

      You’re right of course, and for anyone interested it was written by Philip K. Dick (who also wrote the short story The Minority Report – which was also made into a movie starring Colin Farrell)

      I mean to say based on the 1990 FILM of the same name and based on the short story by Philip K. Dick – I’ll edit it now so that it’s more accurate 🙂

  2. I’ve heard from a few sources that this movie is a bit soulless. Perhaps I should have checked to see who the director was before I got so excited!

    • Do! To be honest, I thought it should be doing far better in the box office. It’s not as good as the original, but it is an enjoyable movie in my opinion. I enjoyed it 🙂

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