Take director Paul Verhoeven’s supremely fun Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi vehicle Total Recall and remove everything that made it
enjoyable and unique and you’ll have an idea what to expect in Len Wiseman’s exhausting remake.
Wiseman gives us an overbearing, humorless effects-heavy action film with no sense of pacing and zero character development.
If the original was a mind-bending thriller, the remake is just mind-numbing.
Instead of the class struggle in the human colonies on Mars (where air is the most precious resource), we get a far less involved and far
more clichéd plot involving an evil Chancellor who wants to take over a war-torn futuristic Earth with his army of mechanized soldiers.
Also less involved is the story of Douglas Quaid as he struggles to remember who he is and what is real after his past has been chemically
erased and rewritten. Aside from the initial setup when Quaid visits memory implant company Rekall seeking a virtual adventure, the
memory-alteration aspect that made the original memorable and mysterious is underdeveloped here.
And while I can certainly understand and appreciate not retreading the same material, the fun spirit of the original is completely lost in this
The film disappoints as a tribute to the original and fails miserably as a standalone film.
Both films are based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, but Wiseman uses the basic blueprints to simply fill the brief time between his over-
the-top action sequences.
There is shockingly little in the way of actual plot development and the characters are neglected beyond belief.
One can hardly blame the cast for looking uninterested. Colin Farrell sleepwalks (or sleep-runs and jumps, I suppose) through the entire
film. But then again, he is given nothing to work with in this lazy screenplay.
Surprisingly, only Kate Beckinsale turns in a somewhat memorable performance (A first?).
I can’t recall ever seeing her as a villainess, but she actually has a legitimately menacing presence here. She makes the most of a role that
was greatly expanded for the remake.
I’m sure that had nothing to do with being married to the director.
Besides Beckinsale, the production design is also a mild success; even if the film’s two main locations are heavily influenced by the work in
the more notable Dick adaptations.
The working class Colony is an obvious nod to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, while the United Federation of Britain bears a resemblance to
Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.
I guess if you are going to copy, then do it from the best. This begs the question of why Wiseman distances his film from Verhoeven’s so
It’s a shame because Wiseman’s previous project was the surprisingly adept Live Free or Die Hard, a film that made its own path while
honoring the franchise’s previous success.
One has to question whether he cared about the source material as much here.
This film is an exercise in overkill. Between the frantic, endless action sequences and Harry Gregson-Williams’ noisy, overbearing score,
Total Recall is a headache-inducing affair.
Whether you are a fan of the original or a newcomer, Total Recall is a painful, dramatically-barren film. Wiseman’s disregard for his
characters and failure to adequately present the story’s inherently intriguing plot is damning.
What we get is a miserable barrage of endless chase sequences that assault our eyes and ears.
The sad part is that if the filmmakers had decided to blatantly plagiarize the original film, it would have made for a better experience. Every
single divergence is for the worse.
If Rekall really existed, I would pay them a visit to overwrite my memory of this film with something more enjoyable; such as a root canal…
(out of four)
P.S. J.J. Abrams wants his lens flares back.
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel,
Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography by: Paul Cameron
Released: August 3, 2012; 118 Minutes