Brief summary:

Total Recall is a visually exciting film, clearly inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, where everyone in the world lives in England or Australia, but speak with American accents.  While spectacular to look at and quick-paced, the one thing the film lacks that the original had is a sense of humor, instead focusing on spectacle over adventure.  Still, for those who like their action loud and full of kablooie, it’s worth checking out at the local multiplex.

Full review after the jump!

I wasn’t sure how to react to the announcement of a remake of Total Recall.  I mean, I enjoy the heck out of the original, but I wouldn’t say it’s a great film, per se.  It’s got Paul Verhoeven’s touch all over it, and that’s kind of something you either love or you hate.  And, of course, you’ve got the patented Ah-nuld one-liners throughout, a sign of the era in which the film was made.  Despite some slight similarities, call-backs to the original, and character names, the remake wisely strays almost entirely from the original (almost like the other Colin Farrell recent remake, Fright Night).  Rather than have a story involving Mars, the new film instead focuses on a future Earth, where Britain and Australia (known as “The Colony”) are the only safe places to live after chemical warfare has decimated most of the planet.  A terrorist group known as The Resistance has been causing trouble for the government and, one day after attending a “mind altering” virtual reality program gone awry, Douglas Quaid (Farrell) gets wrapped up in a government conspiracy that affects every human life on the planet.

Kate Beckinsale takes over the role played by Sharon Stone in the original.

Comparisons to the remake are inevitable, obviously.  Especially since the remake takes the name of the movie, and not actually the name of the short story upon which both took their inspiration (“We Can Sell It To You Wholesale,” by Phillip K. Dick).  Though the new film is vastly different, it plays more towards the modern summer blockbuster audience.  Even the “dirty” Colony feels a little clean and futuristic, whereas the original kind of delved into the depravity a bit, with its emphasis on ultra-violence and sexuality.  The new film is sexy-looking, but not sexy, if that makes any sense.  Like a hot girl who acts like a man, essentially.

And of course that’s not to say it’s bad.  In fact, it’s an exciting summer blockbuster and moves at such a quick pace, it’s almost exhausting (supposedly over 20 minutes were removed from the original cut).  It’s just not terribly fun.  There a couple of one-liners (nothing along the levels of, “consider this a divorce,” though), but nothing resembling the charisma and fun that they seemed to be having making that original film.  Colin Farrell does a good job as the lead, basically acting confused throughout the film except when he has to kick some ass.  Beckinsale turns on the aggression as one of the badass antagonists, but doesn’t really shine or bring real villainy to the piece.  She’s more like a Terminator than anything else, honestly.  Jessica Biel…well, she’s in this movie, and that’s as much as I really remember about her performance.

It seems like there were moments where the film tried to break away from just being pretty and actually tried to be something more, but they’re far too short and far between.  The direction by Wiseman shows how far he’s come since Underworld.  I think he’s really destined for great things, if he can do a film that’s genuinely embraced by general audiences. Though some decisions were made in the movie that made no sense (why did all these overseas actors have to fake American accents?  Why cast such big names for what were essentially cameos?), and some much needed fun needed to be injected into the film, Wiseman doesn’t seem like he was the weak link in the chain.

Ultimately, Total Recall is a visually exciting film, clearly inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, where everyone in the world lives in England or Australia, but speak with American accents.  While spectacular to look at and quick-paced, the one thing the film lacks that the original had is a sense of humor, instead focusing on spectacle over adventure.  Still, for those who like their action loud and full of kablooie, it’s worth checking out at the local multiplex.

Paul Awesomeness Score - 6

2 thoughts on “Madness at the Movies: Total Recall

  1. Thanks for the review was undecided about watching it but will wait for it to come out on dvd like I did for Captain America which i regret doing but don’t see any reason to watch this at the cinema, nice to know Colin Farrell tried his best though…
    For me the original and the fact it involved Mars was more interesting, makes me wonder what would have happened if they had staged it there instead of turning it into another Britain is the baddie concept?
    Sorry if that sounds unfair but thats what it projects to me, hopefully I’ll find out otherwise when i finally watch it… well first things first better buy the original!

  2. I went and saw this as well over the weekend. I have to agree that it was very pretty science fiction movie, but that is all that it had going for it. It felt like everyone was phoning in their performances.

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