Remake of classic Schwarzenegger film leaves a lot to be desired.
August 5, 2012 8:43 pmAdam Blackwell
Let's get one thing out of the way first: yes, there is a three-breasted hooker.
Okay, now onto the review.
Based on the Phillip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember it For You Wholesale", and a remake of the classic 1990 Schwarzenegger film of the same name, Total Recall is an action-packed sci-fi epic that follows a factory worker turned government trained assassin on a mission to remember who he really is. Unlike Paul Verhoeven's 1990 version, which had Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting government oppression on Mars, director Len Wiseman's Total Recall takes place entirely on Earth. The film is set in the late 21st century, in the aftermath of a war of apocalyptic proportions that has left most of the world uninhabitable due to the lingering effects of chemical warfare. There are only two populated locations left on Earth- the United Federation of Britain - a 1984-esque metropolis located on the British Isles - and "The Colony" - a dystopia located on the Australian continent. The UFB exploits the people of The Colony for cheap labor via "The Fall" - essentially a giant elevator that travels through the center of the Earth, bringing workers across the world in 17 minutes.
The plot follows Douglas Quaid (Farrell), a simple workman who lives in The Colony with his wife Lori (Beckinsale). Quaid dreads the redundancy of his life - every day he wakes up, commutes via The Fall and spends his day on the assembly line bolting chest plates to UFB police robots. Haunted by strange dreams and fed up with the drudgery of everyday life, Quaid pays a visit to Rekall, a company that claims it can chemically implant memories in its clients, giving them the memories of their greatest fantasies without said fantasies ever actually having occurred. Quaid opts for Rekall's "secret agent" package, and somewhat reluctantly sits down in the Rekall chair. Rekall employee McClane (played by Harol- I mean, John Cho) comments that Rekall can implant any memory, as long as it isn't too similar to a real one. But hey, Quaid's just a factory worker, not a spy, so everything should be great, right? Nope, just as the chemicals begin to flow into Quaid's arm, McClane realizes something is going wrong, and Rekall explodes in a hail of gunfire. Quaid is forced to go on the run from UFB forces, unsure if he is actually still in reality or just living out a chemically induced fantasy.
Initially, Total Recall shows a lot of promise. While Farrell's face is on the poster, the real stars here are the production designers and art directors. Borrowing heavily from Blade Runner, the film's vision of the future is a sci-fi fan's wet dream. Quaid's neighborhood, where much of the first act takes place, is visually stunning- reminiscent of a futuristic Hong Kong. Special effects and CGI are also top-notch; Quaid has access to all manner of technologically advanced gadgets, and he constantly exchanges gunfire with realistic looking police robots in front of epic backdrops.
However, while the visuals are nothing short of incredible, and the "reality vs. Rekall" concept had a lot of potential, the plot is poorly executed and the film quickly degenerates into your run-of-the- mill, ho-hum action film. The movie takes "action-packed" to a whole new level, and not necessarily in a good way. For the first hour or so, the nonstop gunfights and explosions are a lot of fun, Farrell is always on the run from one explosion to the next. Yet, it quickly becomes almost hilariously repetitive. The novelty of watching Farrell run from shit blowing up quickly wears off, and I found myself yawning during the movie's ridiculously cliché "ticking time bomb" third act.
The film's characters are, for the most part, flat and uninteresting. Farrell's Douglas Quaid lacks any motivation for his actions; he never even really questions blasting away at government cops and joining up with the resistance. It's as if the only reason he has for fighting the government is that he wants to hook up with Jessica Biel (but hey, can you really blame the guy?).
Biel's character, the resistance Lieutenant Melina, is easily forgettable, and Bryan Cranston's Cohaagen is so generic-bad-guy that it hurts. I can't really pin the film's character woes on the actors, however, as meaningful dialog is so sparse in this film that even Hollywood's finest acting talent couldn't make the writing any better.
Beckinsale, on the other hand, does an excellent job as Lori, Quaid's wife who turns out to be a government agent tasked with keeping her "husband" in check (you might remember Sharon Stone playing this role in the original, although her screen time was considerably shorter than Beckinsale's, thanks to a well placed bullet from Arnold). Beckinsale has figured out the recipe for the perfect femme fatale. She's sexy, badass, and batshit crazy, making her character one of the film's few highlights. As she chased Quaid through a series of elevator shafts with guns blazing, I wasn't sure whether I was scared of her or turned on. Maybe a little bit of both.
It's inevitable that 2012's Total Recall is compared to its 1990 predecessor, and to me, it's pretty obvious which is the better movie. Wiseman's remake is visually incredible, but it lacks the charm and general sense of weirdness and obscurity that made the 1990 film a classic. Things like Kuato coming out of a colonist's chest, the midget hooker blasting a machine gun, weird mutant children with psychic powers, and Schwarzenegger's one-liners ("Consider that a divorce!", one of the best Arnold lines ever) are what made the original memorable. The remake, however, takes itself a little too seriously and quickly deteriorates from a promising sci-fi epic to your everyday, cookie-cutter action film with a big effects budget. Hardcore sci-fi fans and effects junkies can definitely find something to like here, but given it's redundancy and lack of depth, the film will struggle to keep even the most dedicated sci-fi geek entertained after the first hour.
But hey, there's a hooker with three boobs, so maybe it's worth checking out.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING||2.0|