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Total Recall Review

Steven's Rating: 6/10 Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.3/10 (2 reviews total)   Total Recall came out in 1990, and as with any remake — especially of a film not even 30 years old — it will beg the question of why Hollywood sees it fit to (fittingly) implant memories of a new one in our brain. The answer doesn’t really exist. Sony clearly didn’t make the movie for creative reasons or some newfound relevance that Philip K. Dick’s story We Can Remember it For You Wholesale didn’t have in 1990 that it does now — it made it for commercial ones. Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is pretty perfectly comparable to a high-tech theme park ride, or at least it is most enjoyable when thought of as such. Actually, experiencing a ride based on this movie would be quite awesome; its strengths are without a doubt the visual effects work, the futuristic world-building and the countless action sequences. Honestly, there’s nothing egregious about the film, just a lot of stuff that’s arbitrary. The story packs no surprises except for those unfamiliar with the Paul Verhoeven original, so it feels at times formulaic and predictable, but it masks it all effectively with distracting and creative visuals. The film is never boring or silly (actually, it’s rather humorless, especially in comparison to the original), just a bit uninspired. All the talent in this film provides enough serviceable quality to create a two-hour diversion. Colin Farrell makes for a watchable Douglas Quaid, a factory worker who finds out he’s a top-flight super spy and all his memories have all been fabricated and put in place of some very important ones. Kate Beckinsale breaks out all her Underworld training to play his “wife,” who turns into his relentless pursuer and physical equal, and Jessica Biel plays a self-capable love interest. The characters are all one-note, but convincingly one-note, and in doing so they keep the focus on the always-moving plot. I wouldn’t say we care about them, but we’re invested in their outcome. Futuristic context wise, Mars is out of the picture in this version. Humanity lives in two nation-continents, the wealthy United Federation of Britain (what would be Europe) and The Colony (what would be Australia), a slum of sorts. A giant transport called “The Fall” travels through the middle of the Earth between the two. A resistance force led by Matthias (Billy Nighy) has been growing stronger and threatens the rule of Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). The socio-political backdrop is just that, however, a backdrop. The story rides on Quaid’s pursuit of his identity. He’s unsure whether it’s all real, which leads to a pivotal Inception-like moment in the middle of the film. There are some interesting ideas about memory at play, but only when the script is willing to spare a minute. The rest leans heavy on plot, exposition and action. The trailers provide just a taste of the lengthy and at times relentless action sequences. They don’t disappoint and the CGI involved is rather convincing, impressive considering it’s likely that an abundance of the film was shot on green screen. The creativity is focused toward spectacle rather than function within the story, but the results do not include boredom. The film earns points with its many technological gadgets. We get stuff as simple as an LED touch screen on a refrigerator for notes, pictures and lists (we’ll probably use that the future, right?) to the more complicated such as a phone implanted in one’s hand or a magnetic highway system for cars. It all feels practical and organic to the world the film creates as well, not simply for a coolness factor (though that certainly plays into it). In general, the world is much more rich than the 1990 film. Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “Quaaaid,” “HOWzah” and “COHaagen!” won’t be treated to any adequate replacements, though there are a few homages to look out for, such as when Quaid uses a hologram disguise to get through transport security. Regardless, comparisons to the original, especially ones used in attempt to understand this film’s existence, are futile. Audiences will be best served to just lay back and suck on the eye candy. Good theme park rides give us a sense of “being transported,” the shallowest definition of a quality experience, and not feeling like you wasted your time waiting in line. Total Recall offers that. Certainly we want different things from a movie than we want from a a theme park attraction; Total Recall is the overlap. Rating: 6/10 Simon thought: "To compare this Total Recall with the Schwarzenegger original is a hugely unfair thing to do. Not because when a classic property is remade parallels shouldn’t be drawn, but rather that they are such entirely different movies. Quite frankly, if they had opted to name this movie something completely different, only purists and movie buffs would have been able to pull out familiar plot points. So that begs to the question: why, when you have such a different beast on your hands, would you carry on a name that is going to invite comparisons to a cult classic? I’ll just digress, because sometimes I just can’t understand Hollywood. What we do have with this 2012 update is a slick, well-acted bit of sci-fi pulp with unique visuals and some strong ideas. It’s really only when villains start revealing their plans instead of shooting and twists pile upon twists that Total Recall looses its grip. Still, this is one remake that doesn’t insult everyone involved." Rating: 6.5/10


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