Total Recall – Where to begin?
I could go into detail about the basics of the plot, but if you’ve seen the original several times then this will feel mostly like a bog-standard retread.
Oh, go on then. In short, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) hears about a place called Rekall that will give you the memory of a lifetime, rather like having the best holiday ever but without much of the expense. The potential downside, as explained by his best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), is that it can really screw with your mind and there are reports that some have been lobotomised as a result. However, after a new colleague, Marek (Will Yun Lee), gives him a pass and tells him to ask for Mac (John Cho), he takes up the offer and heads over.
No sooner has he sat in the chair, than Mac points a gun at him and starts throwing all kinds of accusations. Police burst in, leaving Mac and the other workers dead. Surrounded by police, his fate looks certain, but within moments he overpowers the lot in a scene which looks impressive and *was* done by Farrell in one take, but it reportedly took 20-or-so takes to get right. And the chase is on.
And on and on it goes. Where’s Quaid’s wife in the first film didn’t last too long, here, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), gets far longer onscreen, basically playing both that and Michael Ironside’s roles. Of course, given that Ms Beckinsale is the wife of the film’s director, Len Wiseman, she’s not going to bow out stage-left early, but then she is adept to kicking and slapping and does it well. A lot of the time, she may as well be Selene from the so-so-but-still-enjoyable Underworld series.
While on the run, Quaid encounters Melina (Jessica Biel), a woman he’s been dreaming about on a regular basis. In his dreams, he’s a secret agent – the same profession he plans to be when having memories pumped into his head at Rekall. Hence, what is real and what is determined by Rekall? Well, if you’ve seen the original you’ll know the answer to this. And you’ll also see a film which, as I said earlier, feels little more than a retread of that. I was hoping for something engaging in this remake as it’s set in a far more dark world than the original. What you see has a Blade Runner-style setting, but that tricks you into thinking you’re getting more substance than you are.
There are a couple of changes from the original film. Instead of being a construction worker, Quaid builds synthetic police robots. He, and everyone else, lives in The Colony (Australia) and travels through the centre of the Earth to The United Federation of Britain, via “The Fall”, a through-the-ground subway, as it were. These are the only two places inhabitable on the planet.
In control of everything is Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), a man who would probably also get booed if he attended the Paralympics. He’s not a nice man at all, but spends most of his time on a video screen, and is played by a man who sleepwalks through the script, pretty much like everyone else. In fact, all of the cast have done better in the past, so are clearly here just for the paycheque, and that compounds the problem.
Bill Nighy appears as a chap called Matthias, battling on the side of the Resistance, but basically he’s just being Bill Nighy. And despite his Underworld co-star being in the same film, they don’t share screen time here.
On the plus side, there’s a great series of criss-crossing lift shafts, taking in some fighting and jumping between them, and there’s a great appearance from a certain woman who’s just going to be spending two weeks in town…
On the downside, the directing was messy and confused. It had a budget of $125m, and given that films have to gross three times their budget to break even, after taking marketing into account, you have to note that at the time of posting this review it has grossed approx $57m. Maybe it’ll make its money back on sell-thru and rental, but it doesn’t deserve to.
For those who were wondering about the change in BBFC certificate from the original’s “18” to this one’s “12A”, well, when it comes to the violence, it’s mostly synthetic police robots getting wiped out, not real people. And even when humans are killed, there’s no blood, just holes in their clothes.
Additionally, it also feels odd about the timing of this release. It’s made with the feel of a summer blockbuster, yet was put out at the arse-end of summer and completely missing the August bank holiday. Clearly, the studio didn’t have any confidence in this movie. Little wonder, then, that less than two weeks after release, there were just five other people in the auditorium other than us.
Overall, Total Recall (2012) is rarely boring, but fails to be interesting – it’s an experience you’ll soon forget.
Running time: 118 minutes
Released: August 29th 2012
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Viewed at: Odeon Cinema, Trafford Centre
Director: Len Wiseman
Producers: Toby Jaffe and Neal H Moritz
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Douglas Quaid: Colin Farrell
Lori Quaid: Kate Beckinsale
Melina: Jessica Biel
Cohaagen: Bryan Cranston
Harry: Bokeem Woodbine
Matthias: Bill Nighy
McClane: John Cho
Marek: Will Yun Lee
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.