As with many other memorable Arnold Schwarzenegger films, the 1990 sci-fi action movie “Total Recall” is for one reason or another, held in high esteem. Could it be possible that this remake starring Colin Farrell might actually make people forget about the original? No. Of course not. Still, 2012’s “Total Recall” manages to hold its own as a downright decent and enjoyable piece of science fiction.
The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where living space on the planet has been reduced to the The United Federation of Britain and The Colony (modern day Australia). The people of The Colony are forced to take a massive underground elevator to the UFB in order to find work. One such man is Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), who is beginning to tire of his daily routine. He decides to go to Rekall, a company that provides people with realistic memories of their fantasies. To Quaid’s surprise, he discovers that his “super spy” memory is actually the real one and that he holds top-secret information that could help The Colony’s resistance movement. With the UFB on his tail, he teams up with resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) to sort out this information and to help him uncover who he really is.
Minus the big red planet and mutants, the plot is fairly close to the original but honestly did some things better. The scene where Quaid is being told by his friend Harry (Bookeem Woodbine) that he’s still at Rekall, for example, has much more weight to it than with the President of Rekall (Roy Brocksmith) in the 1990 version. And Hammond (Dylan Smith), who gives Quaid the briefcase in the original and was never seen again, actually comes back in a scene I didn’t quite expect. Other things were done much better in the original, however, like the reveal of who Quaid really is and the whole resistance plot entirely.
The acting in “Total Recall” was serviceable despite some hiccups (figuratively) here and there. Farrell had no chance to outshine Schwarzenegger as Quaid, but he still effectively portrays the character as a desperate and confused average guy who gradually taps into his secret agent skills. Conversely, Biel made Melina a little more likable than her original counterpart. Kate Beckinsale has a few wooden moments, but she still manages to make the combination of Quaid’s wife a suitable foil for the protagonists. And much to my relief, Bryan Cranston made the villain Cohaagen less of a cartoon character, even if he had just about as much screen time as Ronny Cox.
Visuals are very important for science fiction, and “Total Recall” rises to the challenge. Only in a few instances did I get distracted by something fake looking, and the synthetic soldiers looked “Star Wars” worthy. New technology such as a grenade-like device that releases little cameras and an electro-magnetic lasso firing rifle (Burns’ ™) were also pretty interesting, though I found the lack of a hologram projector very disappointing.
As entertaining as this remake was, I just don’t see it as ever being accepted as the “Total Recall” since the original has already captured so many people with its violent and admittedly cheesy charm. However, I do think the creators of the original know this, judging by all those nods to the original (“Two weeks”).
“Total Recall” is rated PG-13.