Regardless of how much we all complained, the immensely frustrating habit that the Millennium had of remaking 80’s action classics continued unabated with a glossy, expensive reworking of Paul Verhoven’s truly mind blowing Total Recall. This wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if we hadn’t already had an impressively neutered version of Robocop a few years earlier, but it looked like we where in for yet another insipid digital retooling of a tactile, analog, flawless masterpiece and low and behold; that’s exactly what we got…
But as time went on I stated to think; am I only judging it so harshly in comparison to something I grew up with and shouldn’t I try to he more impartial and judge the thing on it’s own merits? So with the mantra of 1990’s mutated chest-baby Kuato circulating through my brain, I desided to “open my mind” and try to remember Total Recall 2012…
It’s unsurprisingly the future and due to the usual batch of future-reasons, the most valuable resource on earth is now living space with only what used to be Britain and Australia (now redubbed The Colony) the only viable living areas on the whole planet. Workers living in the Colony must travel through the planet in a rocket powered elevator called The Fall (like it’s an Alton Towers ride or something) in order to get to their jobs proving once and for all that in the future, commuting to work is only gonna suck exponentially more than it already does. Wading knee deep in this hugely unlikely scenario is Douglas Quaid, a blue collar worker plagued both by unrest in his humdrum day to day life and nightmares of him and a strange woman being on the run. Desperately needing a change he goes to Rekall, a place that implants fake memories into the soft, quivering brains of paying customers, but during Quaid’s session something goes noticably South….
It seems that Quaid is actually a mind wiped secret agent that’s apparently stumbled across a plot by a corrupt chancellor to annihilate the lowers classes to clear up more living space and replacing them with robot workers…. or… is… he…?
As Doug goes on the run there’s a very real chance that he’s living out the fake memories implanted in his scrambled noggin and that he’s on the verge of losing his mind for good. As the conspiracy grows ever deeper and his identity gets called into question along with his very reality, Quaid tries to discover the truth while avoiding the numerous attempts on his life by the woman he believed to be his wife…
Competently directed by Len Wiseman – somewhat of a specialist in the field of slick, but oddly weightless action as seen in Underworld and Live Free Or Die Hard – the biggest problem Total Recall actually has is that it’s called Total Recall. Change the title (probably to something stupidly derivative like Future/Past or some shit), remove two thirds of all references to the original movie and fiddle with the character names and you’ve actually got yourself a half-decent sci-fi potboiler that draws heavily from other films based on the mind bending works of Phillip K. Dick (there’s even a floaty car bit ripped right out of Minority Report), but as a remake, you just can’t ignore the fact that it’s yet another personality-free do-over that misses the point of the original entirely.
The original was an furiously violent satire on action movies that leaned hard into it’s knowingly overblown hyper-realism to push the notion that everything you’re watching is actually a dream – Wiseman’s take is nowhere near as smart, delivering a straight forward chase movie with some admittedly cool visuals, but that swaps out the wit for bloodless acrobatics and a top-ten of robot guards that suspiciously look like the ones from the Robocop remake (what is it about Verhoven reduxes that require robot guards – is a Showgirls remake gonna have them too? Actually, don’t answer that.).
Out of nowhere, the film’s one saving grace is Kate Beckensale as the amalgamation of both Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside’s characters from the original who emerges from this mess as a legitimately intimidating foe. The moment she’s activated by Quaid’s triggering she becomes an unstoppable engine of destruction who absolutely will not stop trying to relentlessly murder her quarry and an early scene where she hurtles after her “husband” in an extended foot chase across rainy, futuristic rooftops is one of the few scenes that actually stands out despite simply being merging of The Bourne Identity and Blade Runner. She’s certainly more memorable than everybody else; Colin Farrell is a fine actor, but he’s no Schwarzenegger when it comes to this kind of shit and the usually charismatic Jessica Biel makes even less of an impact than Farrell does which leaves Bryan Cranston to make some very Bryan Cranston-style set chewing while Bill Nighy quietly collects his paycheck.
Somehow managing to be less like Dick’s orginal short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale than a movie that featured a man having his arms ripped off by an elevator, it’s very hard to understand why anyone bothered in the first place and yet oddly, one outlandish thing the film does manage to maintain from it’s earlier incarnation is have a three breasted prostitute come on to the main character – you mean to tell me Mars doesn’t feature at all in this movie but you do include the chick with three tits? Really?
Absurdly polished yet vapid and as costly as a millionaire YouTuber, Total Recall commits the unforgivably, ironic sin of being totally forgettable and ends up being less Total Recall and more of a total brain fart.