Bringing Total Recall back to theatres in a reboot circa 2012 would be no easy task. The biggest obstacle would be the comparisons to the 1990 Paul Verhoeven original that was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most critically accepted films and a perennial fan favorite. Schwarzenegger was at the height of his popularity in 1990 and Total Recall – the adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ – was violent, funny and complex all wrapped up in an action packed adventure spanning across two worlds.
That didn’t seem to scare off director Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free of Die Hard) who embarked last year on brining Dick’s story to a new generation with the help of actors Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessical Biel and, oh about $200 million dollars.
In the new Total Recall, Farrell plays Douglas Quaid – an everyday man who works on an assembly line which manufactures robotic police for the city. Quaid has been having strange dreams of late. Dreams where he and another woman (Biel) are being chased by countless men wearing uniforms. The dreams awaken Quaid most evenings, much to the concern of wife Lori (Beckinsale).
Later one day, Quaid decides to go to Rekall – a company that provides clients with implanted fake memories of a life they wish they had. Agreeing to a fantasy of being a secret agent, Quaid takes the Rekall chair readying himself for the procedure when things go horribly wrong. The door then busts open and countless officers surround Quaid guns drawn. Then, in an act of memory reflex, Quaid instinctively (and singlehandedly) takes out each of the surrounding officers much to his own astonishment. This act leads Quaid on a road of discovery. A road that will have him being chased by his wife, the government and a robotic police force controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston) that seem on loan from Lucas’ Attack of the Clones.
The cat-and-mouse action script will have Quaid partnering with his dream girl Melinda (Freedom Fighter Biel) while uncovering an evil plan by the Chancellor that involves the destruction of the resistance and the annihilation of many of the world’s overpopulated country.
If this all sounds like there is a lot going on in Total Recall, you would be correct. Although it is not Inception complex, anyone leaving the theatre for a washroom break might find it hard to again get back on track with the ever evolving story.
But the journey is well worth the cost the theatre admission. Len Wiseman and his team have crafted out the most visually stunning science fiction film of present times. Every scene in Total Recall is a special effects marvel and it is easy to determine where the majority of the reported $200 million budget appears on screen. From the highly original city landscapes to the transportation medium that takes people from Europe to Australia in a matter of minutes through the earth’s core, scene upon scene within the movie dazzle with complex designs and original ideas.
Colin Farrell is easily a more believable ‘everyday man’ than was Schwarzenegger’s Quaid. And Beckinsale is asked to do far more than Sharon Stone’s same character in the 1990 version.
But some of the heart is missing from the update. Gone is the humor that was so essential to the original. There is no pulling of a tracking device through the nasal cavity. No fun quotable lines (“See you at the party, Richter!”). Hell, there isn’t even a Mars or a Johnnycab.
But what there is is a good time. The new Total Recall is a complex and enjoyable summer film that will be hampered by comparisons to the 1990 edition even if the update is more closely connected to Dick’s short story. What audiences can ensure themselves of is a visual treat of epic proportions. Never has special effects been so ingrained into every shot of a film. And even if the film fails to live up to the high box office expectations of the studio bosses, Total Recall will clearly become the new high benchmark for special effect adventures.