Director Len Wiseman has teamed with Colin Farrell to try and reboot a sci-fi classic that has been deemed perfect by many. Wiseman’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story is mostly harmless, but quickly becomes just another forgettable remake, without any defining characteristics or purpose, aside from simply existing for the sake of being a summer blockbuster. Total Recall (2012) is flashy, action-packed and hallow. Not even Bryan Cranston‘s pointless role could save this sinking ship of a film that relies on copying the original in specific areas scene-for-scene.
Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is an everyday factory worker that builds police robots in the near future. His wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is the perfect woman for him, yet he has a reoccurring dream in which he’s with another woman and on the run from some organization. It’s a haunting dream that keeps Doug up at night wondering if he was meant for something else.
Turns out he was, because after visiting a Rekall facility (a place where you get implanted with fake memories) he finds out that he was a spy involved with some higher ups, more specifically Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and Matthias (Bill Nighy). Quaid now finds himself in the middle of a war between two different futuristic clans, both with their own agendas. Everything he thought was real was a lie, including his marriage with his wife and his friendship with his thought to be best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine).
A woman by the name of Melina (Jessica Biel) claims to know the truth about Quaid and offers to help him. Now, Quaid and Melina must continue running from Cohaagen and his henchmen thugs, which consist of actual police officers and their robot companions. If they can make it to Matthias then maybe Quaid can discover the secrets of the past and unlock his true destiny.
Total Recall (2012) is going to split the audiences from the get go. If you have any recollection of the original Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger blood-soaked masterpiece then you’ll probably have a tough time climbing on board with this new version. New comers to the Recall‘s will probably find this adaptation to be a groundbreaking sci-fi film that pushes the visual and action boundaries, while telling a story that is digestible, but mostly incoherent.
The first half of the film is harmless and flashy, with an occasionally impressive closed-quarters fight to keep you awake, but the adrenaline quickly wears off as the film loses momentum and drifts into a lazy and forgettable second half. What makes the film take such a massive nosedive? For starters, Jessica Biel and Colin Farrell have absolutely no chemistry. The two bounce off each other like rubber balls, with the only sparks coming from one of the various exploding set pieces. (Which there are many in the film.)
Colin Farrell is a believable enough lead, but nothing about him screams watch me! He’s average and lacking any real noticeable traits, which sort of fits Doug’s boring lifestyle. He’s not funny, charming or strong (character-wise), which makes him hard to watch, because you simply don’t care if he discovers his true self or not.
Jessica Biel reminds us why she hasn’t been on the big screen in a while, mostly sticking to smaller budget stuff in recent years. She tries to make the love between Melina and Quaid real, but it sticks out as superficial and just another exhausted plot point that we’ve already seen in other films.
Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy have no reason to be in the film, because both men are very talented and yet they’re stuck with roles that show up on the screen for maybe a combined total of 10 minutes. Nighy is especially hard to remember, because he’s mostly shown on monitors or posters and never in person. Cranston doesn’t play up the villain character all that much, because the character itself is lacking definition.
Kate Beckinsale is the only one trying to have some fun and she does that by embracing her character and becoming another badass female lead that can hit just as hard as her male counterparts.
The special effects in the film are big and surely expensive and some of the camera movements are expertly filmed for high-octane action, but they are only there to cover up such a defective script that tries borrowing from the original film, but only gets fragments right, while mostly remaining a simplified version of something much better.
Total Recall (2012) is a watered down and generic approach to a concept that is meant for creative minds. Len Wiseman was the right choice to nail down the action bits and the Blade Runner-looking set design, but the wrong man for the story, characters and everything else that matters when making a good movie.
If you’re in the mood for an unoriginal, sluggish and overcooked mess that excels in art direction, but nothing more, then perhaps Total Recall (2012) is the movie for you, but if you want something new and something different than the previous adaptation you’ll want to stay away from this one.
Total Recall (2012) – 7/10