Total Recall (2012)

Hey, at least we got the three-boobed hooker.

Colin Farrell stars as Doug Quaid, a factory worker who decides to turn to undergo a procedure to turn his dream of being a super-spy into real memories to escape his frustrating life. But when the operation goes terribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man and the line between fantasy and reality gets blurred.

The original 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger/Paul Verhoven sci-fi classic Total Recall, was a great movie but it was never screaming “Remake!”. Actually, it holds up pretty well on its own terms but I was able to give this film a try all because of the cool look, awes0me special effects, and two sexy leading ladies involved. The latter one never comes into play unless its with unnecessary remakes like this.

This remake is directed by Len Wiseman and his visual direction, is spectacular. This whole film is one big CGI-trip right from this dude Wiseman’s mind but it looks superb, almost like you’re in this futuristic Earth with these characters. Some people will be bothered by the CGI and special effects and say that it’s there too much, but it never looks goofy and it always makes everything look a whole lot cooler than I expected. Something exactly this film needed in the first place, and thankfully, had.

Other than looking pretty, Wiseman also makes this remake a whole lot of fun that just would not quit it with the action scenes. There’s a lot of mono-e-mono fights that happen here, plenty of shoot-outs, a cool car-chase, and even a chase through an elevator shaft that seems to never end, and they all add a whole bunch of excitement to this film and it never seems boring because of this. Wiseman brings an element of fun to these action set pieces, and because of that, my attention never fully left the screen. Sometimes here and there, it felt like Wiseman was just adding another random scene of action in here just to keep things alive and well, but I can’t really get on his case too much for that since it did so well with what it had and there’s never, ever a problem with just trying to have some fun every once and awhile. It’s not your typical, old Arnie fun, but it’s fun none the less.

Problem is, as fun and exciting as this action may be, there’s always one element that makes it all feel somewhat empty: tension. Seeing the original, knowing everything that happens, and why it does in that movie, I went into this flick expecting no surprises either, which is exactly what I got. There’s only a couple of things that are different from this movie and that movie (no Mars, the explanation of what happens to this guy Quaid and why, etc.) but never was there some sort of twist/turn in the story that I wasn’t already expecting. There was probably only one scene where I actually felt some type of tension in this story as I didn’t really quite know was going to happen next in this situation these characters got caught up in, but sadly, it ended predictably, as this film did. Everything just happened and went by the same exact-formula the original went by and even though not all remakes can just totally change all of their source material just because they want to be different, there still has to be a level of unpredictability to what’s going to happen next and how. But if you don’t have that, then just feast your eyes on plenty, and I do repeat, plenty of eye candy.

It’s also weird that this film is almost exactly like the original, because everybody involved with this film has gone on the record to say that they aren’t going to make this like Arnie’s classic film at all, which is obviously bullshit. The only times that this film actually tries to connect with the original, is when they randomly have the three-boobed hooker show up even though it makes no sense in this story because there are no mutants in this world. Just some very sad and poor people. But what that scene brought, was a certain level of humor to it, the rest of this film has barely any or none of that. It’s a shame too, because as cheesy as some of the humor in the original may be, they still has some classic Arnie lines that are worth reiterating almost 22 years later, but that’s what this film never brings to the table. There’s never any of that wry humor that livens things up quite as well as those classic lines did in the original, and I get it, it would have totally seemed misplaced in a film like this but there could have been something a little light that could have shown up.

I can’t remember the last time that Colin Farrell has ever been the main actor in a mainstream flick, but I can say that I have at least missed him in these types of roles since he’s good here as Douglas Quaid. Let’s face it, Farrell is not as colorful or wild as Arnie, but for what it’s worth, Farrell does a good job at making us like this guy by what he can do with his fists and also at least care for him just a teentsie-tiny bit when the shit starts to hit the fan for him. His character was maybe a little more dull than the original, but then again, I wasn’t expecting to just fall in love with this guy and almost tear up whenever danger came his way. Maybe that’s a little too drastic for a film like this, but you get what I mean.

Jessica Biel cooked some behinds as Melina and may not be as bad ass as I would have liked for her to have been, she still at least had some sympathy to her that made me care for her character and understand why she would do everything in her power to protect this Quaid guy; Bryan Cranston appears in his 200th film this year here with his performance as the evil mofo, Cohaagen, and it’s sad to say that we don’t get enough of him but with what we do get from him, it’s pretty good; and Bill Nighy shows up for about a scene and is good, but just like Cranston, not enough of him either. Still pissed to hear that Ethan Hawke got his cameo cut but hopefully he’ll all show them when it comes time for him and his movie Sinister.

The one high-spot of this whole cast would probably be Kate Beckinsale who plays Quaid’s wife/hunter, Lori. Beckinsale is a chick that I’ve never been too fond of when it comes to her acting, but she’s able to do something great here and that’s play a villain that you can never trust. Beckinsale actually seems like she’s having a ball with this role as the baddy and gets to use a lot of her bad ass fighting skills to show it off and also have that sexy little change in her accent from American to British that always works when it comes to villains. I would like to say that I look forward to seeing Beckinsale in the future, but the fact is, I don’t really care all that much because as good as she may be here, she’s still going to churn out another crappy Underworld movie within the next year or so and I’m going to be sitting there wondering what all of this fascination about her is. Oh wait, she’s really, super-duper hot. Never mind!

Consensus: With plenty of fun action to keep your mind wired and wonderful special effects to keep your eyes glued onto the screen, Total Recall does it’s job in being an entertaining piece of Summer action, but what it does suffer from is barely little or no surprises whatsoever in the story, and just sort of pales in comparison to the original Arnie classic that is still fresh in peoples minds, believe it or not. It’s like re-booting Spider-Man, oh wait….



  1. We’re on the same page here Dan. The eye candy was there for sure, Farrell looking quite buff and the ladies for the other gents. Problem is it’s just too much chase and not enough substance. Geez Farrell smashes more glass shooting it, falling through it or flying through it than a bull in a china shop yet he bounces off some gondola cover. I liked the ending, it had me wondering in an Inception way. I never saw the original so I’m fresh on this. I really liked the look CGI or otherwise. Makes me want to see Blade Runner another film they don’t need to remake as I hear it is a modern classic. Gotta watch it off Zune or whatever that VOD app is called on my new Xbox.

  2. yes, biel was not as hard as i’ve seen her be in previous movies, but she was serviceable. while the movie was fun, i thought it severely lacked the tension as you say it did. it also lacked the sheer dire look of the environment. this was a bit of a flop for me. it just didn’t live up to the original, which wasn’t even a hard movie to look up to.

    • The original isn’t perfect, but there’s just something about it that’s a whole lot of fun. This flick, has that fun element, but never brings up the full tension and suspense of it. It just sort of lingers with a couple of cool set pieces. That’s it, really.

  3. Gave this movie the same score with essentially the same criticisms as you, but there are a few things you pointed out that I especially agree with. For one thing, remaking a movie like this with so many plot twists does completely rob it of the suspense we’d otherwise feel. It would be like watching a remake of Fight Club, the twist just wouldn’t hold any weight and subsequently neither would the rest of the movie.

    Quick note though I just assumed the three boobed hooker was a result of plastic surgery and not mutation which seems perfectly feasible to me but nevertheless surprising that they allowed it into a PG-13 movie.

    • I was very surprised that this was PG-13 because it seemed a little too racy with certain stuff, but I guess that’s just a sign of the times and films are allowed to get meaner and meaner, and shown to a wider audience. Thanks!

  4. I also felt the fun was sucked right out of it, everything that was fun about the original is gone. But the flick is entertaining and fast paced, the fx rule…but as you say, very little in the way of surprises.

  5. Absolutely does pale in comparison to the original, unfortunately. 😦

    And kudos for pointing out that the three breated hooker is out of place because the film doesn’t address mutation anywhere else! LOL. I hadn’t even thought of that. That’s a good catch! Sharp!

  6. I agreed with a lot of your points, but since we disagreed on the action (I thought the overuse of CGI made it unrealistic and therefore dull) I came away with an overall negative impression.

    You’re completely right in that there’s zero tension in this movie, and since there’s so little humor and (IMO) no action of any interest, the whole ride seems to go on foooreeeever.

    I also have to ask: What about Jessica Biel’s character made you sympathize with her/understand her motivations? I felt like she had zero character development, and they didn’t give her any dialogue of substance. I think ONCE she said something about “helping the people of the Colony” but other than that it was just “We have to leave!” “Get in!” “Do you remember me?” “Don’t shoot!” Nothing there to show any depth at all.

  7. I liked this film. You and I mentioned some of the same things in our reviews (the great designs of the cities, the change of accent, etc.) I didn’t have a problem with the lack of twists for someone who had seen the original. I was actually hoping they weren’t going to try to change something major just for the sake of putting in a new twist (i.e. Biel’s character actually being evil).

    One note on something in your review and in the comments. The three breasted woman is not the least bit out of place. Tens of thousands of women today have the same situation (polymastia) and it is completely natural. I even mentioned it in my review because the same comments have come up on IMDB.

  8. I was going to go see it this weekend but for some reason, your review actually confirms my thoughts. I’m definitely fond of the original but for reason I’m so reticent about this…I know its probably a somewhat solid action piece but yet, I feel like we have a rental movie instead.

    Good job Dan!

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with your statements and a lot of the comments posted here. This remake was visually impressive but dramatically flat. Also, it just wasn’t as much fun as the original.

  10. […] “With plenty of fun action to keep your mind wired and wonderful special effects to keep your eyes glued onto the screen, Total Recall does it’s job in being an entertaining piece of Summer action, but what it does suffer from is barely little or no surprises whatsoever in the story, and just sort of pales in comparison to the original Arnie classic that is still fresh in peoples minds” – Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews […]

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