Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 sci-fi classic Total Recall gets a slick CGI heavy remake that takes Mars out of the plot, and is easily forgettable.
The film isn’t that bad, but it doesn’t take the time to make the audience care about the characters.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” the remake was directed by Underworld’s Len Wiseman with writing chores handled by Mark Bomback, James Vanderbilt, and Kurt Wimmer. It stars Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, an over-the-top Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho and Ethan Hawke.
Set entirely on Earth, the film opens with a quick explanation of how humanity has run out of space on the Earth and is now basically cut in half between the United Federation of Britain (which is considered home of the wealthy but is quickly running out of space) and the Colony (located in Australia and home to the poor and working class).
Despite its less than glamorous economic standing, The Colony has plenty of room for expansion. The two areas are connected by a giant gravity elevator, known as “The Fall” – which can quickly transport the working class to and from the United Federation of Britain by running through the planet’s core.
Douglas Quaid (Farrell) and his wife Lori (Beckinsale) live in the Colony and Lori is quite happy with their life. Doug can’t help but dream of a better life and even a better wife.
On a trip through The Fall, he talks about wanting more to his good friend Harry (Woodbine) and even contemplates a trip to Rekall – where he can have false memories implanted for a price. Rekall can give him the memories of a better life or dream vacation.
Despite warnings from Harry and Lori, Doug heads to Rekall and signs up for the deluxe spy package which will give him the memory of being a secret agent who is out to save the world.
Doug settles back to begin the procedure when all hell breaks loose and Federation forces bust in to kill him. He is further shocked to find out his wife isn’t as loving as he thought and really wants to kill him.
On the run from his psycho wife, Doug is saved by the woman of his dreams Melina (Biel) who informs him that he is really named Carl Hauser and is part of the resistance trying to overthrow the Federation and its corrupt leader Cohaagen (Cranston).
She is also the daughter of the resistance leader Matthias (Nighy) – who believes Doug/Carl is the secret to bringing down Cohaagen before the Federation’s robotic army can invade The Colony.
With all the players introduced, the film moves at a rapid pace jumping from one huge action sequence to the next, but is so easily predictable the audience doesn’t really care if Doug lives or dies. The audience also has no time to consider whether any of what is happening is real or just Doug’s implanted memories running amok.
Farrell, Beckinsale and Biel are all good in their roles, but none of the actors have time to really matter to the film. It was fun to watch Beckinsale go full villain and you have to love the fight sequences between the three actors.
Farrell is more believable as an “every man” than Schwarzenegger managed to be in the original, but he lacks Schwarzenegger’s charisma in the role or snappy one-liners.
Despite the film’s somewhat bloated use of CGI, Wiseman does a solid job in the director’s chair and keeps the plot moving fast enough so the audience never has a chance to get bored with the film. He knows how to handle large action sequences and the movie looks slick and incredible on Blu-ray.
On Blu-ray, the film comes in both its theatrical and extended cut (about 12 minutes longer) editions. It also features a great blooper reel and several looks at the making of the film.
The remake of Total Recall isn’t a bad movie, but it is easily forgettable. The original film still holds up quite nicely today (despite some dated special effects) and its Mars setting makes it a better sci-fi tale.
Wiseman and company present a slick film that is a fun way to kill a few hours, but it won’t leave you debating if the events after Doug’s trip to Rekall were real or in his head.
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