Movie Reviews

‘Total Recall’: Almost forgettable

By Travis WongMovies - 03 August 2012 10:15 AM | Updated 10:25 AM

‘Total Recall’: Almost forgettable

Movie details | Photo gallery | Watch trailer | Buy tickets

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The buzz about the film seems to have faded in the past few weeks. After all, the original 1990 film is considered by some as a science-fiction classic.

The good news is that the remake isn’t bad, though it falls far short of the inventiveness of the original, as well as the satire and humour departments. Nonetheless, as an action film it is solidly made, and some of the cityscapes have the originality and weirdness from films such as ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Fifth Element’.

There have been big changes to the story though. There’s nothing about mutants nor Mars, which were major parts of the Arnold film.

In this film, Earth has been devastated by chemical weapons and there are only two outposts left. One located in the UK, called the United Federation of Britain, and the other in Australia, called The Colony. Travel between the two is via a tunnel right through the Earth, undoubtedly a head-scratching proposition.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale). He keeps having nightmares of escaping from a group of robot soldiers with Melina (Jessica Biel). Stuck in a dead-end job, Douglas decides to go to Rekall, a company that is supposed to plant memories of special experiences, but during his visit it is revealed that he’s a secret agent who has lost his memory.

Douglas is hunted down by troops loyal to the UBF and the most vicious of them happens to be his wife, assisted by the robot soldiers and some of the dumbest guys in SF films. Douglas gradually learns more about himself and his past, with plenty of explosions and gunfire.

Directed by Len Wiseman, Beckinsale’s husband, better known for the ‘Underworld’ series of vampire-in-leather versus werewolf series, ‘Total Recall’ does a decent job in the action film stakes, even though the movie relies on a lot of video-game mechanics.

The film also goes at a faster pace, even though it is actually a longer film than the original. The action scenes are extended, but like Wiseman’s previous work, they aren’t so easy to follow.  For the original, there were plenty of WTF moments that just made you wonder what director Paul Verhoeven would come up with next. Here, one can only forward to more chases, narrow escapes and explosions.

In one scene, Douglas and Melina have to jump around on various moving blocks, and you feel like you’re in a three-dimensional recreation of a Mario Brothers game. Some of the robot soldiers also bear a resemblance to those in certain video games.

That said, the story itself, though stripped of some of its best elements, still stands up. Farrell doesn’t have the charisma of Schwarzenegger, and spends half the film looking confused. Beckinsale relishes taking on the bad girl role, though she doesn’t really bring anything different in her performance here from the ‘Underworld’ films.

If you haven’t seen the original, you might find this remake passable. But one sure does miss the sheer weirdness of the original, from Johnny Cab, the taxi robot, to the mutants, as well as Arnold’s bizarre costume that he used to get through immigration.

Yes, there are call backs to the original, including the three-breasted prostitute (which doesn’t make much sense since mutants don’t figure in the story anymore), but while passable, the new ‘Total Recall’ just stirs up memories of how superior the original was.

‘Total Recall’ opens in theatres 2 August 2012


Travis Wong is a film loving geek who got his start from frequenting video shops in JB. He frequented movie theaters more often than school, and received his cinematic epiphany when he watched 'Taxi Driver'. While not driving a cab, he haunts DVD shops, and he currently has the largest remaining collection of VHS tapes and Laserdiscs in the country.