Total Recall – A Review

It has taken me a while, but this week, I have come to the realization that Facebook really gets on my nerves. Having to sift through mindless junk on certain threads that I’m subscribed too can be a real waste of time and energy. Yet sometimes some real pearls of wisdom rise to the surface and make their way to my wall. One particular pearl read “Just saw “Total Recall” and I think I’d like a TOTAL REFUND” In reference to the Len Wiseman remake of the 1989 original. This put me in a quandary because on one hand, I laughed. A lot. But on the other I felt slightly upset as I had been looking forward to this film for a long time.

I usually abhor remakes and see them as nothing more than ways for the film industry to squeeze more money from the devoted cinema goer. But having recently rewatched Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, I conceded that if any film could do with an update, it was that one. The dialogue was cheesy, the film strayed too far from the source material and the effects looked incredibly dated.  And not one for being deterred by what anyone else thinks, and despite all the naysayers on my wall, I decided to give it a try.

Inspired by the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” “Total Recall” is the story of ordinary factory worker Douglas Quaid, played by Colin Farrell.

Despite having a beautiful wife, Kate Beckinsale, he desires an exciting life that he can never have. That is until he makes a trip to Rekall, a company that can implant you with fake memories. After the procedure goes terribly wrong, tells us “the line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.”

The plot description sounded pretty similar to the original, so the question that had to be asked was “How had the film changed and was it for the better?”. Well, the first thing to mention is the look of the film which, in my opinion, is far superior to the original. Verhoeven’s film was too colorful and corny at times whereas this updated version is reminiscent of Blade Runner mixed with Minority Report…with a bit of I, Robot thrown in for good measure. The gritty, dystopian look of one world juxtaposed with the flying cars and high tech gadgets of the other are everything I love about sci-fi films. So, not a bad start, right? Well, sadly, that’s about it for the positives.

Yes, the film looked great as did the effects. Yes, the film has some real acting talent with Colin Farrell and the supporting cast all doing a good job with the script they have, but that script appeared to have been a very small one. You see, after the first 40 minutes or so, the film switches from interesting character study and neo-spy film, to one long chase scene with one explosion after another. I had heard that this film was going directly from the source material, and it certainly showed as the short story is only 22 pages long!

At some point, the decision was made as to what direction the film should go in when expanding upon the story.  And I got the impression that the studio bigwigs decided after the first third of the film was over, the audience would be bored of an engaging story line, and instead would want to see lots of shots of people jumping off things, because it felt like that was all they did!  We see them jumping off buildings, off cars, onto cars, off helicopters, off a massive tunnel type thing, through a window, through a ceiling, onto some plastic and through fire.

There was one point in the film where I let out a frustrated sigh at having to watch another slow mo low shot of people jumping off stuff. While the original film might have strayed far from the source material (for instance, Douglas Quail doesn’t actually go to Mars) it still had a strong storyline throughout with some gripping twists and turns along the way. In this version, it just feels as if the exposition and plot twists are quickly spewed out so that we can have another set piece. And as cheesy as the original felt, I much preferred the little eccentricities added to the story, like being on Mars or the use of mutants for instance. For a sci-fi film that wanted to be out of this world, it felt a little too grounded in reality.

If you could fuse the two versions of Total Recall together, I think you would have the perfect film. The acting and the look of the new film mixed with the plot and twists and turns of the old would provide a perfect balance, but alas, it wasn’t the case and I left the film feeling more than a little disappointed. So it appears that maybe I should listen to Facebook more often as it seems there are in fact a lot of people who know more than I do.  Now excuse me while I go and block some people from my wall…

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Categories: Reviews


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