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Total Recall

2012-08-31 09:06
 
Total Recall
What it's about:

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) thinks he's an ordinary guy, with a boring job and a beautiful, loving wife (Kate Beckinsale) but when his strong desire to travel to Mars leads him to Rekall, a company that fulfils its clients wildest dreams by implanting fake memories, he soon finds out that his whole life is a lie.

What we thought:

Back when it was originally announced, we were promised that this new version of Total Recall would be a reinterpretation of the Philip K Dick short story on which the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi action epic was based, rather than a simple remake of that film. This might have seemed like your garden variety spin doctoring by an industry that is becoming increasingly infamous for their lack of original ideas, but, for a change, it was a promise that was hardly out of the realm of possibility.

Philip K Dick's original short story, cumbersomely but smartly titled We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, was a brilliant distillation of Dick's favourite subjects of the illusion of reality, the fragility of identity and the tug of war that humanity finds itself in between complacency on the one hand and striving for something more on the other. It was also really, really short.

A faithful adaptation of the story may perhaps, at a push, be long enough to fill an episode of The Twilight Zone, but it would need to be seriously fleshed out to work even as a short feature film.

The original Total Recall took Dick's premise and, without entirely losing what it's ultimately about, turned it into a hyperactive, utterly bonkers and endlessly entertaining futuristic action flick starring Ahnuld in his lank-headed but charismatic prime. It really is a terrifically fun bit of nutso nonsense but it had very little to do with We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.

By going back to Dick's original story, it was entirely conceivable that a very different film could be made out of the same basic material. Its paranoid sci-fi nucleus could have been expanded upon into a smart and allegorical science fiction drama like Never Let Me Go or Dick's own A Scanner Darkly or into a brainy scifi thriller like Inception or Source Code.

They could even have spun it off in an entirely new direction in the way that Dick's The Adjustment Team went from being a short blast of paranoia to a shamelessly romantic conspiracy-thriller when it was adapted into The Adjustment Bureau.

Sadly, Total Recall (2012) was given to Len Wiseman, a director who is known almost entirely for sucking the life out of a potentially great premise through four increasingly awful Underworld films and to a couple of screenwriters who, between the two of them, could never muster up a script better than Die Hard 4.0. And that's to say nothing of the other three guys it took to come up with a plot this stupid.

As such, the new Total Recall has a fairly different plot to Arnie's trash masterpiece, but it's still little more than a straight up action thriller – only this time with all the style, imagination and free-wheeling madness sucked out and with lots of sub-Bourne running and jumping put in.               

Total Recall (2012) is a fairly loud and fast-paced couple of hours but it's still somehow relentlessly dull, charmless and bland and its constant visual references to infinitely superior Philip K Dick adaptations – Blade Runner and Minority Report – only serve to emphasise just how underwhelming it is. It's also interesting that, though it lifts entire lines of dialogue from the short story for the scenes at Rekall, its handling of its "what is real" premise is embarrassingly inept.

The film does at one point try to have us believe that what's going on may well entirely be within Quaid's head but by previously cutting to the perspective of other characters, it proves definitively that it isn't, thereby entirely undercutting the potential paranoid suspense of its premise.

Total Recall totally screws up its own premise, its plot is increasingly stupid (but not in a good way) and it shamefully manages to waste proven screen talent like Bryan Cranston and Colin Farrell, while further cementing Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel as two perfectly decent action heroines desperately in need of better projects.

For a science-fiction film, it's also crucially lacking in smart ideas and high imagination and, for an action thriller, it's somehow quite boring despite its frenetic pace.

And yet, by being merely uninvolving, rather than coma-inducingly dull and lame rather than awful, it's probably still Wiseman's best film to date. Yay?

 
Despite going back to its source and coming up with a brand new plot, Total Recall is an uninspired, uninvolving and unnecessary remake of a gloriously demented 80s trash-classic.

NEXT ON CHANNEL24X

Snowpiercer

2014-10-10 10:59

Add Your Review

(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Jake 8/31/2012 3:10 PM
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The original Total Recall came out in 1990. How does that make it a "80's classic"? Get your facts right.
Johan 8/31/2012 3:42 PM
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Damnit! I knew they were going to mess this up. The one with Arnie is a classic, and will forever be. This just makes me ever more frightful of the mess that awaits with the Robocop reboot. *Sigh.
areader 8/31/2012 5:43 PM
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"...four increasingly awful Underworld films" right where I stopped reading, you complete ape!, & I'll give whatever you write in future a miss for you have the taste-sense of a wilted cucumber.
Gustav Swanepoel 9/1/2012 1:58 AM
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Couldn't agree more.The Underworld franchise started out mediocre at best and nr. 4 was just so terribly bland I didn't even finish watching it. As for Wiseman's direction of Die Hard: not even Bruce Willis could save that wreck and especially not when considering how horrendous his 'sidekick' was in that one. At least in DH3 we had Jeremy Irons and Samuel L Jackson.
Ilan 9/1/2012 7:54 PM
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@Jake. Oops, my bad. I stand corrected.
Hanno 9/2/2012 7:53 PM
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I enjoyed the movie, not nearly as bad as you make it out to be. Special effects looked real for a change. Story line could've been better.
Nick 9/3/2012 4:10 AM
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I agree with Hanno, not nearly as bad as you say it is, in fact I put it in my top 5 of this year's best films, and top 3 of most enjoyable. I thought for what it was trying to be, and trying to say, it was a fantastic movie, rendered beautifully and well acted. I think what is happening more and more to jaded reviewers and audiences, is they go into a movie with expectations. They go in and immediately compare what they see to some other contruct, ergo you a recipe to movie misery. Good luck with that.
Nick 9/3/2012 4:16 AM
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Just looked at your review again and the first 50% is devoted to 'other stuff' - the book etc, and then you sort of start looking at the movie itself before you're off again on the other stuff, Blade Runner etc. Try to watch a film and review it based on what it is, not what you think it should be, or what it reminds you of. My guess is you wanted to go to Mars and when you didn't, got confused and frustrated. Give the filmmakers credit for their reinterpretation, because that's exactly what it was, and well done at that.
Winston 9/3/2012 7:41 AM
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I enjoyed the movie, I think both movies were great. The first one was made years ago and in a different era of film making, they used the good old out the box thinking special effects with Arnie running around where nowadays its all computer generated effects and a lot different in approach to film making.
Anthony 9/4/2012 12:26 PM
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If this new one doesn't have the 3-boobied-alien from Mars, then I will never like it!
Gail 9/5/2012 9:15 AM
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I was going to give it a miss, but after Mark's comments I think that movie critics should be taken with a pinch of salt - I mean look at the Academy Awards - the artsy fartsy stuff is supposed to be brilliant!!!what's wrong with a bit of action and fast-paced movies? Total Recall 2012 fills a generation in on what they missed!
Gail 9/5/2012 9:19 AM
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I was going to give it a miss, but after Mark's comments I think that movie critics should be taken with a pinch of salt - I mean look at the Academy Awards - the artsy fartsy stuff is supposed to be brilliant!!!what's wrong with a bit of action and fast-paced movies? Total Recall 2012 fills a generation in on what they missed!
Gail 9/5/2012 9:22 AM
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Sorry - my mistake - I meant Nick...
Gail 9/5/2012 9:22 AM
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Sorry - my mistake - I meant Nick...
Timothy Hill 9/5/2012 11:06 AM
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In a world where remakes, reboots and re-imaginings seem to be the pinnacle of 'fresh' thinking, this terribly derivative movie serve as a warning to greedy Hollywood studios: DO NOT GO THERE! Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and the rest of the cast seem constantly to have to supress sad laughter at the rediculousness of the whole mess. It's a shame, really. The original Total Recall was such a richly detailed movie, this film just missed the whole point.
Timothy Hill 9/5/2012 11:07 AM
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In a world where remakes, reboots and re-imaginings seem to be the pinnacle of 'fresh' thinking, this terribly derivative movie serve as a warning to greedy Hollywood studios: DO NOT GO THERE! Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and the rest of the cast seem constantly to have to supress sad laughter at the rediculousness of the whole mess. It's a shame, really. The original Total Recall was such a richly detailed movie, this film just missed the whole point.
Joe 9/11/2012 4:05 PM
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I did not want to watch this movie before. But now that I read the review, I want to go and watch it. Curse you reviewer, curse you.
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