When I first learned that Len Wiseman has a new project, which happens to be a remake of 1990 classic sci-fi flick Total Recall, I get excited everyday and follow every single updates about the film. That also led me to watch the 1990’s Paul Verhoeven version that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a bona fide sci-fi actor, which I personally found really funny (I mean the movie). I’m a Len Wiseman fan since the day he started to make the Underworld movies. So, please bear with me if I’m kind of bias about this review.
There are some arguments if the movie will be 100% remake of the original version or loosely associated with Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Honestly, I wish that Wiseman didn’t link his creation to any of these and created his story of his own. Fans of 1990 Total Recall don’t want to look back and convince themselves that something is better than that movie. I don’t want to call this movie by Wiseman a remake – it just so happened that it has a same title and same character names and that’s all.
Let’s check out what are the worthy and awful stuff on the movie here. Please beware of some spoilers.
Total Recall revolves around a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), who seems haunted by his bad dreams, that he’s having a very rebellious encounter and he’s with a woman he can’t recognize. His life in The Colony is pretty much decent but boring, although he has a very lovely wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) who only wears underpants and still look pretty even after waking up in the morning. Quaid starts to ask some questions; like why they are doing the routine every single minute of their lives. He became interested to Rekall – a company that implants happy memories and will give you some sort of psychological experience that you’ve gone through such experience, with a price not so much as compared if you’re actually experiencing it. While at Rekall, the employees were startled to find out the Quaid had gone through the procedure, although Quaid is claiming that it was his first time to do it. More so, with 20 officers trying to stop Quaid have been killed relentlessly, which he himself was surprised that he is capable to do such things. Quaid got confused, went back home but more surprises came in when his very own wife tries to strangle him to death. And that’s the start of never-ending questions of Quaid – who the hell is he!
What was good:
• Kate Beckinsale is way better as a villain. Although, it is hard to believe that an angelic face will be such a pain in a ass, she did very well in a kick-ass sexy bitch department. Her fighting scenes with Collin Farrell and with Jessica Biel make us remember how we loved her dearly as Selena in Underworld. And because Kate is so good, there are few moments that she outshined Colin in some scenes – like you wanted to watch more of her than him.
• No Martians and Aliens. I’m so glad that I didn’t get to see these gross creatures from the previous film. As much as I want not to compare with the original, I can’t help it because it is worth mentioning. The Martians and aliens actually made me realize how awful the special effects and graphics in the 90’s. Len Wiseman’s visionary creation is persuasively near believable.
• United Federation of Britain and The Colony (Australia). I’m not so sure why Wiseman used the British Colonies as a post-World War III setting of the movie, but the representation is much more like a reality which tells both the historical and current condition of the world. The separation of the powerful and the oppress is explicitly described in this movie; UFB has the tallest buildings and advanced industrialization, while The Colony looks like a filthy chaotic environment.
• The Fall — a super-massive underground gravity elevator which travels through the Earth’s core from Colony to the United Federation of Britain. That is really cool. I didn’t know that Australia is that far from United Kingdom. (LOL)!
• The fight and chase scenes between Douglas Quaid and his wife Lori are breathtaking. The setting in the Colony is so muddled that I was amazed how the squatter houses got lifted from the ground.
• The hovering cars are brilliant. Although, I feel like it’s a similar setting I saw in Minority Report. But the maze-like elevators that can do vertical and horizontal movements are mind-blowing. These scenes are what Paul Verhoeven had missed.
What was bad:
• Colin Farrell might be likable to play as Douglas Quaid but I feel something is missing with his character. His role as a confused guy with a beautiful wife and works in a blue-collar job is not compelling enough. Maybe because I always see him as either a perfect scoundrel guy or strangely arrogant kick-ass officer. Being confused is not his area of his acting confidence.
• Rekall in this Total Recall is not fully demonstrated. All we know and what is shown is the high-tech transparent machine and a very familiar chair, which is supported by lengthy explanation of a Chinese Rekall employee, played by John Cho (Harold and Kumar). It will be cooler if the so-called implanted memories have been exemplified first so we can imagine how it actually works. But in the movie, it jumps right away to the discovery the Douglas Quaid’s memory has already been replaced. Well, not necessarily – according to the employee, Quaid is a liar and that he’s really a secret agent.
• The three-breast woman is definitely unnecessary to this film. The moviegoers might be more interested to see this three-breast woman but it doesn’t mean they really need to cast her here. The problem with the original Total Recall, there were so many needless scenes but became so remarkable because of simply for being inappropriate. Who will think of creatures like this three-breast woman, or kuato, a very gross small creature attached to a human’s body? They are so disgusting that you will always remember their existence. This is the reason why so many critics commented that Total Recall 2012 is forgettable – they want to see these obscene creatures.
• President of UFB , Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen is not the kind of villain I expect to appear on this Wiseman’s stylish sci-fi movie. The Cohaagen we knew is definitely a narcissistic, authoritative and powerful asshole that wants to manipulate each and everyone. Bryan Cranston’s depiction isn’t successful because we still see him as a relaxed dad Hal in Malcolm in the Middle. He might extend this kind of relaxation rather than to portray an evil conqueror that erased Quaid’s memory so that he can demolish The Colony.
• While busy having a fight scene with Quaid, Lori, who we always described as very gorgeous wife to a contractor, told him a one-liner that brought us to real thinking, “You possibly think that a woman like will me end up to someone like you?” Ouch! That really hurts!
• The gadgetry of 2084 is astonishing – the best of which is your phone is literally inside your palm. That is really cool! I’m wondering if it gets low-battery. How are they going to recharge the battery then?
• You will not let “Obama money” pass by just like that. It’s crazy how Obama’s quite big head fits the paper money. Well, the money is quite enormous too.
• The scene wherein Quaid’s friend Harry is trying to convince him that everything is his imagination, that everything has been implanted by Rekall and to prove that he needs to shoot Melina is one of the best moments. Colin Farrell looks unpredictable on what he’s going to do next and make the audience slightly believe that maybe it was true that he’s still at Rekall. A more lucid attestation is his crying wife Lori outside the building – but suddenly changed to a monstrous kick ass villain when Farrell wasn’t convinced.
• When Quaid was accompanied by Melina to meet Matthias and the people seem to really know him as Carl Hauser, who will be their hope to defeat Cohaagen was one of the remarkable scenes. The Resistance Team is at war and in a war; hope is always present in each person’s eyes. I like the emotional substance that Wiseman is trying to include.
• So, which side Hauser (really) supposed to be with; Cohaagen’s or Resistance? Doug Hauser is one of the best agent’s of Cohaagen’s, who’s planning to invade The Colony. They planted a different memory to Hauser and made him as Quaid and asked Lori to pretend as his wife. He went to Rekall and his so-called fake memory got reactivated or whatever they call it and that leads him to be against Cohaagen and look for Matthias to decode his memory. But when he reached Matthias, Cohaagen appeared like it was a trap to capture Matthias. Is Rekall part of Cohaagen’s plan to capture Matthias?
• What did Matthias do that Cohaagen’s empire became so threaten about? Matthias’ team is hiding in a dungeon that even a cellphone signal cannot reach. But at least, you can travel via train.
• Workers from The Colony provide cheap factory labor for UFB, but needs to commute time and needs to pass a straight tunnel through the Earth. It doesn’t look cheap to me, especially with the reverse gravity that is happening between the travelling times. What kind of life the people in UFB has?
• If Cohaagen’s plan is only to destroy The Colony, why not just bomb it with the nuclear bomb. Are the people of UFB aware or annoyed by the people of The Colony’s existence? I don’t think it bothers them because they are too far away. Are they protesting that The Colony people snatching their jobs from them?
• The Colony is said to be in Australia – but looks like Chinatown to me. What happened exactly to The Colony? Maybe because Australia is part of the Asia-Pacific that will make us think that Asians will go to this area for survival.
Total Recall fans might argue that this remake is unnecessary. But as I mentioned earlier, Wiseman’s effort to make it different is notable enough that the only similarities they have is its movie title and character’s name. It’s literally exhausting to watch the non-stop action in a sci-fi world that you probably wish you have control of the reel so you can stop for a while and take some rest or pee or do something else. Len Wiseman did a very good job in creating the distinctive differences of the cities; UFB’s towering futuristic spectacle and The Colony’s hanging piled houses. The stunts are breathtaking with high-energy that you’ll wonder if these people get tired on clashing and hounding.
Total Recall gains success in achieving the beyond-expectation sci-fi and holding more intriguing ideas. It might lack the humorous sexual content and social satire Paul Verhoeven. But I think it’s not necessary in a Len Wiseman film, really!