Total Recall written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, directed by Len Wiseman (Total RecallOriginal Film, and Rekall Productions, R, 118 minutes)

Starring Colin FarrellKate BeckinsaleBokeem Woodbine and Bryan Cranston.

Before and After

In this film, unlike its predecessor, Earth is uninhabitable except for two areas: The United Federation of Britain and the Colony (Australia). Workers from the Colony travel to the Federation to provide cheap labor. Douglas Quaid’s (Colin Farrell) job is to tighten screws on robots that could probably do it themselves. They travel there through “the fall”, which is more or less a big giant tunnel through the middle of the earth. The trip includes a full-on gravity reversal. I’ve always felt that we live in an age where no new stories are being told in cinema. In film today, the age of the remake has arisen, something that I’ve never felt comfortable with. Creativity has fallen, leaving room for the same movies done with “better” effects. But, it should be noted that both Total Recall movies were inspired by the Phlip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale”. Total Recall, however differs much from its 1990 counterpart. No scenes occur on Mars, and in Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s place we have Colin Farrell.

Colin Farrell is probably a better actor than Schwarzenegger. Okay, fine, he’s definitely a better actor. But, my main complaint is that Colin Farrell is less awkward, bulky, and frankly bullish than Schwarzenegger to play the same part. The story, however, is monumentally the same as it’s predecessor, and Farrell does his best to play the Schwarzenegger part well.

Same Old Story

We find Quaid involved without his recollection (or total recall) in a conflict between a rebel movement and an authoritarian government. The film opens with Quaid happily married to his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who in the original film was Sharon Stone. Quaid feels disconnected with his life. Quaid is bored and unhappy, and is plagued with some pretty rough dreams. He visits a company called Rekall, and the company plants vivid memories in his brain. He decides on a “spy adventure” memory, which creates a chain of terrifying events. This, in turn, causes Quaid to question the reality of his own life.

What is Real?

The beauty of this film, and its 1990 counterpart, is that the viewer has to decide which characters can be trusted, as Quaid has no idea what on earth is going on. We are expected to follow a man through a timeline he doesn’t remember, and as a result there’s a sort of suspension of disbelief held through most of the film. The film grabs its main motifs from the Philip Dick story: the confusion of fantasy and reality, machines talking back to humans, and Quaid’s doubts of his own identity.

I Miss You, Arnie

But what the film lacks is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure the effects are flashier, but there’s no Arnold. Schwarzenegger always looked extraordinary in any film he was in, and without the Arnold charisma, Farrell just doesn’t sell the part. The new version also just doesn’t deal as effectively with the idea of reality as a fluid concept, which is what made the original film work. Sometimes it’s just best to stick with the original. If someone does to the Godfather franchise what just happened to Total Recall, I’ll be wholly insulted.

Verdict: 2 out of 5

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