If I remember correctly, the general response to news of a Total Recall remake was simply: why? Remakes, reboots and re-imaginings are all the rage these days, so therein lies the answer. Even the original was based on established material. First came Phillip K. Dick’s short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Then we got the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle that dealt with that whole Mars story. Which leads us to the new version, starring Colin Farrell that came out last weekend. Obviously there will be comparisons made because anything that is based on previously established material is prime fodder for comparisons and criticisms. But I can’t really compare this newer version to the others that came before it. I have never read the short story, and to be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve seen the 1990 Paul Verhoeven version, that all I can remember aside from Mars, is the bulging-eye part. I went into this film blind to its predecessors, which to me, is an advantage. So the question is, was it actually any good?
(Beware….minor spoilers ahead…..)
For me, yes it was rather entertaining. The story is set in a bleak future where World War III has made the majority of the planet uninhabitable. The only areas capable of supporting life is the well-to-do United Federation of Britain, and the impoverished lands of The Colony (aka Australia). Douglas Quaid (Farrell) lives in the Colony with his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), but works at a synthetic police force factory in the UFB commuting by a, for lack of a better term, we’ll call it a train, called “The Fall” that runs right though the center of the planet. His droll existence finally gets to him after he wakes from a dream that involves a mysterious woman (Jessica Biel) and a sense that he’s meant to do more with his life. After talking to one of the new guys at work, Douglas visits Rekall, a place that will implant false memories of a better life. Things don’t quite turn out the way he hoped when he realizes that he’s already living a lie.
Director Len Wiseman (Underworld), disposed of the cheesy trap that this film could have easily fall into. There are scattered corny lines here and there, but otherwise, this film plays out with a straight face. In an age where visuals are a huge part of films, and when the audience demands nothing short of perfection, films with shoddy visuals will normally be raked over the coals. Surprisingly enough, the visual effects and filming style used here are actually pretty well done. The shots of just how cramped the Colony is, along with the skylines make for a visually arresting setting. Combine that with well choreographed fight scenes, chase scenes and hover cars and you’ve got yourself a nice little slice of summer entertainment. The action isn’t quite non-stop, but this film is rather full of it. Which is just fine by me.
I’ll say right now that I love Colin Farrell, so you’ll pardon me if I’m gushing about him. I’m perfectly aware that some of his movies haven’t been the best, but I don’t care. I like him and was very pleased to see him back on the big screen in an action-y type role. Douglas Quaid is a tough character to gauge because there’s no real foundation to cling to. The guy doesn’t even know who he really is. Is he good, is he bad…even he doesn’t really know. Farrell however is able to pull it off and it’s all in his facial expressions and you can’t help but root for him. Beckinsale is once again in an ass-kicking female roll as is Biel, and both deliver. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t offer them too much to do aside from function as plot devices and guide Douglas through the film. While I would say that each cast member was underused considering their talents, no one was wasted more than Bryan Crantson, as Cohaagen, the smarmy power-hungry leader of the UFB, and Bill Nighy as Matthais,the leader of the resistance trying to overthrow the corrupt government. Both actors are solid performers and will only make any film they’re in that much stronger, but both men weren’t given a whole lot here, which is a damned shame.
Writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback delivered a decent enough script, but it doesn’t work hard enough at exploring the depth of its potential. While certain questions were raised, most of it was never truly explored. The difference in social status, the question of who Douglas really is and his eventual revelation are all just skimmed over to move the film along. I’d actually be curious to see what got cut out of this film and if any of those throwaway scenes would have enhanced the film at all. There’s enough going on in this film to keep your eyes busy, but the style over substance formula won’t work with everyone. If you’re looking for the meaning of life or you want to debate the finer points of science fiction, this isn’t the movie for you. This one is all about entertainment. And I was entertained….thoroughly. What can I say, sometimes I just want something to zone out on. Will it win awards? Probably not. Do I care? Not at all. The fast paced nature of the film meant a sacrifice in fleshing out the story, but there was enough there to keep me engaged and interested, even though I do wish there had been a little more meat to it. Even with all of its warts, and even though it was pretty crappy, it still had enough action and sci-fi elements that I walked away a happy girl for having seen it.Tags: Bill Nighy, Bryan Cranston, Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Kurt Wimmer, Len Wiseman, Mark Bomback, Total Recall, Total Recall review