Total Recall (2012)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 3.1/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 6/10

TOTAL RECALL (2012) - Len Wiseman

Philip K. Dick was a science fiction novelist who explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. His 1966 short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" was adapted to the big screen in 1990 as the Schwarzenegger film Total Recall, a cult classic in the science fiction genre. Now, 22 years later, Columbia Pictures begins to recall the elements that drove the original to be so successful and starts to enhance visual experiences and special effects. However, unlike the original film, the new Total Recall no longer contains a trip to Mars and bears political overtones instead, a little more faithful to the source material.

Total Recall is set in the year 2084, after Earth is devastated by World War III. It is now divided into two superpowers, United Federation of Britain and The Colony, who are locked in a battle for supremacy to unify the world. Citizens of The Colony and the UFB travel between the two nations via a supermassive underground gravity elevator called "The Fall," which takes them directly through the core of the Earth, emerging on the opposite side of the planet in under twenty minutes. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), is a factory worker who grows tired of his monotonous life in The Colony. He decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants its clients with artificial memories of experiences they want to remember. He is persuaded to be implanted with memories of being a secret agent and is then tested on his past to dispel any compatibility issues. To his greatest surprise, it fails and the employee accuses Doug of being a spy in real life. Soon enough, a squad of armored police officers gun down the area and arrest Doug, but he reacts instinctively and manages to kill all of officers before escaping. After returning home to his wife (Kate Beckinsale), who attempts to kill him, Doug learns from her that she is not really his wife, but an undercover police officer. Furthermore, his wife reveals that Doug's mind was implanted with a life he thought he lived. The film continues on as a sci-fi chase marathon.

The movie nicely blends Western and Eastern culture together, and the contrasting appearances between the UFB and the Colony are clear and admirable to look at. With combinations of computer generated effects and real set pieces, the location settings of the film are difficult to tell what is real and what is not. Everything is fancy, making Avatar and Prometheus look like animatronics of the '80s (maybe not that exaggerated). Although UFB looks decorative and flamboyant, it undoubtedly looks like some rip-off of Coruscant from Star Wars. Personally, the Colony has much more little details to admire. It might look the same as 2019 Los Angeles in Blade Runner, but it efficiently fleshes out a plethora of asian culture as well, with boats, lavish umbrellas, Chinese words, and alleys similar to apartment buildings in Taiwan. Visually, Total Recall is impressive, with endless creativity and imagination to its designs. Fortunately for this film, the effects are good enough to win over its flaws, by a margin.

Surprisingly, Colin Farrell exhibits great effort as the male lead. It is almost as if he knows how significant Schwarzenegger was in the original film that he needs his own personality and characterization to make the new protagonist interesting to follow. As for Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, who portrays a resistance fighter, they are great to look at on screen, but clearly one-dimensional, with character arcs incomplete and scopes partially explored. However, for a film like Total Recall that is flooded with an army of visuals, it is smart of the filmmakers to have only a small cast of individuals, or else having a lot of characters for us to remember would have been a pain. It would be hard to recall everyone.

The story and execution of its narrative is probably the greatest defect in its engine. It states that the protagonist Quaid is a secret agent, but the film never displayed any signs of wit or intelligence that show he is indeed a secret agent. No clever manipulations of items. No use of tools and locations. No Jason Bourne-like brilliance. As for the action scenes, there are barely any fight scenes, more like chase scenes. The plot of Total Recall comes forth as a futuristic Bourne Identity, but the thrilling sequences are delivered as if the film is a futuristic The Fugitive. Furthermore, and the most troublesome: By the third chase scene, the film begins to get repetitive. The scenes may appear different, but the skeletal concepts are identical.

For Total Recall's narrative, it is consistent, but consistently noisy. Even though it does relax and has time for us to breathe sometimes, the film all in all is just one roller coaster ride. In terms of a thoughtful Phillip K. Dick like story, Total Recall does not give time to develop it. Thus, it comes forth as a solid action-packed flick, and that is all there is to offer us. For demanding science fiction fans, they might be disappointed here. For plain entertainment seekers, it might just satisfy them. But for me, who is in between, I felt exhausted when the film is over. The pumped feeling when Terminator 2 ended did not exist. The pumped feeling when Star Wars: A New Hope did not exist. It is similar to stepping out of a roller coaster ride that was too long. In the end, Total Recall will have you worn out.

In conclusion, Total Recall is a visually pleasing film, but it has a few bugs in its system. The visual effects and art direction will not be questioned here, but the characterization and story will. You might have a fun ride, but there is high chance that you will be tired when it is over. As for the original Schwarzenegger film, do not even bring that film into the picture, because the two films are drastically different. Watch Total Recall on its own, as an independent science fiction thriller. However, the best thing I can recall is probably the three-breasted woman. Yes, they have it, to pay homage to the original. Oh, and there is a reference to Mars.


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