'Total Recall' Review: It's Just Like the Original, Except That It's No Damn Good
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Total Recall Remake: It's Just Like the Original, Except That It's No Damn Good

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | August 3, 2012 | Comments ()


I don't know how Len Wiseman's pitch meeting for the Total Recall actually went down, but it must have gone something like this: "Remember that 80's Schwarzenegger flick with the three-boobed lady? You remember how it combined breathtaking special effects; Paul Verhoeven's button-pushing, decency-violating, theatrical sense of fun; ultraviolence, some biting satire, and Mars! Yeah, well. Here's my idea: Let's remake it, only let's get rid of all that other stuff that people loved about the original and replace it with lots of special effects and my wife!"

The only good choice that Len Wiseman made, ironically, was in casting his wife, who provides the only sense of fun -- muted though it is -- in 2012's Total Recall. When Kate Beckinsale isn't throwing around some high kicks or playing her British accent for a deliciously wicked affect, Total Recall is a total bore. There's a lot of whiz-bang, razzamatazz sprockets and lights flashing all over the goddamn place, but it's not nearly enough to obscure the achingly dull movie hiding underneath or the fact that the remake doesn't have that much in common with the original except for the woman with three boobs.

Wiseman abandons the Mars piece, and plays the whole film straight, wasting Collin Farrel's resurrected star in a role more suited to one of those stubbly wooden action-movie vessels like Sam Worthington. Hell, not even Bryan Cranston can liven it up as the film's big bad, as Wiseman must have used all of Cranston's worst takes. "Can you maybe not bring so much personality to the scene this time, Bryan? It really distracts from the expensive set pieces I've got lying around. Also, I really would prefer it if you'd try not to show up my wife. It's important to me as her husband to support her career, and the best way to do that is to make sure she's the most memorable presence in the film. So, maybe tone it down. If you really want to act, pretend we hired you for your good looks and not your screen presence."

Set in the 21st century, there are only two inhabitable spaces left on the planet: The Colony (Australia) and the United Federation of Britain. Basically, Britain is the ruling class, and the residents of the Colony commute each day on a space-age subway to do all the sh*tty jobs that the people in Britain won't do.

Farrell plays Doug Quaid, a working-man grunt living in the Colony and commuting to the UFB to clock in on an assembly line responsible for building robocops designed, ultimately, to put down any resurrections in the Colony. He's married to Lori (Beckinsale), they live in a dump, and Doug is having a lot of nightmares. He decides to check out Rekall, a parlor where they implant awesome memories in your brain so you'll at least have the memory of doing something cool in your miserable, grinding existence. Things go awry, of course, and Doug finds out that his existing memories are actually fake. In reality, he's the leader of the Colony's resistance, and his wife is not his wife, but an agent for the UFB planted to keep him in check.

After the 15-minute setup, Total Recall basically turns into a game of cat-and-mouse. Quaid runs, trying to piece together the reality of who he is in the process, and Lori chases him under the command of Cohaagen (Cranston), who has designs on wiping out the Colony's population under the ruse of stamping out a resistance. There are a few predictable plot turns and eye-rolling twists, and the only reason to stay awake through the mess is to occasionally watch Beckinsale and Jessica Biel (who plays the real version of Doug's girlfriend) exchange punches (Biel, for the record, is a total wet blanket). In the end, (MINOR SPOILER) Wiseman can't even muster the bravery to leave a top spinning and let us wonder if Doug was in the Rekall chair the whole time or if he was actually the double-agent leader of the resistance that he asked to be before he was strapped into it.

In other words, it's a real hangnail of a movie. It's one of the rare moments where the audience may actually feel some nostalgia for Schwarzenegger. The man can't act, but he has a presence, and that's precisely what is missing from Wiseman's Total Recall: Someone big and bold enough to make you care about all the empty movement taking up so much space on screen.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Roger

    Oh thank you for saving me the price of admission. For two no less.

  • Cletus

    I hated this movie. So bad.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Saw this movie last night, and I found my biggest problem with it to be the scattershot plot. It made it nearly impossible to suspend disbelief. The whole "hole through the center of the earth" thing is just goofy. Then it felt like they went out and borrowed half the sets from blade runner (Rain? check. Random mix of chinese on street signs with a splash of hello kitty? check. People in clear raincoats? check. General distopic look? Check).

    And the absolutely criminal use of Bryan Cranston! The goofy hairpiece was bad enough, but then having him play not as criminal mastermind, but more macho tough guy at the end just broke the movie.

    That said, Beckinsdale was actually pretty good in the movie. She was, by a huge margin, the most believable character in the movie. You felt her anger, her resentment, her envy, flashes of duplicitousness... she was acting and stuff!

  • Some Guy

    Long and creative action scenes + BladeRunner/Fifth Element-esque visuals + fun future technology = a good time in my book. Even if the acting is wooden and the plot hackneyed.

    This movie wasn't bad at all. Was it perfect? Nope. Was it fun and cool to watch? Yup. All it was missing was Michael Ironside and one of the best one-liners from the original.

  • Some Guy

    And the Verhoeven level of violence.

  • Fun with Cthulhu

    Groupthink on movie review sites is nothing new I guess, but I'm always surprised by how strongly it binds individuals into a sneering mob.

    Go see for your selves - this was a good science fiction movie and there are few enough of those.

  • Lee

    This was good sci-fi if you have exceptionally low expectations, you aren't too concerned with a coherent storyiine and you like your movies CGI heavy and all flash with no substance. The critical concensus is that it's rubbish, it's flopped badly at the box office. If it looks like crap, smells like crap and tastes like crap...

  • Bennetttt

    I'm not defending it, but I've only recently discovered that the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report was originally the sequel to the original Total Recall book adaptation that had nothing to do with Mars.
    Why must we continue to retread old ideas? Several idiotic reason, but the most horrifying is that audiences fork over the cash for remakes and the movie industry is sucking it up internationally and on DVD sales. We want better artsy movies, (not so cheesy) but the box office cash intake is not rewarding that.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I never saw the original, so I thought it was pretty good. I assume maybe because I wasn't comparing it to the original. I didn't realize that it was Philip K. Dick story or based on one, but now I am curious which version is closer to the story he wrote. Has anyone read it?

  • DeistBrawler

    The original is actually closer to the story simply because it's based on Mars, but both are considered "loosely based."

  • Anthony Hoffman

    Just wasn't fun. Needs more Verhoeven. CGI Biel too fake. What? She's real? Damn.

  • BarbadoSlim

    Bitch with 3 tits.
    Why is this being discussed?

    BarbadoSlim approved, go forth and masturbate.

  • BlackRabbit

    GET YOUR AHS TO MAHS! Are there horribly deformed mutants, at least?

  • emmelemm

    Now, wasn't there a photo of the 3-breasted lady (millennial version) posted a while back? If there's no Mars, why are there mutants?

  • John W

    No damn good? What a shock!

  • Groundloop

    Well balls. I didn't actually have a lot of hope for this flick, but now? Balls.

    Also, if Cohaagen is successful in wiping out the Colony, won't all the people in the UFB have to start doing the shitty jobs they didn't want to do in the first place? Oh, wait. Len Wiseman directed and a total of 5 people have a writing credit? That makes sense now.


  • DeistBrawler

    The robots. He plans for the robots to take over for the people.

  • BWeaves

    ". . . Farrell plays Doug Quaid, a working-man grunt living in the Colony and
    commuting to the UFB to clock in on an assembly line responsible for
    building robocops . . ."

    Uh, don't they have robots for assembly line production? Why do they need humans for that? Product testing, sure, but assembly line?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Don't ask for logic in a plot that is set in his background: Set in the 21st century, there are only two inhabitable spaces left on
    the planet: The Colony (Australia) and the United Federation of Britain.
    Basically, Britain is the ruling class, and the residents of the Colony
    commute each day on a space-age subway to do all the sh*tty jobs that
    the people in Britain won’t do.

    I think this particular scriptwriter should smoke more weed, not less.

  • Snath

    Len Wiseman and Paul W. S. Anderson have this down to a science. They've obviously figured out that the best way to continue getting blowjobs is to put their sex robots wives into literally every piece-of-shit exploding set piece they get their adolescent-manchild hands on.
    Godtopus bless them.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    What if they secretly hate making these movies, but the wives nag them, so they try to make them as poorly as possible, hoping that eventually the ladies will call it quits?

    But the ladies love the skintight leather TOO MUCH to throw it in.

  • hapl0

    Total shocker.

  • phase10

    Well let's see they've tried 'Conan'. Now 'Total Recal'. What's next? 'Commando' starring Zac Effron?

  • TheAggroCraig

    So I should just watch Total Recall on blu-ray tonight instead? And I've just admitted I have Total Recall on blu-ray.

  • Guest

    I had it on VHS (because I am that old, and couldn't afford laserdiscs) and watched it religiously--about once or twice a year. I think I watched it too much; by the time the DVD was available, I'd lost interest in it. Which is a shame, because it means I've never seen TR on anything but a warpy VHS copy pirated offa good ol' Pay TV.

    After a nice long break, and in reaction to this new adaptation, it's really truly time to sit back, watch Arnie pick "athleh-tique" from the menu, and relive the glory. It's time, and I suspect seeing it on Blu will splode my mind.

  • googergieger

    I remember the first time me and my class mates heard of laser discs. We sat in a room and were shown a movie about nature. Took everyone about five minutes to realize what we were watching was the laser disc, and no actual lasers or discs, or combination of said lasers and discs existed. Saddest days of our lives. You know up until we found out that wasn't part of being an altar boy.

  • You said 'resurrections'. Did you mean 'insurrection'?

  • Reginald

    Damn, I was actually looking forward to this. Oh well, I'll still watch it sometime anyway, with beer and sassy remarks.

  • DeistBrawler

    I really liked it. It's as much a stupid popcorn flick as the original was. Be fair. The original is a shit film and it's awesome because it is a shit film. If anything that's why the new one doesn't hold up. It takes itself too seriously. It was what I wanted. Non-stop action with a background reminiscent of Fifth Element, Minority Report, and Blade Runner all rolled into one.

  • DeistBrawler

    Oh, and the fight scenes were awesome. The way they use the sets to their advantage was fantastic. Playing off of hard angles and different levels.

  • Thanks for making me feel better that hubby was deployed before we got a chance to watch this together. He'll be back in time for the Bond film, so that had best not disappoint.

  • dahlia6

    I never understood Biel's appeal, as it were. She doesn't have any charisma, doesn't have anything special looks-wise (but maybe that's because she has the exact same nose my pain in the ass bitch cousin has, so I'm willing to give that the benefit of the doubt). She reminds me of a younger, brunette Paltrow but without the ability to rouse up any ire and aggravation in me. She's beige meh, with a slight veneer of pretension.

  • Judge Holdenmynuts

    I watched Biel on the Daily Show last night and couldn't for the life of me figure out how this woman has a career. She's not even hot...

  • SabrinaHatesDisqus

    I was so bewildered by her presence. Even allowing that she's not a natural wit, she was relentlessly charmless in every word she said. My favorite part was when Jon Stewart announced her as the night's guest, and the audience was dead silent. Shit, how can we get out of this?

    I guess you can't expect much out of someone who wasn't even the most interesting actor on Seventh Heaven. (That honor obviously belonged to the dog.)

  • ,

    Anyone with eyes could see Ruthie was the hot one ... eventually.

  • e jerry powell

    But as she noted herself, she is currently unemployed...

  • BWeaves

    Yup, as bad an actor as Schwarzenegger was/is, you can't deny the man has presence. This is the third review I've read today that basically says the same thing. This movie sucks, and the original was much, much better. Why do they keep remaking stuff that doesn't need to be remade?

  • JenVegas

    What do you mean they decided to leave mars out of it? WTF? What's the frakking point? Gah! Arg. Fine I'll just go watch the original. Stupid Hollywood, SEE what you've gone and made me do!?!?!

  • BobbFrapples

    And here I had high hopes for a good popcorn flick. Feeling nostalgia for Schwarzenegger is not something I want to do unless I'm watching where he yells, "Get to thuh Choppa!"

  • Groundloop

    Rumour is, that's what Arnie says when he's ready for some sexy time.

  • mc-rox

    This made me giggle so loud which caused several people to look at me funny. Thanks:)

  • Tracer Bullet

    Considering Britain's climate and Australia's size, wouldn't it make more sense for the ruling class to live in Oz?

    Also, this makes no fucking sense, who has designs on wiping out the Colony’s population under the ruse of stamping out a resistance. If the working class is dead, WHO'S GOING TO DO ALL THE WORK? What kind of dumbass supervillain plan leaves said supervillain WORSE OFF than he was before?

  • e jerry powell

    Historically speaking, not really; let's remember, the Brits founded Australia as a fucking penal colony. They knew it wasn't a nice place.

  • TheGreatUnstainer

    Zoologically speaking, yes really. Let us not forget that Australia is filled with so many venomous creatures (spiders, snakes, bunyips, drop bears, Pauline Hanson) that, by process of evolution, the übermensch must one day come from here. They say cockroaches will outlive a nuclear winter. Do you know what can outlive post-apocalyptic cockroaches? Australian cockroaches. In conclusion, the future is Australian.

  • e jerry powell

    Well said.

  • AngelenoEwok

    Upvoted for drop bears.

  • Michelle

    Agreed. Damn those drop bears, we should really do something about those buggers. So many lives...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Live in Australia?! With all the poisonous spiders and snakes and platypi? You crazy?!

  • googergieger

    The Platypus is one of two mammals that sweats milk. Not funny but you know, it is interesting. Which is more than you can say about this movie.

  • Curse you, Perry the Platypus!

  • TWoPFan

    A platypus is a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action!

  • idgiepug

    Doobie doobie doo wah! Doobie doobie doo wah! PERRY!

  • Snath

    Tracer, you're thinking about a Len Wiseman movie. That's your first mistake.

  • DeistBrawler

    The robots. He planned for the robots to replace the humans he wipes out.

  • sean1620

    "Remember that 80’s Schwarzenegger flick with the three-boobed lady?"

    I think you mean 90's flick...it came out in 1990.

  • pajiba

    1985, 1995, or 2005, it doesn't matter when it was released. The original Total Recall will always be an 80's flick.

  • sean1620

    Touché. I concede to your logic. = )

  • NateMan

    Well said.

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