Movie Review: Total Recall
Director: Len Wiseman
Reviewed: 1 January 2014
jamesintexas rating-- *
Why remake Total Recall, a fine Arnold Schwarzenegger science-fiction action film from 1990? Director Len Wiseman must have seen something in his cast (Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston) or in his elaborate production design (a giant metal tube that shoots through the core of the earth uniting England and Australia) to justify making this picture. The basic elements of the two films are the same: construction worker Douglas Quaid (Farrell) dreams of an exciting adventurous life Walter Mitty-style and finds himself at Rekall, a company that implants memories of such adventures for a price. And something goes haywire during the consultation, showing Quaid to actually be a super-spy, wanted by the government and a vital part of the resistance.
There is no reason to watch this film over its predecessor. Farrell, though he can be charming in roles, is not here, and he is much more fun as a performer when allowed to use his words. Wiseman removed Mars from this film, taking some of the fun out of the viewing of the future. Instead, we see a Blade Runner-influenced, Asian-inspired artistic take on marketplaces that Quaid must run through while being pursued by hordes of drones. Yes, there are drones.
And the production design grinds the film to a halt. As the central locale and visual of the film, these tubes and the visual effects that went into making them just occupy so much screen time. Fights happen within and on top of them. We have to wait for them to arrive. They do a fun zero gravity thing when they approach the earth's core. But truly, they are instantly forgettable. Kate Beckinsale turns her role as Quaid's wife into a series of unfunny one-liners and glowering at the camera, though she does get to display some cool fight moves, running up the walls of rooms and such.
Ultimately uninterested in ruminating on whether memories can be forged or how they influence us, Total Recall is humorless, soulless, and empty in a way that its predecessor was not. That film was not perfect by any stretch, but it had its moments.
This film has no moments.