Film Review – Total Recall (2012)

Director Len Wiseman (chiefly responsible for the Underworld series of films) must have been sifting through his old DVD collection when he decided to pull together a remake of the classic 1990 Sci-Fi film Total Recall. That film, based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, rampaging across Mars in an attempt to regain his memory, establish his identity, and liberate the Martian population. Wiseman’s variation only begs one question: in the 22 years since, have we as an audience actually gotten dumber?

Allow that to sink in for a moment, if you will: I’m actually suggesting that Total Recall is dumber than an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

Colin Farrell reprises Schwarzenneger’s dual role of Quaid/Hauser in a new world – one in which the Earth has largely been rendered uninhabitable, and only two populated nations remain: the rich United Federation of Britain, and the working class region known as The Colony (Australia). A gravity train connects the two nations, shooting passengers through the centre of the planet to the other side in only 17 minutes.

This is the only semblance of an imaginative thought that the film ever engages with.

The film largely follows the same story as the original, rendering any of the mystery surrounding Quaid’s memory and mental state completely inert. Character background and pathos are virtually non-existent. Not once is the audience presented with any reason to care whether Quaid lives or dies, nor are we given any reason to sympathise with the implied “plight” of those living in The Colony. Quaid’s wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale, the director’s wife), for example, is the kind of strong female film character that modern society so often desires. Yet her role in the film is significantly undermined by the fact that, aside from it being “her job”, we’re never supplied with an adequate explanation as to why she hunts Quaid with such desperate, vendetta-like ferocity.

Total Recall is ultimately a film designed to shake quite a lot of money from quite a lot of people in a very short time. From the dubstep-infused soundtrack, to the cinematography (lens flares are NOT a substitute for narrative), to the horrifically poor casting of flavour-of-the-month actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as the villainous Cohaagen, this film will go out of date faster than the milk in your fridge. It offers nothing more than an unintelligent two-hour bang-bang shoot-’em-up on a futuristic backdrop, and will be easily forgotten in three months time.

Total Recall is an expendable film. Don’t waste your expendable money seeing it.

Zero fucks given out of five.

Bren Carruthers

The author Bren Carruthers

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