Total Recall is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) whom he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police - controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) - there is no one Quaid can trust, except possibly a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) working for the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy). The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate. The film is directed by Len Wiseman. The screenplay is by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback and the screen story is by Ronald Shusett & Dan O'Bannon and Jon Povill and Kurt Wimmer. The producers are Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe.
Total Recall (1990), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone, is/was the perfect film for a re-boot. Never having spawned any sequels, or a franchise all the same, the story of a man who dreams of another life, literally, and then finds his dreams are his reality having had his memory erased is a gem of a story for the science fiction genre. Based off of the same Philip K. Dick short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," the 2012 version of Total Recall draws from the same original premise but deviates from the original film's plot to deliver a new take on the world of Total Recall. The end result is a glossy, effects laden picture with stunning production design but ultimately lacking in a strong enough hook to maintain the viewer's interest. Traveling to another planet has been discarded; there will be no trip to Mars this time around for a Total Recall audience. The characters remain the same with Douglas Quaid/Hauser (Colin Farrell) trying to decipher what is real and what is an illusion or trick of his mind while solving a mysterious conspiracy. His wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is not good for only one fight this time nor is she soft on Hauser. Lori is a deadly agent who hunts Hauser and his "girlfriend" Melina (Jessica Biel). Melina is not a prostitute in the 2012 Total Recall but a fierce part of the Resistance. A definite pro-feminist approach has been taken in the script that deters the film from being somewhat trashy, like the original, and gives the women the ability to show their strength, cunning, and of course bitchiness. Lori is not a woman you want to scorn, nor is Melina afraid of a good fight. It takes everything Farrell can muster as Hauser to not become part of the background in Total Recall when surrounded by the two women.
Total Recall (2012) has all of the fixings for a science fiction action-adventure, but without a strong enough dystopian view of the future. It relies on being drastically over-dramatic, amidst a world full of impoverished people living in The Colony versus the privileged who reside in the United Federation of Britain. These are the only two inhabited places left on Earth. The rest of the planet is known as the "No Zone," fully equipped with biohazard warnings. The most striking plot device of the film is the method of transport between these two parts of the Earth. The Colony is what we know as Australia and the United Federation of Britain is where Britain is today, plus or minus area. In order to travel from one end of the Earth to the other "The Fall" has been built; a transport vessel that travels through the Earth's Core in 19 minutes. The close proximity characters find themselves to the Earth's Core without hazard is without question preposterous, even if it involves a great anti-gravity effect aboard "The Fall" reminiscent of the Gravitron ride at your local Fair--but much more thrilling and without the subsequent headache. This is how the workers of The Colony get to their factory jobs each day, it is also the point of contention between the Resistance, led by Matthias (Bill Nighy), and the ruling class, headed by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). "The Fall enslaves us all" is the running slogan for the Resistance, graffiti printed at will by their army.
The battle for equality and freedom from oppression is a theme as old as time, told over and over again. It is a strong theme to follow but it must be given an original hook to warrant curiosity and investment in the characters and their journey. Total Recall (2012) is missing the needed complications and complexity to accompany this theme. The motivation of Cohaagen, and his plans for The Colony's inhabitants, is nothing short of a tired eugenics project or government city-planning via gentrification, with harsher methods. Remnants of holocaust storytelling live and breathe in this post-apocalyptic world. With that originality has lost out to simpleness and the hope that occupying the frame with effects, constant movement, and unrelenting action will appease the viewer. This technique only works for so long before becoming tiresome and the viewer craving something more, even if it means breaking the seriousness of the story for a moment to breathe additional life into the characters. The ending finds you without empathy or ecstatic elation during the climactic finale. The stunning visuals capture the eye's attention but the story, while being entertaining on the lowest level, does not create enough lasting enthusiasm.
A great deal of effort has gone into creating a new Total Recall world. Gone are the Johnny Cabs, aliens, and prostitutes of the original. They have been replaced by synthetic robots that resemble in more ways than one the Storm Troopers from Star Wars. The 3-breasted woman remains, in a much more toned down manner, as well as being far more attractive that her predecessor. Rekall is now an underground establishment, with asian embellishments and the feel of an illegal opium den. The world as we know it has been obliterated by global chemical warfare. In its place are two separate metropolis', one where the sun shines upon what used to be London, England and the high-rise sky climbing buildings are suspended above ground. A ground that still has Big Ben standing upright and Red Double Decker buses for show. On the other end of the Earth, literally, is The Colony. A dark wasteland of a city, The Colony is plagued by dampness, consistent rain, crowded and dirty streets, and the workers.
The dichotomy at play in Total Recall is as old as time, the haves and the have-nots inhabit the Earth; one with privilege, the other cursed by poverty. It is immediately known by a viewer the extreme differences between the lifestyle of those in The Colony and those in the United Federation of Britain, a key element to the story that has been perfectly executed by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. He also manages to occupy every inch of the screen at all times, thanks in part to the creative minds behind the special effects. Cars do not hover, fly, pivot, and drop in reality like they do in Total Recall (2012); movie magic is at its finest in this picture.
The visual spectacle of the film is the most interesting part. Drawing from the many science fiction post-apocalyptic worlds that have come before in film history, Total Recall blends them all together to create nostalgic set pieces, while maintaining slight differences. Visions of Bladerunner and Brazil's contorted lines combine with The Fifth Element's claustrophobic, housing project living spaces and flying vehicles. New creations, like an implant of a phone in an agents hand keeps them in contact on the grid, as well as the opportunity of being tracked. There are also remnants of the past scattered throughout, such as a grand piano that has been futurized, so to speak. Total Recall (2012) is a mash-up of science fiction production design history and it makes use of each borrowed element without blatantly discarding a need for differentiation. When the mind wanders away from the plot the production design, mingled with the special effects, draws the viewers attention back to this imagined world.
Action, Fantasy, Science Fiction
August 3, 2012