Total Recall (2012) – Film Review

Total Recall (2012) film poster
Total Recall (2012)

It’s hard to believe that Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger was released 22 years ago; it really doesn’t feel that long ago, although I would have been far to young to watch it back then. I had to wait until the VHS was being passed around the school playground before I got to see it.

The new guy at work was saying this week how he only watched the original for the first time himself recently – he was only about a year old when the original was released. I found it strange that the original could find a new audience of people in their twenties watching the film for the first time. It must be interesting to see it like that with fresh eyes. But it makes me feel old to know that there must be so many films from the 80’s and 90’s that he has never seen. I couldn’t believe it when he said he has NEVER seen The Terminator or Terminator 2!!!

Colin Farrell in Total Recall (2012)

Like many, my mind was already made up before I watched this 2012 remake of Total Recall. What’s the point in remaking the original when its still so good. Surely this is going to be pony! Yes, its a bit harsh to have a such a strong opinion of a film before you’ve even watched it, but there in lies the biggest problem that this film faces. It barely stands a chance of a fair and decent viewing from anyone who has seen the original. It’s very difficult to watch the film on its own merits, you just can’t help but compare it to the original. It’s fair to say, I wasn’t expecting to like the film. In fact I only ended up watching this because my first choice of the night was sold out.

Thankfully, in the end, I’m glad to say that I didn’t hate Total Recall. In fact I didn’t hate it at all.

Total Recall (2012) - futuristic cityscape skyline reminds me of The Fifth Element or Blade Runner
Total Recall (2012) – The futuristic cityscape skyline reminds me of The Fifth Element or Blade Runner

Visually, Total Recall is for the most part, both interesting and impressive. There are obviously similarities to other Sci-fi classics such as Blad Runner, The Fifth Element or Minority Report, but it’s hard to criticise the film for this since any film set in the middle to distant future will likely have some unavoidable similarities with at least a couple of pre-existing Sci-fi movies. Besides, they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

There is a lot of detail on screen, every frame is rammed with content, especially in the outdoor scenes with the strange floating cityscape, it must be an architect’s nightmare! At times the fast camera movements and quick edits barely give you time to focus on all that rich detail. It’s almost overwhelming, but I believe it serves a purpose to emphasise the crowded overpopulation of the world, all crammed into just two opposite corners of the globe in Western Europe and Australia. The rest of the planet has been left uninhabitable (yes even the USA) and apparently the only way to travel between Britain and Australia is via a sort of giant train that travels right through the centre of the Earth… Unlikely? YES… but an interesting and fun concept that I’m willing to overlook because I love science fiction so much. In fact, why hasn’t anyone done this in a film before?

Colin Farrell clings to the front of a flying car in Total Recall
Colin Farrell clings to the front of a flying car Minority Report style in Total Recall

On the whole, the visual effects are great, but there are a few rare points that maybe could have used a bit more polish – namely the flying car chase sequence where sometimes the vehicles or characters do seem to be painted into the scene, but I’m really being picky here. It’s not a big problem, but in 10 years time, these effects could begin to look a bit dated.

Watching the film, there’s a few things you just can’t help but notice. The first one is glaring – no pun intended – but it seems that director Len Wiseman must have just watched J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek since Total Recall is absolutely full of lens flair. It’s everywhere, like used up, crumpled wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

Kate Beckinsale hides from excessive lens flair in Total Recall
Kate Beckinsale hides from excessive lens flair in Total Recall

Kate Beckinsale’s character seems to be everywhere at once in this film. Quaid makes an impressive escape and seconds later, there she is again, looking as stunning as ever and not even out of breath… Does she have some kind of portal gun?

And another thing… If this film is so far in the future, surely they would have better quality glass/windows by then? Not the stupid movie glass that you can just shatter as you walk through it to escape the bad guys. I mean they can build a mode of transport that tunnels right through the centre of the Earth to the other side of the world, but they can’t make windows a tiny bit stronger?

Its the future, but you can still walk through glass windows like they are not even there in Total Recall.
Its the future, but you can still walk through glass windows like they are not even there in Total Recall.

By now it’s no secret that this version is based on the original, but it’s not the same. Unlike the original, this is not based on Mars, but there are familiar references and nods to the original for the fans who want them. Mars is mentioned in conversation, a (PG13 friendly) arm is severed in a lift, and there is a familiar looking woman at the port security gate when Quaid is in disguise, but sadly there’s no exploding head. Also the tracking device that Arnie pulls from his nose is now buried elsewhere, but again, it’s pretty PG13 friendly when it comes to removing the device. Oh, and lets not forget the woman with three boobies 🙂

Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall

In Conclusion

In it’s own right, Total Recall is a perfectly adequate Sci-fi popcorn cinema experience… “adequate” being the key word. It’s not that bad, its a fun enough way to spend a Wednesday night… It’s okay!

But it’s always going to be a victim of being its father’s son.

My Rating: 5/10

Colin Farrell grapples with Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall (It would be rude not to)

About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his Google+ profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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