Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall”, which is a remake version of the 1990 film with the same name, has several amusing things to talk about after watching it, but most of them are the faint echoes from the 1990 version. They tried to tell a different story by changing its background and modifying some aspects of its plot, but we are basically served with the same premise and the same story we have experienced and played with before. The result is not always tedious at least, but, folks, do we really need this?
If you love science fiction movies, you have probably watched the 1990 version at least once. Inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, the movie was exciting as a SF action film with thought-provoking premise and impressive visuals. It has many visible scientific errors in its depiction of Mars, but I enjoyed those red alien landscapes in the film along with many freakish things including a three-breasted woman, and its special effects are effective in spite of looking old-fashioned compared to the CGI special effects. In addition, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a likable action hero, and the movie rarely lost its sense of fun amid its over-the-top bloody violence which I remember rather fondly.
Unlike the 1990s version, the remake version remains on the Earth throughout its running time, and that is one of the major disappointments in the film. The sense of wonder is considerably decreased as a consequence, but we get instead the amusing sights of the massive transport vehicle called “Fall”, a very big gravity elevator going back and forth between two opposite sites on the Earth through its underground tunnel. As far as I remember, this elevator goes right through the core of the Earth during its operation, so I wondered how they built this transport system under extremely high pressure and temperature. The movie does not explain much about it, but I have to admit that it was rather fun to see a theoretical system I have encountered in a high school science textbook materialized on the screen despite its glaring scientific errors in the depiction of how it works.
Fall is crucial in connecting only two places on the Earth remaining habitable for the people after the global chemical warfare at the end of the 21th century. One is the United Federation of Britain, and the other is The Colony, which was formerly Australia. For many workers in The Colony, Fall is their commuter train to UFB, where they work in the factory producing robot soldiers.
One of the worker is Douglas Quaid(Colin Farrell), and he has been unsatisfied with his boring daily life although he has a lovely wife Lori(Kate Beckinsale) and a close friend Harry(Bokeem Woodbine) near him. He also has some problem with recurring nightmares he does not understand; they are always about some violent situation in which he runs with a woman he does not know.
On one day, despite his friend’s advice, he decides to go to the company named Rekall, which may provide the satisfaction he has been yearning for. In this company, they will provide him artificial memories to be injected in his brain, and, after being implanted with them, he will vividly feel them even though he is well aware of the fact that they are not real. He chooses the memories of a secret agent, and everything gets ready for him in a short time.
As you see, the movie adds little to its original plot. Bewildered about what happened at Rekall during his visit, Quaid realizes that everything in his life may not be what it seems to be on the surface, so here comes that familiar question on reality and identity, but the movie does not do anything new with that question while blandly utilizing several circumstances in the original film. Most of us know how they will be played out, so there is not much suspense or drama in the story as a result, and the movie becomes a mere imitation of the 1990 version in the end.
Nevertheless, the movie has some nice things to be appreciated. While I have many doubts about its practicality, I observed how Fall is operated with the certain level of interest. I liked the look of UFB and The Colony because they look wonderful as the overcrowded metropolises filled with high-rise buildings in different styles. The actions in the film are good, although I was pretty bored with those CGI robots moving in groups during the climax sequences. They lack personality except one robot painted in black, which is in fact not so different from its fellow robots.
Compared to Schwarzenegger, Colin Farrell is surely a better actor; he is adequate as a more realistic action hero, though his performance is less enjoyable than Schwarzenegger’s fun performance due to its inherent seriousness. His notable co-performers do not have many things to do in the movie. Bill Nighy, who plays the leader of the resistance group, only appears in one moment, and Bryan Cranston is under-utilized as the top bad guy. While Jessica Biel is wasted in her thankless character whose main function is running along with Ferrell, Kate Beckinsale is relatively more distinctive than others as the main opponent of Ferrell’s character.
The movie is not the worst remake of this year at least in my view, but it goes without saying that it is less fun than the original version. When the movie was over and I walked out of the screening room, I came across a kid saying to his dad that he liked it a lot. I recommended him the 1990 version, but I also told him to watch it when he gets older – I thought he was a little too young to appreciate a three-breasted woman.