Directed by Len Wiseman
Plagued by dreams, a lowly factory worker learns that he is not who he believes he is and is now running for his life.
I must say I went into this film with high hopes. I was not expecting an exact copy of the Schwarzenegger classic given the cast mind you. No way can Colin Farrell sling one liners or muscle his way through a scene like Ahnuld. Nobody can. I was expecting something more intellectual that was also slightly action oriented. We got the action here but more intellectual? Not exactly here. You may laugh, but the 1990 film touched on themes of identity and had an ambiguous ending that still spurs debate today. This hints at identity and the ending lacked ambiguity.
Colin Farrell is not a bad choice. Kate Beckinsale is not a bad choice. Bryan Cranston is not a bad choice. Bill Nighy is not a bad choice. Jessica Biel is not a bad choice-mostly. The casting here is not really the issue. The issue is they called this a remake and it only takes fragments of the Schwarzenegger film for use. And those small fragments are used word for word and very nearly action for action. Some scenes here are practically the same with the difference being the actors.
The film gives tweaks and twists to these events depicted in the original and mimicked here. These alterations do not necessarily bring it in line with the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” but rather serve to distance it from its namesake. The moment Quaid goes to Rekall. The moment Quaid speaks to the Resistance leader Matthias (Bill Nighy). The friend in the agency (Dylan Smith) that helps him out. They all have a certain twist that makes it similar but different from what happened in the 1990 version. It is like being a kid and expecting Transformers but getting Gobots instead and being told they are the same thing. It is not.
Regardless of what the purpose was of the creative minds here, they should have avoided using word for word dialogue from the original film in scenes that ape the instances those words were originally used. It makes the movie as a whole come off as a fan fiction version of the original rather than an original creation itself. It is like the writers decided to make one of Schwarzenegger’s most intellectual movies into their version of something edgy.
The themes of identity and what make us who we are get played out here as well. They attempt to be deep but somehow it feels shallow in comparison to the 1990 film. Perhaps because this movie lacks the mystery on whether or not this is all real. With all the time spent on the other characters that are not Quaid/Hauser it is clear to the viewing audience that this is all really happening to him and not a dream or hallucination. There was some time spent on others as well in the original but here it feels like significantly more. Even the attempted fake out where Quaid’s friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) shows up and they mimic the scene in the Martian hotel is not confusing for anybody. The only individual involved here that is confused is the character of Quaid. The audience knows what is going on from the get-go.
And rather than this all be part of a plan it seems as if Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) is keeping Quaid/Hauser alive because he likes him and being led to Mathias was a happy accident of keeping his pal safe for reasons. In this film Hauser infiltrated the Resistance and got turned by love rather than infiltrating the Resistance as part of a plan to stop it. At least that was my takeaway from the movie.
With massive advances in special effects and a bigger budget this should have been an amazing film, but it felt like a pale imitation of the original. Visually this movie is great, but visuals alone do not make a great film or even a good film or just something that you do not feel like you wasted your time with. There is plenty of pop and wow, but it lacks the depth of its predecessor and the action is not nearly as entertaining. The story itself went from being something great to being something barely serviceable.
Len Wiseman has done some entertaining stuff such as Underworld. This felt like it should have been something within his skillset. Somehow though he missed the mark. The film was indecisive on if it was a remake, an homage, or something faithful to the short story.
Total Recall from 2012 in the end is more an exercise in filmmaking than it is a good film. It does okay but it adds nothing new to the story and even detracts a little from it at times because of its need to mimic. I think you can pass on this.