johnlink ranks TOTAL RECALL (2012)

I have heard plenty of bad things about the TOTAL RECALL from 2012, mostly from people who cherish the first. I barely remember the Paul Verhoeven original, save for the Sharon Stone/Arnie fight, the woman Arnie dressed up as, and the three-boob chick. I don’t have a great reverence for the first, so I went into the remake knowing nothing about it and trying to temper my expectations. Some MILD SPOILERS below.


I watched TOTAL RECALL (2012) on 1.5.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

I had a bad feeling through the first third of this movie. Nothing was bad. The art direction and the world creation of the future was grand, if completely drawn from BLADE RUNNER. The characters were fine. The action was nicely shot. The special effects were surprisingly realistic.

Yet everything seemed to be a little too obvious. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to have his memories altered because his life is boring. He loves his wife Lori (Kate Beckinasle), sure, but he wants more. He wants to be a double agent. He visits the Rekall company (a tiny hole in the wall which can somehow afford grand advertisements, but whatever). Just as the procedure is starting, the police break in and a fight breaks out. It seems all so obvious, despite the script’s attempts to divert, that this is all a dream. It really pulls focus from the beginning of the second act of the film.

But then, Douglas’ friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) shows up during a police stand off. Enough doubt is cast on the story to make us wonder whether all of this is real after all. The film’s strength turns out to be that it never answers the question for sure. So many films are determined to have a clever stinger at the end of a movie to explain or dismiss everything that just happened. TOTAL RECALL manages to avoid falling into that pitfall. It’s better for it.

Director Len Wiseman is known for his UNDERWORLD series (and more recently, for exec producing the TV show Sleepy Hollow). He approaches TOTAL RECALL as a visual action movie first. There is, sure, a little bit of philosophy, a little bit of character, and a little bit of story. But, truly, this is an action sci-fi flick which gets the action mostly right and the sci-fi works. This isn’t master level science fiction like MINORITY REPORT or BLADE RUNNER, two films it owes much to visually. Instead, this is another in the fun sci-fi genre and it works on that level.

This movie may have been hit a little too hard by those expecting the Mars-based story of the previous TOTAL RECALL. Indeed, they may have been better calling this something else and removing the little winks Wiseman throws in towards its predecessor. TOTAL RECALL, the 2012 version, is a perfectly fine movie.

In the film the man Quaid searches for is Matthias (Bill Nighy). When they finally meet Matthias says “The past is a construct of the mind. It blinds us. It fools us into believing it. But the heart wants to live in the present. Look there. You’ll find your answer.” While this is certainly a nice summation of the film’s theme (and a nod to Eastern philosophy), it may as well be directed at the audience. Forget the original, whether you love it or hate it or are indifferent, and enjoy a tight little sci-fi action flick in the present.

I enjoyed this new TOTAL RECALL much more once I was able to do so.





~ by johnlink00 on January 6, 2014.

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