If you’re looking for a run-of-the-mill popcorn-action flick, Underworld Writer/Director Len Wiseman’s Total Recall may catch your eye for a brief moment with a forgettable Jason Bourne tale. However, if you were hoping for a Total Recall reboot, you will be sorely disappointed.
The new film sidesteps the camp vibe of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven Recall, only to rip out the heart of the original story. The new Recall is a reboot in name only and the plot is totally devoid of motivation. Whereas the original film had a compelling story about corporate cutthroats controlling the air on Mars and Martian colonists who had turned into mutants thanks to those Earth corporations, the new film is a humdrum tale of land expansion. There are no twists or surprises when Colin Farrell takes on the mantle of Douglas Quaid / Hauser, just a lot of mediocre fight scenes and Storm Troopers ripped right of The Clone Wars.
Total Recall follows follows Douglas Quaid, a seemingly ordinary man living an ordinary married life. After he goes to a place called Rekall, he starts to realize that the last few months of his life was a lie and that he actually might be a kick-ass spy named Hauser.
From the moment the pseudo-reboot begins, the movie destroys any hope of surprise. Wiseman opens on Hauser and his girlfriend Melina (Jessica Biel) fighting side-by-side. Then, Hauser gets caught – cut to Douglas Quaid waking up. Is it just a dream or a memory? The original film was able to maintain an air of ambiguity throughout the first half of the film and even towards the end there were still a few major surprises. The lackluster fight scene that opens up Wiseman’s Recall is meant to capture your attention, but all it does is let you know that Hauser and Quaid are one and the same. Also, we know that Melina and Hauser were dating right away, something that was a mystery in the first movie. Right away, in this Recall all hope of suspense is tossed out the window – and it never returns.
Certain points from the original film do come up. There is a place called Rekall, where you can get artificial memories implanted in your head. However, instead of a flashy futuristic office, Wiseman’s Rekall is in a seedy part of town and the office décor is Asian-inspired. Also, the first film was about Earth and its colony on Mars. It made sense. At some point, we’d move into space due to overpopulation. Wiseman’s Recall starts off with a quick history lesson. There are two inhabitable places left on Earth, the United Federation of Britain, which is a good chunk of Europe, and Australia, which is now known as the colony.
The lead villain, Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), has only one motivation: to occupy the colony so that people from the Federation can live there. However, people from the colony move to the Federation all the time and work there – they just may get skipped over for a promotion. There’s nothing new there, the corporate ladder always plays favorites. This movie is supposed to be about a struggle for land, but from the start of the movie to its end, nothing gets explained or resolved. The land struggle just ends up being an arbitrary mechanism so that there can be a “good” side and a “bad” side to this random war.
Kate Beckinsale plays Quaid’s pseudo-wife, Lori. She’s awesome to see in a fight. However, every time she talks she gives away an entire piece of the story that could have been used for suspense. In the original film, Sharon Stone wasn’t vomiting out Quaid/Hauser’s entire backstory in every scene. Worst of all Beckinsdale is always blabbing out the story’s secrets to the one person she shouldn’t – Hauser.
Without the use of Verhoeven’s story to ground it, the Quaid/Hauser tale simply becomes a knock-off Jason Bourne story. He’s a guy who lost his memory, but can kick butt when his back is against the wall. Unfortunately, the fight scenes are not that exciting. Close-ups and quick cutting sap the intensity away from every fight. It just looks like Wiseman couldn’t find a way to make the action look real. Also the use of synthetics is an overwhelming waste. They are wannabe Star Wars’ Storm Troopers, who can’t talk.
Sadly, Kuato has been totally cut from the movie. Instead of mutants, you get a lot of strange coincidences, where “good” guys and “bad” guys just happen to be in the same place at the same time, with no explanation. When Quaid first makes his way back to the colony, everyone is waiting for him as if he had called in advance. He didn’t.
Wiseman’s Total Recall misses the mark on Verhoeven sci-fi classic. It isn’t a boring movie, it’s just a less than mediocre action film that you will probably never want to watch again. Why watch a fake Bourne flick, when you can just watch the real thing. If you want to see a Total Recall film, stick with the 1990 version.