Total Recall Film Review

Total_RecallBored with his life, Douglas Quaid visits Rekall, a company that provides customers with false memories. Quaid wants to have a ‘spy experience’, but before the procedure can be carried out, armed forces raid Rekall, and Quaid is forced to go on the run…

Total Recall has been made into a memorable Science Fiction film once before – in 1990. That film was directed by Paul Verhoven and starred Arnold Shwarzenegger. The movie was no classic, but it was a fun, violent film with some memorable set pieces.

Total Recall 2012 seems to want to distance itself from the 1990 movie and be truer to the literary source material. Unfortunately, ‘truer’ seems to mean excluding the trip to Mars and robbing the film of any sense of fun. I found myself yearning for a ‘witty’ one liner from Arnie, or the insane visual of a terraformed Mars.

This remake does reference the 1990 movie, but the airport scene is an anti-climax and the ‘augmented lady’ with three breasts makes little sense. In the original film, humans had acquired mutations on Mars. Here though, I guess she just had plastic surgery?

Total Recall is a total bore, from start to finish. Quaids life as a factory worker with a lovely wife hardly seems boring. For one thing, he travels through the centre of the planet every day, to get to work. Yes, that’s right, we are expected to believe that an elevator shaft has been built through the center of the earth. But wait! there’s more. We are also told that the journey takes 17 minutes. I remember remarking to my wife that this was awfully fast. The Earth is very roughly 8,000 miles wide. Making that trip in just 17 minutes means that your average velocity can be established thusly: 8,000/17 =  470.58 miles per minute. So that’s like…mach 40 or something.

OK, so we don’t need any sort of science to go with our fiction, but the movie just won’t quit screwing with physics. All the action scenes are devoid of tension or fun. Rubbery CG characters jump (there’s a lot of jumping in this movie) from elevators and high ledges with nary a scratch, bump, or even curse word.

Furthermore – Colin Farrel, who is completely ripped in the movie, fights with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel. Both of these lovely ladies are waifs, who fight in skin tight clothes in scenes of sexualised violence. It’s completely unbelievable that women with such delicate physiques could prove a match for such a man trained in combat.


Two skinny models have a fight in nice tight clothes. Female empowerment? or sexualised violence?

The worst fight scene is early in the movie, when Quaid’s wife (Beckinsale) fights with Quaid in a style so rehearsed and so relentless and robotic, leaping vast expanses between buildings that it becomes farcical.

The film is directed by Len Wiseman, who seems to crib from just about every other major sci-fi flick. Wiseman copies the lens flare from JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, the action is cribbed from silly junk like I-Robot, the post-apocalyptic world is strikingly similar to Blade Runner and the hyper-kinetic fight scenes feel like a sub-par Bourne film.

As I mentioned earlier, the 1990 version of Total Recall is no classic, but it did have a nice sense of unease. The central ambiguity, nicely played in Verhoven’s film over whether Quaid is trapped in a Rekall fantasy is completely lost here. In the short story, the concept of altering memory to erase the notion of who someone is, and what “identity” even means is not explored in the film. Instead, we are treated to lots of shooting and mindless violence.

In summary then, this film has literally nothing to commend it – other than some nifty effects work. It’s a vacuous exercise in blockbuster action that you will forget 5 minutes after you’ve seen it. There’s nothing original here, it’s drab, takes itself overly seriously and wastes the acting talent, source material and ultimately my time.

Rating: 3/10


One thought on “Total Recall Film Review

  1. Good review. This film was a whole bunch of fun and even though it was very predictable, I still turned my brain off for a good 2 hours and enjoyed myself. Also, can’t go wrong with a cast like Biel, Beckinsale, Farrell, and Cranston, just to name a few.

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