If there was ever a film that didn’t need a remake (putting aside the completely unnecessary Spider-Man reboot), it would probably have to be 1990’s Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall.
Yet with Hollywood rarely listening to the voice of reason, here we have it – minus Arnie, and minus all the campy goodness that made the original such a cult favourite.
The story of the latest Total Recall differs in a number of ways from both the original film and sci-fi writer Philip K Dick’s short story source material – unlike the 1990 version,
Director Len Wiseman’s story remains grounded entirely on Earth (that’s right – no Mars).
This time around, our protagonist Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) lives in a post-World War III society where tensions flare between the last two habitable places on the planet: The wealthy United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the impoverished Colony (Australia).
Quaid (Farrell) is happy with his wife (Kate Beckinsale), but miserable with the mundanity of his factory job, bitter about the political fortunes of the planet, and confused about a recurring dream where he needs to save a mysterious woman (Jessica Biel).
He learns of a programme called Recall that implants memories in people’s brains – needless to say, this doesn’t go down so well and he’s suddenly thrust into a much larger conspiracy.
While some fans will most likely miss the campy (and, at times, visually arresting) aesthetic of Verhoeven’s Total Recall, Wiseman’s interpretation plays all of the sci-fi plot material with a very straight face. The film takes itself extremely seriously, and with the exception of select references to the first film, works hard to ground events in a believable vision of 2084.
For the most part, Farrell delivers a strong leading man performance that allows Quaid to be likable – even though the character is mostly a blank slate. Still, he’s no Arnie, and to be honest, it’s impossible to get too excited about any film where the Irish actor is the leading man.
This is not a bad movie. The action sequences are good and the visuals are great. A younger audience that doesn’t know the original might even enjoy it. But for fans of the Schwarzenegger original, this movie just doesn’t measure up, and quite frankly, wasn’t necessary.