Total Recall (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
25Aug/122

Total Recall (2012)


What's that? Paul Verheoven's Total Recall too old for you? Need something a little more modern? A little more sexy? A little more like Mass Effect? Don't worry, Len Wiseman's got you covered with a wholly unimaginative remake of Total Recall that no one was asking for.

Total Recall 2012 follows most of the beats of the 1990 original: Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker in a bleak dystopian future who wishes he life was more exciting. Looking to put some more excitement into his life, he goes to Rekall, a company that gives their clients vacations in the form of false memories. As it goes with most future-tech ventures, the procedure accidentally reveals that Quaid has a dark secret, which for this go around is that he's really a secret agent who had his memory erased. Now he has to figure out who he really is while trying to stop a war between the last two cities on Earth.

Have you ever lived in a squalid, dystopian future? You will!

I really liked Farrell in last year's Fright Night remake because of the charisma and, at the risk of sounding like Andrew, the sexiness he exuded. Here, he's almost a non-entity. I've seen silent protagonists in video games with more personality than Farrell musters in this film.

The rest of the performances aren't much worth talking about, either, although Kate Beckinsale did make for a decent foil to Farrell's Quaid. Unfortunately her character is about as well developed as everyone else so we never learn much about her beyond that she wants to kill Quaid and she “gives good wife.” Yes, that is an actual line from the film and no, it doesn't make any more sense in context.

Oh, and occasionally little-known actor Brian Cranston pops in to let everyone know he's the big villain of the show, but but like everyone else he's just there to pass the time between exploding CGI robots.

Kate Beckinsale shows off the new Nerf Maverick.

Now I'm sure some of you are saying "B-b-b-but it's and action flick! Who cares if the acting is bland?" Well, as it just so happens, the action scenes are also pretty unmemorable. I will give the film this; it does have some pretty interesting set pieces. The vertical mish-mash skyline of the Colonies, the inverted, magnet-car freeway, the giant, express elevator that literally travels through the core of the planet, any of these locations are visually impressive. Unfortunately, the action scenes which take place there about as cut-and-dry as you can get. And even when they are somewhat interesting, the mood is effectively killed by poor sound design. The scenes have no weight to them. Every explosion sounds like a firecracker, every punch seems painfully weak.

Occasionally the film tries to break away from the wimpy explosions and talk about the nature of reality and dreams and what have you. These tend to be the most hilarious parts, as they are literally two static actors facing each other and delivering lines as if they're reading off of cue cards.

Total Recall suffers from a lot of the same problems The Three Musketeers or Underworld Awakening have: they feel like someone' terrible video game fan fiction come to life. Colin Ferrell's performance makes a lot of sense if you see him as the protagonist of a video game; someone who only has to deliver a few lines at choice cut scenes while remaining a blank for the rest of the time so that the play can project their own thoughts and emotions onto. Beckinsale and Biel serve as eye candy for the player, while Cranston's motivations are allowed to remain "generically evil" because all he has to do is provide the final boss fight.

Here we see CSTM favorite ~*Bryan Cranston*~ in yet another 2012 release!

And, yes, I understand that action video games are a reflection of the action flicks of the 80s and 90s, but it doesn't really work in reverse. You can get away with shitty, bland characters in a video game because, as I said, the player will effectively fill in those gaps. In a film, you get what is essentially a plot outline with some explosions peppered about it. And the explosions weren't even that cool.

But what really grinds my gears about Total Recall 2012 is that is has nothing to say. The 1990 version might not have been Verheoven's biggest hit, but there was at least content in there you could analyze. Yes, it was a goofy action film, but there was also political and social commentary on corporate greed and the obsession with violence in American cinema. Total Recall 2012 has a lot of social commentary about... Imperialist England and the age of colonization? There's no depth to this film. It's a loud, empty waste beyond the idea of "explosions are cool".

Oh, and “I give good wife.” Just had to throw that line out there again because, really, how many people did that line have to go through before it got to Beckinsale's lips and not one of them realized how incredibly stupid it sounds. And yet, it's the most memorable line from the film. I think that's probably the best way to sum up Total Recall 2012.

Posted by Jacob

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I couldn’t criticize anything about Beckinsale’s performance; she was literally the ONLY thing that I found enjoyable to watch in the entire movie!

  2. Good review Jacob. This one may have been fairly predictable in spots but at least it kept me glued to the screen with it’s fun, sci-fi look and action. Also, Beckinsale seemed like she was having a ball with this role and it’s probably the best I have seen from her so far.


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