Proof that action movies from the 1980's and early 90's are indeed better than modern action movies, the beloved Arnold Schwarzenegger cheese fest Total Recall gets the reboot treatment with a sleek, sexy but lifeless incarnation from director Len Wiseman.
Colin Farrell stars as Douglas Quaid, a bored factory worker who visits the mind-altering Rekall company and ends up triggering repressed memories that reveal his entire existence is fictitious. Suddenly on the run from the government, the chase led by his ruthless "wife" Lori (Kate Beckinsale), he sets out to find the truth about who he is, and, more importantly, why his memories were erased in the first place. Jessica Biel also stars.
Kate Beckinsale. Jessica Biel. It sucks to be Colin Farrell.
Then again, there is no Mars and few mutants, so it does suck to be Colin Farrell. Total Recall 2012 lacks the elements that made the original movie so entertainment and crazy.
Len Wiseman's Total Recall is set in a future where much of the Earth is uninhabitable and the two remaining territories, the United Federation of Britain and the Colony (a.k.a. Australia), are connected by a large tunnel that passes through the planet's core and inexplicably only takes 17 minutes to traverse. The future looks like a mix between those seen in Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, only sucked of originality and fun.
The recent trend in action movies has been toward more serious and realistic fare, with an emphasis on tapping into the inner psyche of the characters. Wiseman takes this approach with Total Recall, except that it's even less realistic and emotionally flat. The result is a movie that looks really nice, but lacks the energy and, frankly, goofiness that made the original so fun.
This new Total Recall does have several exciting and complex action sequences, however. Len Wiseman takes full advantage of his $140 million budget; the movie features strong visual effects and a highly detailed, multi-dimensional world. Surprisingly, the movie maintains an adequate blend of action and developmental scenes that keeps a fast pace but never loses itself.
Except in the climax. If the ending in the original Total Recall is farfetched, the conclusion to this movie - where Quaid and others manage to climb on the outside of a giant "train" as it travels at breakneck speed through the center of the earth - is simply absurd. In a time and age where audiences aren't as accepting of completely ludicrous plot developments, it's pretty stunning that Wiseman and screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback decided to base their third act on such a sequence.
At least they kept the three-breasted woman.
Total Recall is a perfectly acceptable sci-fi action movie, but its quality is only skin deep. Pull away the flashy visual effects and action scenes and Total Recall is a lackluster movie that fails to improve upon on the original in any way. At least it compelled me to go watch the Arnold version again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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