Warning: This first paragraph contains spoilers regarding the 1990 version of Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, they aren’t about this one. Reader discretion is advised. It’s unfortunate really, that a movie like Total Recall can’t be impressively remade with a standout cast and improved technology. Given, this film did greatly improve upon the visuals it’s original, but that’s unsurprising. I will give it though, the movie did it’s best to detach itself from the original in such a way that the audience would see it as a new take on an old concept rather than a remake, and they did okay at that, but with all the similarities that they kept, it was very hard to see this movie without comparing it to the Governator’s rendition. As always, I’ll do my best to keep them separate in this review and state my opinions on this movie as it’s own film rather than a remake, but the disappointment that I felt when I saw certain parts still in, and others glossed over is a bit hard to overcome. To do so however, I’m going to have to go ahead and talk about the stuff that they changed before the actual review begins. First of all, the woman with three boobs makes an appearance in this film, and much to my surprise, it was sans cover. I guess in order to show nipple in PG-13 movies, it has to be in odd numbers. That was very odd to see for the rating that the film had, but it wasn’t that big a deal. The real issue I had here was that the film didn’t bother to explain why she had 3, because the issue of mutants that was raised in the original was nowhere to be found in this film, leaving a little mini plot hole. Secondly, they basically just took the first film, lengthened the chase/fight scenes, and reduced the story development, which was very disappointing for me because the uncertainty that is left at the end of the original is absent in the new one, and that was half the fun! There were a few more discrepancies that frustrated me, like the fact that the feeling of betrayal towards the end was gone due to the lack of a cab driver, but I’ll have to put my comparisons aside in order to effectively review this film.
Casting was excellent, but really, how could you go wrong with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston all in one film? Colin Farrell did an excellent job as Dennis Quaid/Hauser. He showed the necessary change in character as he came to new revelations regarding himself throughout the film. Beckinsale as Quaid’s wife was a good fit, giving both the loving wife image and the intimidating secret agent image in turn. Biel did well also, playing Hauser’s accomplice in the rebellion. Bryan Cranston has really become a go to guy for roles that require a certain level of grit, such as his role in Breaking Bad, and Malcolm in the… Middle… well, ok, sometimes he plays roles with grit, and sometimes he’s a manchild, but he’s pretty versatile, and that puts him in a perfect position to portray Cohaagen. There are a few more relatively big name actors in roles with little screen time that do well, like Bill Nighy and John Cho, but with as little screen time as they get, going in depth isn’t really necessary. Overall a very well done casting job.
This movie was miles ahead of the original visually, and once again, it was nicely done. I do have a few complaints on certain scenes though. Specifically, the rooftop chase scene. This movie was filled with impressive chase scenes, and fight scenes, and the atmosphere was almost always spot on, but this rooftop chase scene was just dismal. For some reason they felt it necessary to go into Mario mode and just make it a side scroller with poorly done flipping people. Not only did it look fake, it looked unnatural, and that was the big thing about this particular scene. On top of a film where the rest of the visuals are terrible, it wouldn’t be noticeable, but in a film that actually holds water in the visual realm it’s so obvious that it’s almost painful. Past the horrid Donkey Kong segment, this film is pretty good visually. The atmosphere surrounding most of the events in the film fits perfectly, and that’s a big credit to the visual team for creating the proper scenes.
The story of this film is where it falls apart. While in general the story makes at least some sense, there are some small plot holes left open that kind of make the movie random in parts. Simply put, due to the holes in plot and logic, the film loses its cohesiveness and that definitely affects the development in a negative way. Of course, in this particular section, I’m afraid it’s hard for me to compartmentalize and speak only of the merits of this new film when I liked the older one so well. When you compare this story line to the older one, it hardly holds a candle to it simply because the older one went more in depth in the story, which ultimately made the film more interesting and allowed the uncertainty to remain at the end of the movie. This rendition ends in a rather conclusive way, and that is disappointing for someone who goes in expecting a repackaging of an old film. But objectively, this film’s story development isn’t bad! It’s just pushed out of the spotlight by the unnecessarily long action sequences.
Ultimately, this film wasn’t BAD. It was just not what I expected going in. As with all movies, you have to know what to expect going in. If you’re thinking it’s going to be the same film that was released in 90 with new actors, you’re wrong. You have to realize that it’s a completely different film and put all preconceived notions aside and just pretend it’s a new concept. Otherwise, you’ll end up disappointed with it, like me. Objectively though, this film really was worth the money, just not what I expected. The visuals and cast were great, and if you’re looking for the typical action movie, this is perfect. Beware the trip-nip-slip toward the beginning if you’re taking your kids, but past that, it’s mainly just the violence that lands the PG-13 rating. See the movie! But don’t expect it to be the same as Arnold’s.