How ironic that a film whose key conceit involves wiped-out memories is so easily forgettable itself… The new Total Recall, adapted from a Phillip K Dick short story, and remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarznegger starrer, is a joyless bore of a film that possesses none of the campy charm of its predecessor.
Set somewhere in an unspecified future where all of Earth has been destroyed, save for an elite United Federation of Britain and The Colony, where the poor masses live in squalor, the movie stars Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in a dead-end job. Understandably, Doug and his hot wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) dream of a better life. Doug shows up at a company called Rekall where you can pay to have any memory planted in your head, so your dreams can be a pleasant escape from your sad reality.
His visit to Rekall, however, throws up a revelation he had no idea about – Doug was previously part of an underground rebel group, and in love with fellow resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel). When his identity becomes known, he’s attacked by Lori, who, as it turns out, is an assassin working for the evil overlord of the Federation.
Director Len Wiseman updates the special effects to give us some cool high-tech gadgets, an army of stormtrooper-like soldiers, and an almost entirely CGI universe, including the giant elevator that makes the trip between the two worlds. Unlike the earlier film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, there’s no Mars-centered fantasy this time. What’s also missing in the bland new remake is the humor of that previous film, both intentional and unintentional. The proceedings here are deadly serious, and Wiseman leaves little room for cheeky dialogue and character development.
Colin Farrell plays his part without a hint of irony, and Kate Beckinsale gets another opportunity to show off her action-heroine chops but little else. A hand-to-hand fight scene between Beckinsale and Biel in a speeding elevator is edited so frantically that you’re denied the excitement of watching a visceral catfight.
I’m going with two out of five for Total Recall. The action scenes are engaging, and perhaps the film might appeal to those who haven’t watched the earlier version. For the rest of us though, it’s a good thing we won’t have to visit Rekall to delete all memories of this new film.