There are many reasons I should denigrate the action sci-fi remake Total Recall, but despite all its problems, I still found it moderately entertaining. That being said, it’s not a movie I’d highly recommend and would instead say it’s at best worth a rental rather than purchase for multiple viewings.
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Action
Sony | PG13/Unrated – 118/130 min. – $40.99 | December 18, 2012
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick (short story); Ronald Shiussett & Dan O’Bannon and Jon Povill and Kurt Wimmer (screen story), Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback (screenplay)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy
Theatrical Release Date: August 3, 2012
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Gag Reel, DVD Copy, UltraViolet
Number of Discs: 3
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 46.5 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
There are two certainties in life. No, it’s not death and taxes, at least not in Hollywood. No, in Hollywood it’s remakes (at least in the last 5 years) and Philip K. Dick adaptations. So we’ve now entered a Twilight Zone of sorts as the two elements combined with this pseudo-remake/pseudo adaptation of Total Recall with Colin Farrell taking the lead role and surrounded by a couple of hotties. On that front, it couldn’t be a total loss, right?
The plot in this version differentiates from the other opening in a dream sequence in which Douglas Quaid (COLIN FARRELL) and a woman named Melina (JESSICA BIEL) outrun armed guards who are in hot pursuit for some reason or another. Just as he’s captured using an electrical lasso, allowing Melina to escape down a shaft, Quaid awakens in a cold sweat. Lying next to him is his stunning wife, Lori played by Mrs. Len Wiseman a.k.a. Kate Beckinsale. He’s had this dream multiple times before which he’s told her about, though he leaves out the other woman.
The world Quaid and Lori live in, as described in detail via text at the beginning, is one where there are only two habitable areas on Earth due to a global chemical warfare: The United Federation of Britain (UK) and The Colony (Australia) with only one mode of transportation to and fro called “The Fall” which travels through the earth to get to the other side. But as with any futuristic movie, whenever there’s a totalitarianism government, there’s a ragtag rebel group out there and in this film this resistance is lead by Matthias (BILL NIGHY in his obligatory cameo role).
Quaid is living a relatively decent existence, considering those on the Colony are more or less laborers for the UFB, with his beautiful wife who works security for Chancellor Cohaagen (BRYAN CRANSTON) while Quaid works in a factory building security bots but first takes the “The Fall” with friend and co-worker Harry (BOKEEM WOODBINE).
During the trip, and after, he confides that he’s not satisfied with his lot in life and has considered taking a vacation via a company called Rekall, though Harry tries to steer him away from the place. However, after his shift Quaid goes to Rekall anyway and is greeted by head engineer McClane (JOHN CHO sporting bleached blonde hair that we often see in futuristic films). Quaid dream/fantasy choice is becoming a spy and after some initial tests the procedure barely is underway when McClane suddenly panics stating that Quaid is a spy after which an army of storm troopers bust in, shooting everyone in sight… except for Quaid who suddenly knows exactly what to do.
Upon narrowly escaping, during which he kills several of them, he returns home and confides with Lori what he had done. After initial disbelief, she embraces him as if to console when her true colors come out and another fight ensues between the supposedly married couple. Quaid finally gets out and now the chase is on, in the middle he meets Melina in real life and discovers things about himself and that he indeed is a government agent but is instead working for the resistance. Or is he?
In Total Recall, outside of the opening dream/memory sequence, this 2012 version is pretty much in line with the 1990 version (save for some upgrades in technology, of course). And the thing of it is, I know this updated one was roundly hated by both critics and audiences, I for one found it mildly entertaining despite the obvious problems.
First, the good: Colin Farrell seems to once again make for a capable lead actor and although the script doesn’t allow for it, he does show a certain amount of charm. His Quaid/Hauser shows enough duality that you can at least feel his confusion. Ok, it’s not a performance that one should receive high praise for, but he’s was adequate in the lead given the material he had to work with.
The two female leads, Kate Beckinsale as Quaid’s “wife” (previously played by Sharon Stone) and Jessica Biel as Melina (played in 1990 by Rachel Ticotin), are fine in their role, though Beckinsale spends much of the film chasing after Quaid and looking good doing it. Not much more to her part nor is there any sort of depth. Biel gets a bit more to do, but in the theatrical version the relationship between her and Quaid/Hauser, is more on the surface (the director’s cut does add something more). Similar to Farrell, her character isn’t allowed to do very much more other than be a love interest and kick some ass.
The supporting cast is pretty much underused and more filler than anything else. Bryan Cranston once again proves underutilized as the power hungry governmental a-hole; Bokeem Woodbine seems adequate in the best friend role and at least has more to do later on; and Bill Nighy does Wiseman a favor in a small but important role as the resistance leader.
I suppose one of the bigger highlights to this movie is with the visual effects upgrade. As with any of these bleak/dark future worlds, the one here isn’t that different but it’s just as outlandish. It’s also not entirely original as much of it seems to pay homage to Blade Runner… just not as creative. Even so, the visual effects were mostly impressive but not entirely memorable.
Total Recall was produced and directed by Len Wiseman whose career, outside of the far more enjoyable Live Free or Die Hard — which was more thanks to the return of Bruce Willis as John McClane — has been comprised of the Underworld franchise, having a hand in the writing each one and directing the first two entries (starring Beckinsale). This adaptation/update was written, primarily, by Kurt Wimmer whose work has included spy-thriller Salt, moral action-drama Law Abiding Citizen and, most notably, Equilibrium, his most well known script (as well as direction), at least by those on the Internet.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the camera flare used by Wiseman and his director of photographer Paul Cameron. I realize the two wanted to give the movie a distinct look but it only became annoying and a bit laughable especially since many scenes only reminded me of Abrams’ Star Trek more than anything else. I certainly hope this doesn’t become a trend…
Now, there’s many reasons why one should be letdown by this updated adaptation/remake (it’s both based on the credits), yet despite the one-dimensional characters, predictable plot and an ending which, to me, was anything but ambiguous (in spite of what Wiseman says), I still was moderately entertained by the action and Farrell made for an adequate action hero. By the same token, I’m not giving the movie high praise either and would say this is at best worth a rental.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
This 3-disc release comes with a glossy slip cover and a thick HD Keep Case, a DVD Copy and an UltraViolet download code. Also included is a Game Demo for “Gods of War: Ascension” for the PS3 There’s also a version with only 2 Blu-ray discs (movie and features) that also comes with the UV code but excludes the DVD disc.
Extended Director’s Cut (2:10:16; HD) – I first checked out the theatrical version for my initial movie review and am currently watching the DC as I write this portion and there are some significant changes. You do have a few extra scenes that add a bit more to the characters (at the beginning Quaid says “I love you” to Melina which was completely cut out), there are a couple completely new scenes (there’s an alternate one where Quaid learns he didn’t get the promotion) and so on. There are two significant changes: the first is the re-insertion of Ethan Hawke during the scene in the apartment and the other is an alternate ending which makes the theatrical version look far more ambiguous. This cut is approximately 12 minutes longer. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Audio Commentary – Director Len Wiseman offers up an insightful and informative commentary track on the director’s cut and provides details on the differences and also on the plot and such. Although I would’ve liked to have another participant, more often than not solo tracks are a bore, but Wiseman fills the time with minimal pauses. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Total Recall: Insight Mode (2:17:07; HD) – Available only with the theatrical cut, this is a picture-in-picture feature which takes viewers behind the scenes throughout the movie as well as provide pop-up anecdotes and cast/crew interviews.
Gag Reel (8:00; HD) – Flubbed lines, prop malfunctions and all the other good stuff. This also gives a view at just how good of a time the cast had working with one another.
Science Fiction vs. Science Fact (9:28; HD) – Professor Michio Kaku (who I wish had recorded his own commentary for the film) talks about advances in technology over the years and where we could go in the future, all in relation to certain elements in the movie.
Designing the Fall (2:55; HD) is a short featurette focusing on making the “elevator” that travels through the core of the Earth from production designs to the actual interior set.
Total Action (20:00; HD) contain several more short featurettes (Colin Farrell, The Tripping Den, Destroying Rekall, Kate Beckinsale, Lobby Escape, Jessica Biel and Quaid vs. Cohaagen) on various subjects of the production and includes behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the cast/crew and breakdown of the different fight sequences.
Stepping into Recall: Pre-Visualization Sequences (25:30; HD) – These cover the various major scenes from the movie in pre-vis form as a guide to help before actually filming the sequence. There’s nothing here particularly fascinating but shows how the process is done.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Total Recall regains its memory realizing it’s a Blu-ray and NOT a DVD and is presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a clean 1080p high-def transfer. As with other new releases, this one also features some nice detail levels throughout and since a fair portion takes place in a darker environment, black levels are also impressive. I didn’t notice any artifacting, banding or other visual flaws. Whenever we do get a splash of color, and in this world it’s noticeable, the color array pops off the screen.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The disc gets a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track shows off the numerous action scenes with a loud but dynamic lossless audio. As you can imagine, there are many explosions, gunfire (well future gunfire anyway), car crashes and other things that go “boom” to really show off the track. When we do get a breather and some actual dialogue happens, it’s also crisp and clear. It might not be showcase material, but it’s notable nevertheless.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, there are many reasons I should denigrate the action sci-fi remake Total Recall, but despite all its problems, I still found it moderately entertaining. That being said, it’s not a movie I’d highly recommend and would instead say it’s at best worth a rental rather than purchase for multiple viewings. The Blu-ray has a fair amount of features and the audio/video transfers are impressive.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.