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Published on August 21st, 2012 | by seenheard

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Total Recall Review

For those of who you who weren’t totally dreading this release, Total Recall is a remake of the famed 1990 film, which was in turn based on a book with a far longer and more entertaining name. This time around it stars Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, and is directed by Len Wiseman.

The rebooted plot is built from the same foundations as its predecessor, but if you’re really not familiar with the story, it goes something like this: Chemical warfare has rendered the world mostly uninhabitable, apart from inconveniently distant Britain and Australia, or “The Colony” as it is known, and travel between the two is made super easy by the tunnel that connects them. Quaid (Farrell) commutes to Britain from the Colony to work as a factory hand, he has a beautiful wife (Beckinsale) and a seemingly normal life… But something doesn’t feel right. To get the buzz that he just doesn’t get from commuting to Britain THROUGH THE EARTH he visits a clinic which promises to give him fantastic (yet fake) memories. However, it all goes pear shaped when the initial testing reveals his memories have already been tampered with.

I know I tend to dole out the same “It was visually satisfying but inexplicably bereft of substance” line a lot when discussing action films, but I feel the latest Total Recall kind of epitomizes that conclusion. Watching this film is like buying a massive burger and taking a satisfying first bite only to discover that there was only a tiny meat patty in there and now you have to eat loads of warm, soggy salad and warm(ish) stale bread.

The change – from both the book and original film – to cut lose the story of Mars and make it one of economic inequality on Earth was a peculiar choice as it’s not made abundantly clear what (if any struggle) is taking place between the two surviving countries of men before the relentless attack on the poor begins. The plot gives us naught but the thinnest veneer of reason to cover the actions of its desperate-to-shoot-something or someone inhabitants, so when that’s coupled with the complete lack of chemistry between the characters and dialogue with less weight than the beer bottle I left outside… we’re not left with much.

Yeah, the actions scenes are pretty, and the special effects fairly wow-tastic, but the film feels flat. There’s none of Paul Verhoeven’s fusion of over the top testosterone fuelled violence and cheesy one-liners; there’s no Arnie; there’s no momentum to carry the film between action… but I suppose there IS a lady with three boobs (get excited).

 If you feel that I’ve been heavy handed in my comparison between the two films, it’s because despite Australia becoming inexplicably rainy (like seriously) and a suitable replacement for MARS, there’s not whole lot of difference between them. So, why do it? A fascinating question that I’ll be sure to ask Collin Farrell next time we’re at acting class together (I’m joking, he’s being held back again).

Seriously though? If you love the original, and didn’t like the trailer for this beast, it’s not going to change your mind. If you’re a new comer to the concept and just want a film that will look cool-beans on the big screen, you’ve chosen wisely.

 -Kyle Carlin

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