What They Say:
As the nation states Euromerica and New Shanghai vie for supremacy, a factory worker (Farrell) begins to suspect that he’s a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he’s on.
When the remake of this was announced, I fell easily into the camp wondering why they would do so. While I knew that the previous movie staring Arnold deviated in a lot of ways from the basics of the short story from Philip K. Dick, there was also that general mindset of wishing they weren’t mining movies from the 90′s for remakes. As this one progressed, the trailer came out and so forth, I started to get more enthused for it and added it to my list of opening night movies to check out. While the feature is filled with people I like, both in front of and behind the camera, it doesn’t have any must see people for me. I’ve enjoyed all of them to varying degrees over the years and could see how this would work, but it just didn’t have that added edge on the creative side.
For those who enjoyed the previous film, there are obviously a lot of similarities here as they draw on the same material. We’re introduced to Doug Quaid played by Colin Farrell, a factory worker in the future who is feeling like things just aren’t what they’re supposed to be and he’s haunted by dreams that paints him as a secret agent of some sort. This future world is really quite interesting as it comes after a time of massive biological warfare that has ruined the majority of the planet. What exists now is the United Federation of Britain, which spans to some areas of Europe, and Australia, which is called only The Colony. Everything is a desolate wasteland of ruins from what little we see at one point except for these two areas and most of what the UFB is made up of seems to be sealed inside to keep safe. So the quirky bit of science fiction here is that there’s a massive elevator that goes through the Earth’s core to connect the two. Those down in the Colony have the rough and lower class feel to it while the UFB is all upper class.
While Doug has an alright but ordinary life, he has a great wife of seven years in Lori, played by Kate Beckinsale. She works for UFB security topside bit lives with him down in the Colony. While we see Doug’s struggles in a class system here, things change when he visits Recall, a place that allows you to have memories inserted so you can lead the life you want in memory form. The trick is that it can’t do something that you’ve already done to some degree. The example of having a mistress and getting a Recall implant of another provides too much of a conflict. The expected and obvious element here is that Doug goes in and opts for the secret agent memory implant, based on what his dreams are like, and discovers that he really is a secret agent for the UFB. One that defected and works with the resistance down in the Colony. Enter the mess that his life now becomes as fragments of that previous life comes into play.
And naturally the hunt is on to get him as there’s all sorts of things in his mind that people want, on both sides, and he’s the man in the middle. His only help along the way is the woman from his dreams, Melina played by Jessica Biel, who happens to pretty much literally run into him and escalate the chain of events. Total Recall is hard to not compare to the previous movie and I’ve felt that doing so really is a disservice to both movies. While they have the same structure overall in the first half, they’re very different movies. And not just because there’s no trip to Mars here, something that the original added on its own to allow for some uniqueness, but simply because the original movie is one thing. An Arnold movie. His films from the 80′s and 90′s are vehicles made for him. They’re wrapped around his type of action and humor and a kind of outlandishness that works, to having something silly but to have the right kind of quip associated with it that gives it just enough wiggle room.
As many times as I’ve seen the 90′s version, and by god the various versions of it that I own, it’s not a movie you take seriously. Not that the 2012 Total Recall is a pure serious event in the highly intellectual level, but it’s not going for camp here. It feels like science fiction thriller material, or at least a thriller with some intriguing science fiction trappings. This incarnation gives us a very different world to work with, blends in the resistance and the reasons for its existence in a new way even if it never really quantifies what the resistance actually is since we see just a handful of guys at most. And their leader for just one scene before he’s wiped out. With the look of the two main areas, the way they’re designed, the car travel and the (admittedly goofy) elevator that moves through the Earth’s crust, it plays to the kind of science fiction writing that Philip K. Dick and others wrote for so long that inspired so many to elevate it even higher, both in film and in novels.
As this feature plays out, it does adhere to the rules set by the original work that were also followed in the previous movie. You can see these things coming, but the dynamic of it is changed up and with it being more hard hitting, far better special effects by a landslide and a more serious tone overall, it hits the right notes. Part of me felt a little let down at first because the two films are so similar in the overall theme and I felt like it was going to be easy to just glide through it without caring because of that. But as it progresses, and the setting, locales and characters become more invested and interesting, it works much better than the previous film. I felt as though if the 90′s version did not exist, this feature would be getting a lot more attention and interest from science fiction fans as a faithful adaptation that adjusts to the screen with obvious and needed changes and enhancements to make it flow. I suspect Total Recall will gain more of an audience once it hits home video and premium networks, and it should. It’s a very well put together movie, everyone does a solid job and it left me quite pleased by the experience.