“Total Recall” Movie Review


     It’s quite possible I’ve never seen a film before that was more of a blatant rip off of classic Science Fiction films than Len Wiseman’s remake of “Total Recall”.  No, I’m not speaking of anything being ripped off from the original 1990 film and if they would’ve stuck to that story rather than making this one more of a spin off, than perhaps this version may not have suffered from such unoriginal thinking.  Sure, it’s a tall order to replace the larger than life charisma and humor of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it doesn’t seem Colin Farrell even gives it a shot.  He plays the lead character, Douglas Quaid, dead serious and shows no flair for the dramatic, nor does he take advantage of any of the film’s signature moments by injecting something fun into the proceedings.

     Tell me if you’ve heard this before.  The leader of a flourishing society wants to take over the rest of the planet.  In order to do this, the leader and his cronies are behind a number of terrorist attacks on their society, but blame the attacks on the poorer nation they intend to take over.  The leader uses these attacks as justification to create a synthetic army which in turn would be used in a takeover the rival country.  If your a “Star Wars” fan, you’ve probably already clued into the fact this is the exact plot of “Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones.”  In that film, Chancellor Palpatine is secretly behind the Separatist army who forces the Republic into war.  Palpatine uses the acts of the Separatists to justify the creation of a clone army, which he then uses to wipe out the Jedi and create the Galactic Empire.  With this being the case, why then have the seven screenwriters of “Total Recall” decided to abandon the plot of the original they are supposedly remaking in favor of a plot used in the “Star Wars” prequels?

     Pardon my redundancy here, but I now have to let you in on the plot of the film I’m here to review.  The whole Earth versus Mars and the air being turned off story from the original has been scrapped for some reason. The evil Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) is the President of the United Federation of Britain, one of two inhabitable places left on earth after the global devastation of a chemical war.  The other place is referred to as The Colony and both are connected via an elevator that runs through the center of the Earth called The Fall.  The Colony is the poorer super power and many of its people work in the UFB.  As I stated before, Cohaagen is behind terrorist attacks on his own people and blames the attacks on The Colony.  He then uses these attacks as reason to create a synthetic army and intends to invade and take over The Colony for global domination.  This is the story they ripped off, rather than coming up with something original or just simply going with the plot from the original film, which would’ve been fine by me.

     Within this stolen plot are the main characters from the original film and each functions in generally the same way.  Quaid is a former confidant of Cohaagen who decides he’s playing for the wrong team.  When he’s caught, Cohaagen has his memory wiped and he’s set up with a stand in wife, job, and past memories.  His wife Lori, played by Kate Beckinsale, functions in this film as both Sharon Stone’s character as well as Michael Ironside’s character from the original.  When Quaid’s memory begins to come back to him, Lori then functions as the leader of the people hunting him.  While on the run, Quaid is aided by Melina (Jessica Biel), who was at his side prior to his memory being erased.

     Len Wiseman manages a number of well done action sequences throughout the film.  One of which has our characters being chased within the underbelly of a massive elevator system, with elevators moving in all directions and the characters jumping from car to car to avoid being hit.  In another sequence, Lori chases Quaid through a maze of  structures and levels within an urban area with The Colony.  Many of the shots show an aerial perspective, which brings out the complexity of the area and the many details which went into designing the layout of The Colony.  The effects artists did a fantastic job with these set pieces and they are clearly the highlight of the film.  There are actually a few original design elements as well, including the cell phones of the future which are implanted in the users hand.

     Though the action works throughout the picture, I couldn’t help but be continually reminded of other films, as the design work was clearly influenced by “Blade Runner” (The Colony’s Asian themed city which Quaid lives and the flying police vehicles), “The Fifth Element” (Flying police vehicles chasing other flying vehicles in a futuristic cyberscape.), “I Robot” (The look and movement of the synthetic army, particularly in the aforementioned elevator sequence), and finally “Star Wars” (The synthetic army’s armor is white and black, making them look exactly like Stormtroopers or Clone Troopers). Add that to the stolen plot and you have to wonder if this was meant to be more of a homage than a remake.  It’s as if  Wiseman and his design team sat down and watched a couple classic Science Fiction films and just took what they wanted.  I mean, why not have the synthetic army have yellow armor, or black, or pink.....anything but white!

     I suppose this brings me to my final point.  Why are we remaking a 22 year old film which stands up just fine today.  I’d rather the studio just rerelease “Total Recall” (1990) for the younger generation to see it on the big screen and leave it at that.  Wiseman even screws up the 3 boob lady scene as it comes and goes with barely a snicker.  This film isn’t entertainment, it’s a lame attempt at a cash grab that tries to fool the viewer with impressive special effects and hopes you aren’t old enough to know how synthetic it really is.  GRADE: D-