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Total Recall (2012) Review

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Total Recall (2012)

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid
Kate Beckinsale as Agent Lori
Jessica Biel as Melina
Bryan Cranston as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen
Bokeem Woodbine as Agent Harry
Bill Nighy as Matthias
John Cho as McClane
Director: Len Wiseman

Douglas is frustrated with his frequent dreams where he is a secret agent. He visits Rekall to get a fake memory implanted into his brain, but the procedure goes haywire.

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When it comes to remakes of classics, 2012’s Total Recall seems to be one of the most disliked, at least from the past decade. I remember liking it when I saw it for the first time, but that was quite a while ago. After rewatching the original Total Recall after many years (and loving it even more), I decided to check out the remake again the same night. Perhaps not the best option, as I immediately noticed everything great and good about the original that the remake did not have. That being said, taking the remake aspect out of it, Total Recall (2012) is otherwise a serviceable enough standalone sci-fi film.

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I wouldn’t say the script of Total Recall (2012) is bad, it is competent and functional enough but it really isn’t strong. It does start off pretty well, with a good pace and an intriguing mystery at the centre of the movie. Throughout the movie, there’s some pretty good world building as well. I wasn’t super engaged with the plot partly because I knew what general direction it would be moving towards, and partly because it wasn’t the most interesting. Still, the plot at least had me willing to follow what was happening. After a while though, the plot becomes very generic and by the time it reaches the third act, it almost just gives up. It just concludes in a dragged out, dull and bland action climax. By that point the plot has gotten really convoluted, and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the movie to try to regain the thread of what was happening. For what its worth, I watched the Extended Director’s Cut and I heard the theatrical version removes the complexity from the plot. So if you were planning on watching it, I highly recommend checking out the longer version. That was me talking about the remake without comparing it to the original, that ends here. Side by side, the remake really does take away so much of what made the original film so special. Mars doesn’t play a part, there aren’t any mutants, and it takes itself incredibly seriously. Plotwise it’s not exactly similar to the Paul Verhoeven film which I honestly respect. I admire the decision to be a little different to the classic Arnold flick, even if it means having to drop some beloved and iconic aspects. That being said, the movie is still left less memorable and interesting and really lacks a personality. It is worth noting is that there are some out of place callbacks to the original throughout, which are baffling considering the remake’s intention to be somewhat different. There are lines of dialogue which are straight up taken from the 1990 film. There’s even a reference to the three breasted woman from the original film, which will only make sense to people to watched that movie and understands this moment, while the rest of the audience are left confused.

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Total Recall does at the very least have a solid cast going for it. Colin Farrell plays the role of lead role Douglas Quaid, not one of his all-time best performances, but he’s quite good. Arnold Schwarzenegger did admittedly seem out of place for the story of Total Recall (especially when he’s playing a role that is meant to be an everyman), but he fitted the energy of that film appropriately, and his presence really added to the film. With a more conventional and straight-faced Total Recall however, Farrell does a good job in the part. He’s convincing at the action scenes and at conveying his character’s need to know what is going on. Most of the other actors like Bill Nighy do a good job. Meanwhile Jessica Biel is very unconvincing as the love interest. Bryan Cranston plays Cohaagen, the main villain of Total Recall, played in the original by Ronny Cox. With a talent like Cranston as the antagonist, there’s a lot of potential. While he’s decent enough in his scenes, the movie doesn’t utilise him the best. He’s just generically evil, doesn’t leave much of an impression, and isn’t even in the movie a lot. Thankfully, Kate Beckinsale picks up the slack as Quaid’s wife Lori and the secondary villain of the movie. Essentially she plays a combination of Sharon Stone’s Lori and Michael Ironside’s Richter from the original Total Recall, as she relentlessly pursues Quaid throughout the film. Beckinsale’s turn as a villain is very fun to watch, she’s unstoppable and ruthless, and is definitely one of the strongest parts of the movie.

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Len Wiseman is a decent director and overall, his work here is okay. At the very least, the cinematography is stunning with some impressive visual effects. Wiseman has many sweeping shots of the big cities, and he is great at visualising a futuristic world. Although it looks very similar to locations in other sci-fi/futuristic movies, Wiseman clearly has an eye for detail and scale. The action is entertaining and well shot, even if it isn’t always coherent (especially towards the end). There is a ton of CGI and everything from the visuals to the action can seem very video gamey, which is a criticism that I’ve seen a lot from people. That being said, given that the point of Rekall was to give a false reality with the memory implants, it does play into that aspect well, unintentionally or otherwise.

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Total Recall (2012) is not a good remake, it definitely lacks a lot of what made the first movie great in the first place. I appreciate the efforts to be different and not just a copy of the beloved classic, but the method for doing so seemed to be copying plenty of other sci-fi movies. The end result is a bit generic and despite a promising start, ended up losing me by the end. But I wouldn’t say it’s bad, as a standard sci-fi thriller, it’s okay enough. The visuals are nice to watch, the action is entertaining, and generally the cast are good, especially Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale. Not a must see but it’s passable and not a bad watch, preferably if you haven’t watched the original first of course.

Total Recall (1990) Review

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Total Recall (1990)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid
Rachel Ticotin as Melina
Sharon Stone as Lori
Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen
Michael Ironside as Richter
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Douglas Quaid tries to find the reason behind his recurring dream about Mars. He soon learns that a false memory has been planted into his brain and the people responsible for this want him dead.

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I remembered watching the original Total Recall for the first time ago many years ago when I was younger. I remember enjoying it with all the action, over the top violence, and one liners. More recently I decided to revisit it. Watching it again when I’m much older, it’s even better than I was remembered it to be.

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Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel called We Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall is well put together and fun to watch. It moves at a fast pace, there’s a decent amount of comedy and has plenty of quotable lines, in fact some of the best from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There’s plenty of parts that are silly and over the top, but there is a real self-awareness to the ridiculousness, so it makes it all the more better. I also was consistently entertained by a story which takes its twists and turns and does its world building in such an effective way.  There’s even a psychological aspect with lead character Quaid not knowing what’s real or not, or who he can trust. As a sci-fi action flick it’s really good, but its even more than that. Director Paul Verhoeven brings his trademark satirical approach to this story, like how he did with Robocop. The satire is loud, in your face and quite fitting. As to be expected especially given this is the 80s/90s, the movie takes jabs at capitalism and corporate greed, but also colonialism.

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The cast are also quite good all round. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main character of Douglas Quaid in one of his best performances. As usual he is good in the action scenes and the cheesy one liners, but also does a good job at being genuine, and this is one of the few times he isn’t playing the typical hardcore action hero. Some have found him to be out of place in the movie and while I can see that especially given that he’s meant to be playing the everyman, I just can’t imagine the movie without him. He somehow just fits in with the tone and vibe that Verhoeven is going for. Other supporting actors like Sharon Stone and Rachael Ticotin are good, and Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox make for enjoyable scene chewing villains.

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Total Recall is directed by Paul Verhoeven, and he brings a lot of his style and energy to this movie. I really like the cinematography and look of the film, I loved the environments and the production design is great. The amount of practical effects on display are amazing, and most of it holds up today. There are even parts that venture into body horror. The special effects can be cheesy in a late 80s and early 90s way, but I feel like that fitted the overall tone of the movie that Verhoeven is going for. I really like the portrayal of the future, some of the technology can be clunky but even that is endearing. The action sequences are energetic, exciting and imaginative. Verhoeven’s trademark over the top and gory violence is on display and it is glorious to watch. Adding on top of all of that is the amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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Total Recall is a wonderfully entertaining and over the top 90s action sci-fi thriller. The cast are good, the writing is fun, satirical and self-aware, and Paul Verhoeven’s direction and style are amazing. It’s even a strong contender for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movie yet, up there with the first two Terminator films at the very least. If you are a fan of action and/or sci-fi, I highly recommend checking it out.