Total Recall (2012) Directed by Len Wiseman. With Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston.
Love it or loathe it, one thing about Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall was that it was memorable. Sure, we all know that Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t the most versatile actor, but his charisma, combined with Verhoeven’s inventive ideas and style, made their 1990 release a genuinely exciting, sexy, funny and quite subversive ride, that is, by typical Hollywood standards.
Fast-forward 22yrs, and here we are – remake time. Len Wiseman, writer-director of the much maligned Underworld series, is served the impossible task of reshaping Verhoeven’s ‘R’ rated vision, into something that will play well to a modern ’12’ certificate audience. On surface level, you have to concede that there are mini successes dotted about. One of the more satisfying aspects of any science fiction experience, is revelling in the inventiveness of visions of the future, and in fairness, there are plenty of fascinating enhancements of current technology to enjoy. Where the film falls down, is in nearly every other area. For starters, it isn’t as good as the Verhoeven version. Not even nearly.
As with his Underworld series, Wiseman opts for a similar, darkly-lit tone, with lots of heavy tech, robotics and machinery, but with scant little in the way of humour. The films it tries to emulate the most, in terms of look, is the gritty tone of Steven Speilberg’s Minority Report, with a little rain-swept Blade Runner for good measure. Good taste, you might say, sadly, it’s mere packaging.
Colin Farrell plays the role of Douglas Quaid, previously occupied by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although Farrell is clearly a better actor, the script doesn’t afford him much in the way of charisma, leaving his character dull, and a poor second best to that of Arnie. Wiseman attempts to keep aficionados of the Verhoeven version happy, by inserting small homages to the 1990; the triple-breasted mutant, the large lady going through border control – but all it serves to achieve, is to remind us what a better film the original was. Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston steps into the Ronny Cox role as the central villain, Cohaagen, whose character we don’t properly meet until the final act. The problem with this casting, is that we have become so accustomed (those of us who’ve enjoyed him as Walter White) to rooting for him as the good/bad guy, that his presence in the film, immediately brings a sense of character that makes him unintentionally appealing. Although we enjoyed a larger than life Ronny Cox and his side-kick Micheal Ironside, in the original Total Recall, this was never a problem.
Total Recall 2012 is certainly slick. It’s professionally shot, with good digital effects and an understated, modern soundtrack. At times, it looks like an Underworld film, even more so when an all-action Kate Beckinsale is high-kicking her way through scenes, leaving mayhem in her wake. The overriding problem that it has, is that while it’s passable sci-fi fun for now, there exists another version of this story that tells it in a much more entertaining way. Get your ass to that version. 3/5