Movie Review: “Total Recall” – Not A Total Mishap

Written by Matthew da Silva August 13, 2012

Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, the science fiction short story that inspired both “Total Recall” films, contains an intricate, intelligent plotline that utilizes the advantages of writing that allow the story to convey messages and ideas that are otherwise impossible to transcribe effectively onto the big screen. The 1990 “Total Recall”, went for a campy adaptation of the story, substituting the concise layers in the original story for some classic Governor one-liners, bizarre looking mutants, and the introduction of the boob trio. Where will Len Wiseman’s remake fit in?

No More Mars

Similar to the film and short story, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) starts his journey in a recurring dream, being chased by a group of police robots with a mysterious woman at his side (Jessica Biel). He awakes in a frantic state right before being captured by the police agents to his gorgeous wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Scrapping the Mars vacation fantasy that Douglas had in the last film and novel, the writers decided on a plot line that hit closer to home. Earth is now largely uninhabitable due to the after-effects of chemical warfare, and there are only two nations left: the United Federation of Britain which occupies part of Europe, and the continent of Australia, now simply known as “The Colony”. People commute daily from the vibrant slums of The Colony to their factory jobs in Britain through an earth spanning elevator deemed “The Fall”, which transports hundreds of thousands daily in a large vessel that travels through the earths core.

Tired of his meager life and daily routine of commuting daily to his profession as a factory worker in Britain, Douglas longs for some sort of mental break from the mundane life he leads. When he comes across the appealing Rekall Incorporated, a company which promises to place weeks of memories of the buyers choice in their head without ever having remembered entering the building, Douglas decides to try his luck and live out the fantasy that has been recurring in his dreams: to live the life of a secret agent. He is injected with the Rekall serum and we are left to question whether the events that occur are real or simply part of the recall process.

Extravagant Cities, Shallow Narrative

Visually, the film offered intricate, flawless cityscapes and special effects that captured the essence of the wealthy, high-class, and isolating mentality of the over populated Britain, contrasting it with the slummy yet vivacious environment of The Colony, where the inhabitants entertain themselves with a post-Vegas, anything goes mentality. What the film displayed visually, though, it lacked in the form of the narrative, leaving character performances skewed as a result of both a lack of ability on their parts and a script that did not give them much to work with in the first place.

I can’t recall any great performances by Colin Farrell, and his performance in this film follows suit. Even in times of high action and intensity his performance stays fairly tame, which was complimented by the slightly confused expression he had on his face for the duration of the film. The shallow script hindered his performance as well as the rest of the casts, leaving character development deficient and wasting the talents of the underused Brian Cranston and Bill Nighy, who played the parts of the villainous mayor of Britain and rebel leader respectively.

Topical Blockbuster Overload

Ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, a number of films have been released that incorporate the movement either head-on or metaphorically. Films like “Cosmopolis” directly addressed issues of the inequality of wealth through its billionaire antagonist, and even the “The Dark Knight Rises” incorporated the movement with its savior of the common man, equality-touting villain in Bane.

“Total Recall” chimed in on the movement by moving the fight to earth, showing the literal clear divide between the wealthy nation of Britain and its oppressed Colony. Where the struggle between Batman and Bane was always held in the forefront, though, Douglas Quaid seemed to act as a harbinger for the cause of the Colony, placing too much importance on the topical issue that imposed too heavily on the sci-fi, “recall” narrative that should have been at the forefront.

A Total Time Waster?

Though flawed, “Total Recall” was not a total failure. Even with its thin script and over weighted politics, it still offered a storyline with twists and turns that went deeper than most generic blockbusters, going for the “Inception” mindbender route but falling short as a result of its shallow characters. If you want to sit back, munch on some popcorn, and watch two hours of stunning visuals, go watch the film. If you don’t have two hours to spare, head into a book store and take twenty minutes to read Dick’s short story that inspired it all, whose concise story tops both film adaptations.

My Rating: 6/10

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Matthew da Silva

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on Movie Review: “Total Recall” – Not A Total Mishap. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment