Friday, January 29, 2016

Total Recall (2012) Film Review


Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes

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Bang Bang Boom Boom

Hollywood seems to like remakes, and they really like Philip K. Dick – so we now have another Total Recall.  Is this as good as the previous Total Recall, no.  Is it even a good movie – not really.  I will say this version of Total Recall is very fast paced, the film can’t seem to go five minutes without having an explosion, a shoot out, or some other random act of violence.  So people who like action films should end up being entertained.

But the movie drops the ball on developing and creating characters that the audience can empathize with – usually sacrificing precious character development time for a few extra explosions.  Total Recall has some nice special effects, but that’s about the only nice thing about it.

Set in the future, nuclear war has destroyed the vast majority of habitual living space, making it one of the most valuable commodities on Earth.  Only two areas house the overcrowded human population: The United Federation of Britain (Western Europe) and the Colony (Australia).  Citizens between the two countries commute back and forth through the center of the Earth.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) lives in the colony with his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale).  He is haunted by a nightmare that has an unidentified women (Jessica Biel) in it, and he feels like something in his life is missing.  Feeling his life is unfulfilled, Quaid goes to Rekall a company that implants memories into people’s brains.  When the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man.

Total Recall has a setting and a number of technological devices that could open up some interesting conversations between the characters, memory, and reality.  Unfortunately Total Recall glosses over these ideas with quick single sentence explanations – hoping that will satisfy audiences so that the film can move on to another gun fight.

I couldn’t tell you if the actors did a good or bad job playing their characters.  The fact is their is little to no development for any of them.  Farrell’s character gets the most development, which isn’t much, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel any closer to his character than I did at the beginning.

Beckinsale and Biel’s characters get no development, and the film pays dearly for this oversight.  All the action sequences featuring these two characters feel meaningless.  This film doesn’t even bother to answer what either of these two characters are fighting for?  For all three of the lead actors they do provide some pretty good reactions to the green screens though.

Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) leader of the UFB and Mathias (Bill Nighy) leader of the resistance are at war with each other and this serves as the story’s backdrop.  Total Recall resorts to a number of good guy, bad guy cliches which is disappointing since again the world and technology created for these organizations could have led to a much interesting set of conflicts.  Instead these characters get little development and so do their causes – again adding to the meaningless feeling I got while watching this movie.

If there’s one thing Total Recall does well it’s action scenes.  The gun fights, the explosions, and fast pace are all what you would expect from a Hollywood action thriller.  Despite not liking the way the characters were treated, the fighting, shooting, – bang bang, boom boom – still kept me watching the film.  There are some groan out loud moments, but most of those come from the blanketed explanations that are meant to explain the plot.  A number of action sequences involving a lack of gravity are fun to watch, and a chase sequence through a network of elevators was pretty entertaining.

This version’s attempt to score credibility points via a call back to the three boobed woman feels forced.  It doesn’t at all feel like a tribute when the film doesn’t improve upon the original film.  The fact that that was the scene they chose to call back to doesn’t leave me with anything positive I can say about the remake.  The glitz and glamor of big budget Hollywood action scenes can’t save Total Recall from its lack of good story telling mechanics.  If you’re going to see Total Recall, see the original.

Score: 5

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