Total Recall

5 out of 10

Preface: I was never a big fan of the 1990 Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, I was not expecting much from the reimagined Total Recall starring Colin Farrell.

The “classic” Total Recall took place on Mars, the “new” Total Recall takes place on an Earth that has mostly been destroyed by war. The “classic” calls into question the main character (Quaids) memories throughout the film. The “new” uses the trip to a memory implant clinic as a gimmick.

The Earths air and land have been poisoned by chemical warfare, we are told as the film opens. The only two places left untouched by the pollution are the Britain and Australia (named “The Colony”). Low income, manual labor workers travel daily from Australian to the UK to work. Land is tight and overcrowding on both sides is a problem.

Here’s where the first of many head scratchers for me is introduced, just five minutes into the film. Instead of using technology and human ingenuity to clean up the pollution and mess around the world, humans have decided to dig a tunnel through the middle of the Earth and connect the Britain with Australia using a transport system (basically a huge tram) named “The Fall”. What? If humans had the time, will and technology to dig through the Earth, through the core and onto the other side, wouldn’t that same effort be better used? Would it not be easier to do a few different things? Why not build underground where the polluted air might not go? Why not clean up the land and air because obviously there’s high technology in this society?

The film’s plot is overly complicated and in the end turns out to be completely useless. Quaid (Farrell) is a man with a specific skill set. He gets his skills woken up when he visits Rekall, a “clinic” that implants fake memories for people’s enjoyment (imagine taking a vacation, but not!) Included in this is a social commentary about the haves (Britain) and have-nots (Australian). On top of that is some hair-brained scheme to take over Australia. And on top of all that there are some double-crosses and minor mind-tricks thrown in.

Visually, Len Wiseman is aping early J.J. Abrams. There are so many unnecessary and egregious streaky lens flares in this film that it would make Abrams blush. The production design by Patrick Tatopoulos takes heavily from Blade Runner with a sprinkling of I, Robot just for flavor.

The action sequences that are littered throughout the film are largely bloodless PG-13 sequences that have some flair and excitement. Not any of them are standout or memorable, except for maybe the mag-lev car sequence.

Colin Farrell is Colin Farrell. His big bushy eyebrows do the acting for me. Jessica Biel has a thankless job in the film. Kate Beckinsale turns in a somewhat forgettable performance as a bad-ass agent. And I kept waiting for Bryan Cranston to exclaim, “Say my name.” John Cho makes a cameo in the film and what a short cameo he has. Bill Nighy seems very bored in all his scenes.

The Director’s Cut includes some extra footage, but one of the big differences (I had to look this up) was the addition of scenes from Ethan Hawke.

Overall, since I was not expecting much and I did not get much from the film, I came away entertained. This is an entertaining film if one does not think about what happens in the film and all the extra fluff that the writers and director added to it (more of that in the next section). If it came up while channel surfing, I’d stop to watch this film.

Spoilers Ahead

What happens when the robots in I, Robot grow up? They star in films like Total Recall!

Why is it that the police robots need forearm mounted displays? Why do these same robots need to interact with these displays on their forearms with their fingers? If these are robots, wouldn’t all that stuff be internal anyways and no display or finger poking would be needed?

So, humans go to war and pollute the crap out of Earth. The air is bad and there are “no go” zones. But, air does not discriminate. It is clear in some of the scenes that Britain and Australian are not under domes, so how is it that their air is not polluted?

How is it that Britain and Australian coordinated the building of the tunnel?

Given that the tunnel runs through the core of the Earth, would not the transport be crushed into a tiny ball from the internal pressures of this planet? That though notwithstanding, in the last reel of the film, there is even a fight that takes place outside the transport system when it justs passes through the center of the planet. Collin Farrell’s eyebrows should have been crushed after that.

The most egregious thing about the film is Cohaagen’s plan. He incites violence and blames it on the rebels. He does in order to get public approval to build a robot army. He wants to use the robot army to kill all of the people in The Colony and then go and take over The Colony because land is so precious. Then all the rich people from Britain can have more land to live on and enjoy their lives. It is clear in the film that the people from The Colony serve as the manual labor that builds and maintains things in Britain. If Cohaagn’s plan were to actually work, who would build things in both Britain and The Colony?