Review: TOTAL RECALL

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

I have never read any of Phillip K.Dick’s written work, but really should considering that I have enjoyed several films based on his stories.  The movies Blade Runner, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau and both versions of Total Recall are all based on his novels or short stories (sometimes, but not always of the same title).  Obviously, the man had a brilliant imagination and most of the filmmakers who have adapted his material have made some equally imaginative, visually incredible and sometimes mind blowing movies.  Well, Hollywood producers came up with the bright idea of making another film version of Total Recall (go figure).  While the effects and visuals in this version look incredible and amazing, the story and writing feel uninspired.  In fact, even the visuals deserve some criticism in that they look like just about every other science fiction film.  Unfortunately, director Len Wisemen, his writing team, and crew do very little to enhance what director Paul Verhoeven did with his 1990 version of the story, making this movie another pointless remake.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is just another average Joe, factory worker with a lovely wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale).  Haunted by intense dreams, and feeling a bit bored with his real life, Quaid feels inspired to get a fake memory implant at Rekall to make his life a bit more interesting.  Rekall is a controversial, somewhat lurid business which sells artificial memories and fantasies.  Before he can even undergo the procedure, Quaid is attacked by troops, but manages to escape.  He comes to the conclusion that he is a spy working for the resistance movement attempting to overthrow the oppressive Chancellor Cohaagen.  Quaid teams up with resistance soldier Melina (Jessica Biel) to discover the truth behind his life and what he once perceived as his life.

Inspired by Dick’s short story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback adapt a slightly different screenplay from the 1990 version.  This version of the script does little to enhance the story and feels almost like an after-thought.  The story and characters really do take a back seat to the CGI and action.  The Quaid character is likable, but not enough for me to develop any emotional investment in his story and journey.  I didn’t even care about the cause of the resistance.  The lack of development there gave me little reason to root for them.  Even the “evil” Cohaagen barely appears in the film to really give anyone a chance to loathe him and despise what he represents.

Director Len Wiseman and his crew do some wonderful looking work with CGI and practical effects, but they really don’t give the movie a unique look.  The world they create feels like a hodge-podge of just about every other science fiction movie that has preceded it.  Some scenes look similar to Minority Report, Star Wars, and Blade Runner.  The really cool thing about the 1990s version is that Paul Verhoeven and his crew brought to the movie a dynamic and unique design.  Sure, the effects looked dated, by today’s standards, but there’s no denying that his version has a certain wicked, charm.  Even the original script had a satirical and sardonic wit that Verhoeven’s films usually have.

Enough of the comparisons, though, getting back to this film, to Wiseman’s credit, I did enjoy the some of the action sequences which are fun and exciting.  Still, this alone does not make for a thoroughly satisfying movie experience.  The cast all perform decently, but don’t really offer any work that should be celebrated.  They have assembled a fine group of talented actors here, but give them little to do dramatically.  No, I’m afraid that this is another case of filmmakers becoming too fixated on visuals and action and not enough on the story and characters.  While I didn’t really hate this movie, I certainly did not love it either.  I’m going to have to recommend waiting to see this as DVD or Blu-Ray rental/borrow, because the only things enjoyable about the film are the effects and action.  Even these more positive aspects feel rehashed.

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