Lake Oconee Breeze

On the Screen

August 9, 2012

‘Total Recall’ 2012 is totally forgettable

LAKE OCONEE — “Total Recall”

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of SF violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language.


Total Recall is — well, supposed to be — a reinterpretation of — the 1990 SF film sharing the first name. In the original, classic bit of witty satire, Arnold Schwarzenegger played the protagonist and Sharon Stone played his “wife.”

Total Recall 2012 is totally forgettable.

For the record, “Total Recall,” the original and the synthetic retread, comes from Phillip K. Dick's short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”

This “Total Recall” is actually a patchwork quilt of future-fear films (if I may invent a phrase — which I will, thank you). By future-fear films, I mean it is a: the-future-is-bad-we-must-all-get-together-and-revolt-and-kill-the-authorities plot.

While watching “Total Recall,” I totally recalled that the set of “The Colony” in Total Recall (The Quilt) is plagiarized from Blade Runner. The Flying Car scenes reminded me of Spielberg’s Minority Report. The synthetic (robot) cops marched right out of I, Robot with a whiff of Star Wars. And The Fifth Element haunted me too. I had a Total Recall experience after all.

Remakes ought to be limited to films that didn’t get it right the first time. Not the case with the1990 “Total Recall.” I watched it the night before I suffered through Total Ruin and I was still entertained by it (the original) and was still impressed with its originality. 2012 “Total Recall” makes me think of Frankenstein, made of pieces of this and that and then jolted alive to exist artificially and without a soul.

Surely you remember the plot: Doug Quaid is in a nothing, blue-collar job. He is married to a beautiful woman but he has bad dreams (featuring a mysterious woman) and is basically miserable, bored, and unhappy. The company Rekall advertises that they will implant a fabricated but exciting memory in your sad little brain. Quaid slips in the office of Rekall after a tough day at work and asks to be a spy. But during the process, something goes wrong. He is a spy — working for the oppressive government … or is he working for the rebels? And who is that mysterious woman?

In the original, the action occurred on Mars. In the remake it alternates between London and Australia.

Now for the bad news on “Total Recall” 2012. A dried out stick would emote more than Colin Farrell did. A few times, when he was supposed to be confused, he looked like he had cramps. What happened to him? His heart, mind, and tattoos were kidnapped and remained missing in “Total Recall.”

A lot was lost by not using the mutants in the second version. They made the original film intriguing, sympathetic, and cohesive. We understood why the Evil Leader wanted to do what he wanted to do, but not so in 2012 “Total Recall.”

The loss of Kuato is an injustice. And making Bill Nighy take his place is downright unforgivable. The enormously talented Nighy should have taken a “pass” on that nothing character. His dialogue fell flat because his appearance as the mastermind of the revolution was as anticlimactic as sugar-free, vanilla pudding.

Unlike “Total Recall” 1990, the supporting cast was totally wasted except, perhaps for Kate Beckinsale. She was a pretty effective baddie. So bad, in fact, I was ready for her to go 30 minutes into the film. But she did not; she lasted practically until the final credits rolled. Perhaps that had something to do with her husband, the film’s director Len Wiseman. Ya’ think?

When all is said and done, “Total Recall” 2012 is a Total Mistake. Rent the original.

“Total Recall” (2012) earns two, faded bow ties out of five.

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