Title: Total Recall
Directed By: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston
Warning: Excessive use of lens flares may cause confusion, frustration, facial distortion, distraction from story, and tarnishing of what could have been impressive visual effects.
After being contaminated by the effects of nuclear warfare, the Earth is left with just two safe places to live, the United Federation of Britain and The Colony. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a resident of The Colony and rides The Fall, a transportation system that takes commuters from The Colony, formerly Australia, through the Earth’s core to the UFB, to work on an assembly line constructing robots after which he hops back on The Fall and heads home to his loving wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale).
When Doug’s monotonous routine becomes too much, he decides it’s time to go to Rekall, a business that lets you chose the dream life you wish you could live and then implants the memories into your brain. Little does Doug know, his decision to assume the memories of a secret agent would flip a switch, sending countless police officers and robots after him led by Lori. Lucky for Doug, Melina (Jessica Biel) arrives just in time to whisk him away and clue him in on what’s really going on.
Paul Verhoeven’s “Total Recall” is undeniably dated and was ripe for remaking. As expected, director Len Wiseman and writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback took the very 90s digital and practical effects, glossed them up to the max, doused them in CGI and crammed them into an entirely futuristic landscape. Really, what’s the point in rebooting an older film unless you’re going to give it the benefit of the far more advanced technology? Hopes were high for more fluid action sequences and the exclusive of silly eye-popping, and while Wiseman certainly made due on that, he wound up making “Total Recall” so slick, there’s nothing to latch onto. Once the film begins, it’s like a freefell, a montage of action sequences until you hit the bottom.
Farrell makes for a decent Doug Quaid, but the information flows so fast, you never get the chance to consider the circumstances and truly understand what he’s experiencing. The concept that he could just be strapped in at Rekall this entire time is such a fascinating scenario and rather than have it spice up the entire film, it’s reduced to a single scene, and one in which the characters merely talk in circles at that.
Minus the fact that Melina offers him a ride at the opportune time, she’s a pretty ineffectual partner. She throws a few punches, shoots off a few rather reckless bullets, but never accomplishes much, making her more of a babysitting job than partner for Quaid. Beckinsale, on the other hand, makes for a pretty wicked Lori. It’s an absolute blast watching her go head to head with Farrell, but then the role is reduced to her skulking down hallways, half hunting Doug and half looking like she’s in a rough and tough Pantene commercial. But the big disappointment in the character department is Bryan Cranston’s Cohaagen. Cranston gives it his all, but the details of Cohaagen’s plan aren’t conveyed clearly enough to sell his mission.
It’s as though Wiseman completely forgot that when you remake a movie, it not only entails improving the piece from a technical standpoint, but giving just as much attention to honing the story, too. Apparently all the energy went into figuring out a way to cut out Mars and from there, the filmmakers just kept their fingers crossed that the rest would just fall in line and if not, mesmerizing visuals would gloss over any other script issues. There’s no denying that that can happen; sometimes it’s a blast to throw sensibility out the window and enjoy a hefty dose of futuristic fighting, but here, it’s far too repetitive to sustain a full feature. On top of that, an achievement in action or visuals effects is diminished and nearly obliterated by the excessive use of lens flares. Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that J.J. Abrams took lens flares to an absurdly new level in “Star Trek,” but they are more distracting than ever in “Total Recall,” constantly emerging out of nowhere, obscuring faces and just being incredibly annoying.
“Total Recall” is more of a visual-centric experiment in giving an older movie another go. It’s as though so much time, energy and resources were put into the action and the digital environment that the filmmakers figured they’d get their money’s worth, ditch the opportunity to squeeze in an emotional moment here and there, and just put those fancy fights scenes on repeat. They’re good, but not nearly good enough to keep an audience from realizing the film’s got no depth whatsoever.