Director Len Weisman's 'Total Recall' remake is better than Paul Verhoven's twenty two year old original in almost every tangible way. Colin Farrell is a better actor that Arnold Swarzenegger, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale are hotter than Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin, Earth is cooler than Mars, and twenty two years worth of computer graphics technology advances has yielded some wildly impressive results. So why didn't I enjoy this version more than that old movie I saw so long ago? Well, there is the one tangible reason that this movie falls short in that Len Weisman isn't near the film director that Paul Verhoven is, and there's the one big intangible floating around in that… gosh darnit… I've seen this movie already. And this is a remake to its core so if you've seen the original you will be in for very few surprises, twists, turns or anything really. If you haven't seen the original, then this version of 'Total Recall' might be awesome for you.
Every night Doug Quaid (Farrell) has this awful nightmare where he's running from the cops, hot chick in tow (Biel), and ultimately captured followed by him waking up in a sweat next to his hot wife Lori (Beckinsale). Dreaming of Jessica and waking up next to Kate. Not a bad deal. Anyway, Lori assures him that everything is cool, but we know it's totally not cool.
At this time in Earth's history, global warming has completely f'd us up, few places are able sustain human life, over population is the order of the day and the division of the haves vs. the have-nots is worse than ever. Just so you know Doug and Lori are have-nots. It doesn't have to be this way, according to Matthias the International Terrorist (Bill Nighy) since New Britain and its oppressive chancellor Cohagen (Bryan Cranston) are keeping his foot on the neck of the proletariat, but Cohagen claims it's all on Matthias and it's his terrorist activities that's making things hard for the lowly area known as The Colony.
Quaid could care less about any of this as he just wants to escape out of this lousy life that he KNOWS isn't his, despite his hot wife. His best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) tells him to relax, his wife tells him to relax, but Quaid knows that there is more out there, which is why he makes that fateful trip to the Rekall dream center and now all hell has broken loose.
Looks like Quaid was correct as there is more to him than meets the eye. He used to be a top operative for Cohagen until he switched sides to the Resistance, and now his hot wife, who's not really his wife but another Cohagen agent wants him really dead. Never could quite figure out why she wanted him dead so bad, I mean he didn't really do anything to her. Now that this cover that he wasn't even aware of has kind of been blown, Quaid is on the run, but the good thing is that the original Quaid, some cat actually named Hauser, left himself a bunch of clues as to what he needs to do stop Cohagen's super evil plans, and better still that hot chick from his dreams is a real live person and she's down for the home team. But of course all is never what it seems.
So I'm not particularly beholden to the 1990 version of 'Total Recall', though I did enjoy it back in the day, and when the word came down there was a remake in the pipeline I didn't get upset about it, because that would be pointless anyway at this stage of the movie machine game. But let use the example of that last 'The Thing' movie in that the time was taken to do something different from the thirty year old John Carpenter classic. No, I didn't particularly care for that movie either, but it was different enough from the movie it follows so that you couldn't call out the shots before they happened. I'm just saying you're in a bad spot with this one if you've seen the original because it follows all of the major plots of the original almost to a fault, which leaves us wondering 'what was the point?'
Now casually ignoring that we knew everything that's going to happen in this movie even before we sat down, this version of 'Total Recall' isn't really all that bad to be honest with you. It's not the most subtle or clever movie around, but it does move like a greasy wheeled rollercoaster going out of control downhill at super speed. As we mentioned earlier the CGI environments are spectacular, there is very little downtime in this one since most of the time folks are running and shooting and blowing up and dying and exploding, and Kate Beckinsale seemed to be having the time of her life playing the psycho bad girl. Since this is basically a CGI laden action movie the words 'character' and 'development' are just big Scrabble scores, to the point the casting office could've gotten by with putting just about anybody in this movie as opposed to wasting the time of fine character actors such as Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston considering what little there is for them to do in this movie, and while Colin Farrell might be a better actor than Arnold, the filmmakers still kept the role Swarzenegger simple so Farrell didn't really need to use any of his acting ability, just his ability to run, jump and his talent to avoid getting blowed up.
I didn't dislike 'Total Recall' 2012, nor did I like it all that much either. Just another soulless, pointless, big budget remake.