After the incredible Live Free or Die Hard director Lens Wiseman had my respect for having crafted a bang-on action thriller. Unfortunately after Total Recall he loses much of that credibility. If the movie didnt have a reference point as the original one to stand up to, then this might have been a passable popcorn entertainer but as it stands now this is a soulless, dumbed-down visceral assault on your senses.
Unlike the previous movie, there is no Mars; the story is set on earth only. Much of the planet is considered inhabitable thanks to chemical warfare leaving only the United Kingdom and Australia as cramped habitable regions. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) leads an idyllic life commuting through the earths core to work and cozying up with his astonishingly attractive wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). However the wanton need for spicing things up in his life leads him to Rekall, an agency that promises virtual artificial memories that give you a whole new life as anything you desire. Quaid chooses life as a spy, unfortunately the only glitch being that hes already been there and the process awakens memories of his past where his identity was Hauser. Soon enough hes caught up in a large conspiracy involving a lot of unsavoury characters and he has to use his new-learned Jason Bourne skills to survive.
The movies design and vision of the future is impressive even if highly derivative of films like Minority Report and The Fifth Element but the CGI of this film incorporated in the 1990 one would have probably been the perfect onscreen iteration. The story sticks closer to the 1990 movie rather than Phillip K. Dicks short story and honestly tries to pack as much action into scheme of things than anything else replacing key reveal elements of the original with minor changes.
The action gets tedious quickly even if the scale is grand at times, since much of the cannon fodder are faceless droids. The villains too dont quite have the menace rather seem more like mean high-school bullies.
Collin Farrell surely is a better actor than Schwarzenegger can ever hope to be but doesnt have the screen presence which the latter commanded. Beckinsale doesnt quite have the same oomph factor as Sharon Stone nor the menace of Michael Ironside. Jessica Biel on the other hand is utterly forgettable. Bryan Cranston has a few good moments but hes capable of better.
Total Recall for me is one of the biggest disappointments of the year considering all that they could have achieved with it. Go rent the original and youll surely have a blast watching it even 22 years later.