Im a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger but the 1990 Total Recall was never a sanctified piece of cinema. It was damn good fun, with some great ideas from the Philip K. Dick short story it was based on: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Arnie was one of the main reasons why that film was enjoyable but it demanded a revisit. Colin Farrell attempts to fill his very large shoes. He was excellent in Minority Report (2002), a film that Total Recall wishes it could be but it ends up somewhere near The Adjustment Bureau (2011) (all based on a Philip K. Dick stories). However, Minority Report worked because Spielberg understood the neo-noir sci-fi world of Dicks work and the depth of his design even when he changed much of the details. He transformed the story into cinema.
Total Recall is about Douglas Quaid (Farrell) who gets a recurring dream while he wakes up in his wifes bed. He is not particularly content with his life and yearns for something more. In comes Rekall industries, which offer memories and alter the sub-conscious to believe what it has always wanted to. Soon, Quaid finds out what he yearns for, was always his and the dreams werent his mind playing tricks but actually his memories. His wife (Kate Beckinsale) is also not his wife and she turns rogue. The rest of the film deals with a man on the run.
There are lots of rich themes in the short story but they have been shortchanged and Hollywood-ized. The film is gripping and entertaining too. There are 2012 versions of certain elements like the fight at Rekall, the scanner scene and the aerial car chase sequence, which are done extremely well. The film updates the previous film all right; it only doesnt go the distance by updating the ideas. Kate Beckinsale plays the femme fatale with precision. Christopher Nolan said a femme fatale is the neurosis of the protagonist, how little he knows of the woman he has fallen in love with. Not only does he explore that in many of his own movies but he has also hit the nail on the head. Then again, you cant expect every director to think like Nolan or Spielberg. In my view, the short story is about the hazy concept of personal identity and the search for idealistic love. It is about running away from a nightmarish reality in hope of a dreamy future and hence choosing your own reality.
There is a lot of jumping and big things diving down in slow motion. The J.J. Abrams lens flares are distracting. In the last quarter, which is unnecessarily stretched, the film does a Michael Bay when you end up not caring much for whats happening on screen. Thankfully the film had already done its groundwork by then and forgiveness is granted with more ease. For people who have seen the original and love it, will not see this as the best improvement. For fans of sci-fi, the lesser knowledge of the genre, the more enjoyable the film will be. If you wish to see cinematic adaptations of the Philip K. Dick universe, Blade Runner (1982), Minority Report (2002) and A Scanner Darkly (2006) are your best bets even when they arent the most faithful. Totall Recall managed to entertain me but it shows why being a Hollywood fare can be a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.view less