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Film Review : Total Recall

Aug 11, 2012 12:36PM ● By Justin Buettner

Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in the future, decides to visit a new high tech company that implants desirable memories that are so real that they cannot distinguish them from reality. Quaid picks a spy scenario and during the procedure Quaid becomes embroiled in a spy plot that has global consequences. However Quaid cannot tell if what is happening is real or part of the Recall program in his mind.

The new updated version of Total Recall did an excellent job of updating the effects and the general technology of the future. There were more than a few cool tech bits including a giant train that ran through the Earth’s core. The weightless effects when the train went zero gravity then reversed gravity were amazing. The way the city of the future is built was wonderfully realized. I just wish the same amount of creativity and thought was dedicated to the story.

The movie plays out like a two hour chase scene. Truth be told, the action is filmed quite well and the effects are top notch but all of that effort goes to waste in this movie because unless you care about the people being chased it all becomes hollow and meaningless. The characters in Total Recall are paper thin. It is not that Collin Farrell is a bad actor, but he needs good writing to shine and the dialog and character development in this movie are flat out terrible. Kurt Wimmer, the writer, has a checkered past in regards to his writing credit, and this movie will do nothing to change his reputation.

The main villain, Kate Beckinsale’s Lori Quaid, is underdeveloped to the point of almost coming across inhuman. It literally defy’s logic why she is so hell bent on apprehending Douglas Quaid. Even through several plot reveals it is head scratching how this woman is devoid of any real human emotion.  Then enter Chancellor Cohaagen at the final act of the film whose master plan is absurd. It’s hard to connect the dots how he has the power to set in motion the plan he reveals and even more puzzling is the lack of fight from the rebel side with the exception of Douglas Quaid and his girlfriend. Having a clear and powerful point to the movie goes a long way, and this movie is altogether pointless really.

Len Wiseman is no rookie to high budget action movies but he completely misses opportunities with the pacing in the few dramatic sequences in the film. It feels like the stops in action last as long as the characters can breathlessly mutter needed plot points before they start running again. There is no personality or tone to these scenes. The characters motivations are not personal either, which makes their quest way too broad for the characters actions to be believable. At least the original version of Total Recall packed in humor as often as they could, where as the new version of the film doesn’t even attempt one light-hearted wise crack.

The worst thing going for this film is that it is a remake from a movie done infinitely better. Arnold had charisma as the lead, the 1990 Total Recall overflowed with personality, and above all it was fun to watch. If a studio is intent on making a remake then they better be certain it improves upon the original or at least takes a completely different approach to the material. Total Recall does none of the above. Aside from updated effects it really doesn’t improve on anything from the original. The movie really falls apart at the end and becomes so silly that it bordered on laughable.  If you are the type of person that likes action but has no need for story, character, or a point then Total Recall will be a film you will love, but if you appreciate character development, story, and personality then I’d advise to rent the original.

Films like Total Recall : Total Recall (1990), The Fugitive, and Source Code

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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