‘Total Recall’: Complete Memory Failure


The remake of Total Recall is a pretty terrible movie, as far as plot and character development is concerned. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much, but I think the reason for the letdown is that in the first 20 minutes, the movie seems like it might actually be good. Those hopes get obliterated as it progresses out of the opening scenes.

Total Recall starts out with an interesting action sequence; it’s mainly interesting because I didn’t really know what was happening. Colin Farrell acts as the main character, Douglas Quaid, and in the first scene, he attempts to escape some robots that are chasing him with a mysterious woman by his side (Jessica Biel). This event ends up being a dream sequence.

From there, we are introduced to the setting of Total Recall, in which Douglas works at a factory assembling robots in the “Colony” (recognizable as Australia to us 2012 earthlings). Douglas is struck by the dream, and his life just doesn’t seem to fit. Not even his supermodel wife is enough to assuage the disconnect that he feels with reality.

What I just described is the most interesting part of the movie. In the first moments, Total Recall attempts to build the setting and characters; Douglas Quaid’s life actually seems to be interesting. Well, it all goes to hell once the initial ‘Rekall’ scene takes place (literally and figuratively).
Douglas decides to have a specialist company implant false memories into his brain, and that’s when, as shown in the preview trailer, things go completely haywire. This scene is actually well played, minus the over-the-top philosophical phrases about life shoe-horned into the dialogue from a character acted by John Cho, mostly notable for his work in Harold and Kumar.

At this point, the movie is still good. It still has redeeming qualities. Only when our fugitive hero returns to his home and the heart wrenching scene with his wife takes place, does the movie throw the metaphorical shit into the fan.
total recall Colin Farrel Kate Beckinsale
For those who still might be interested despite my warnings- I’ll just briefly describe the scenario. Basically, it turns out that everything is not as it seemed, or rather, it is what the movie was actually hinting at before. In that instant in his home, starting with the scene with his so-called ‘wife,’ the movie turns into a massive action slog where everyone is against Douglas Quaid.

Cue the random martial arts battle with Douglas’ wife. Cue the long escape scene. Get ready for the generic futuristic car chase, and widen your eyes for the supermodel killer wife who needs to look beautiful in every scene, at every angle. Ready your mind for the scene where Douglas Quaid’s real self in the past (Karl Houser is his real name) explains to his present self that he’s really a secret agent, and that they have to work together to help the resistance.

Viva la Resistance. Wait…what?

It really pains me to see that so much money was spent on Total Recall’s special effects, that nobody bothered to spend the extra time to flesh out the characters and the paper thin plot that holds all these extravagant action sequences together. At this point in the movie, it’s plainly obvious that any development of character and story is merely a support- a hand that holds the megaphone, if you will- for the endless action sequences to spew from. This movie might as well have been called ‘Generic Hollywood Sci-fi Action #500,’ because it certainly doesn’t try to be anything else.

Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell is as dry as sandpaper, and the movie tries to throw the ‘you are a secret agent but don’t know it’ spiel at you without much effect. Jessica Biel’s character is a flat, 2-dimensional one that only exists to support the construction of Douglas’ previous life. If this was the girl of his dreams, then I wouldn’t have known it if they didn’t cram it in my face, as the chemistry between her and Douglas is nonexistent. Her acting isn’t exactly top of the line, either. Just watch the scene when she’s driving the car in the chase scene. What is going on with her arms? Did they even try?

At that point, my interest in the movie waned to nonexistent. There is a lot of running, and shooting, and fighting that happens in various locations, but by that point it is too late.  If there was anything I gained from watching Total Recall, it is an interest in the original story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,’ by Philip K. Dick, for which this movie is based upon.


3 thoughts on “‘Total Recall’: Complete Memory Failure

  1. That’s a disappointment, but I’m not really surprised. I wish Hollywood would cut the remakes and serials and go back to producing original quality films. 🙂 That said, my husband likes lots of running, shooting, and fighting. A few explosions would make it even better!

  2. It’s not the most inventive remake out there, but it’s still a fun one that has you suspend your belief and turn off your brain for about 2 hours, and just enjoy what’s on display. Can’t see too much wrong with that, can you? Good review.

    1. I suppose if action is what you want in a movie, then you can’t go wrong with Total Recall. There are a few particular action sequences that are done quite well. However, most of everything else in the movie is a disappointment, in my opinion.

      There were moments when Douglas/Houser was in the city, and I was definitely intrigued by the setting. They chose an interesting style, with tightly constructed futuristic cities that have an oriental feel. It’s a disappointment that these backdrops only serve as a placement for all the action sequences. It would have been nice to see more setting and plot development.

      Some people do enjoy Total Recall, as even Ebert gave it 3 our of 4 stars. But I just found the lack of interesting characters and story a huge detriment to the movie.

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