I have never once looked back at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall and considered it the masterpiece that many sci-fi geeks now claim it to be. While I thoroughly enjoy it, for me, it’s nothing more than a semi-science fictional action movie with cheesy special effects and make-up. The story isn’t all that great, but it’s the concept that really sets it apart as the memorable movie that it is. The new Recall takes the amazing concept of the original, perfectly polishes the visuals and mish-mashes familiar stories to make it its own. This Total Recall is far from perfect, but it’s one hell of a fun summer popcorn flick.
Just like the original, Total Recall is set in the distant future. Technology is worlds beyond what exists today – but this version doesn’t take us worlds away. Mars is replaced with a refreshingly creative way of pulling off the “other worlds” feel of the first while remaining entirely on Earth. Colin Farrell plays our central character Douglas Quaid, a factory worker whose life remains melancholy despite being married to always-gorgeous Kate Beckinsale. Even her flirtations can’t get him out of this rut. The source of his depression is a reoccurring dream that feels so real that he’s having a hard time distinguishing it from reality. Since this dream is the root of his problem, he figures that hacking into his mind and implanting happier false memories might pick him back up – which only opens a bigger can of worms.
In the future, a company known as Rekall has the ability to create realistic unreal memories. But just as a Rekall technician is about to place spy-based fantastic memories into Quaid’s head, a team of police offers raid the building and kill everyone but him. In this moment, something is triggered inside Quaid that makes a part of him that he never knew existed snap to life. Just like when the amnesiac Jason Bourne takes out the first set of cops in The Bourne Identity, Quaid effortlessly and quickly takes down the entire SWAT-like team. At this exact moment, Quaid’s reality is flipped on its head. His wife, his friends, his job, his life – nothing is as it once seemed. Or is it? Is this real, or is this the result of Rekall being inside his mind? Like the original, this is the question that you’re left asking through the majority of the movie.
The original movie sent Arnold to Mars to save the Martians; this one has a story almost entirely different from that – but it’s a shame that the new story has a few holes and lacks originality. What really works is director Len Wiseman’s action, the supreme visual effects and the action-packed role played by Beckinsale. If you thought that Beckinsale was one bad ass chick in the Underworld movies, you haven’t seen anything yet. The combination of these three things – Beckinsale, great visuals and direction – makes Total Recall the a summer blockbuster worth checking out.
I don’t recognize the original as a masterpiece, so that’s the last thing I expected with this remake. What did I expect? An action-packed sharp-looking mindless movie, and that’s exactly what I got.
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures