Movie Review: Total Recall – Bleak, Dark, So Ho-Hum

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original Total Recall, as directed by Paul Verhoeven, is a cult classic with a strong cast and colorful, if sometimes cheeky sets.   The new Total Recall is from another dimension and though Colin Farrell gives a very strong performance, director Len Wiseman is far too derivative to satisfy the fans who have been yearning for a sequel.   And a sequel was the easiest thing that could have been done with Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” as the premise is one where anything is possible, where anything goes.  Like the Matrix, the 13th Floor, Tron and other virtual reality films the possibilities are limitless.  So what’s the problem?

Rather than go back and investigate if Quaid/Hauser had actually survived the curse of the antagonist – Cohaagen- or if he was simply the victim of mind-altering drugs and machines, Wiseman starts from scratch putting Colin Farrell’s Douglas Quaid into a dark Metropolis to figure it out for himself.  With a transit system called “The Fall” which sends riders through the center of the earth to get to the other side the last two inhabitable places on the planet are connected.Rather than have the Morlocks and the Eloi as in the H.G. Wells novella The Time Machine, in this new edition of Philip K. Dick’s short story Cohaagen just wants to wipe out one side of the world and make some space.

Ronny Cox was much more malicious…and fun…as VilosCohaagen, Rachel Ticotin more emphatic than Jessica Biel (of The A-Team and Blade: Trinity) as Melina, Sharon Stone more sultry than Kate Beckinsale (Van Helsing, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), only Colin Farrell emerging as a more vibrant hero than Arnold.  Beckinsale comes off like a wild attack dog, Trinity from the Matrix gone bad and it is hard to differentiate between Biel and Beckinsale, no stark contrast as we had with Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin.  The comparisons are going to be inevitable and the car scene is so familiar why didn’t director Wiseman just cut and paste the same sequence from the Tom Cruise / Colin Farrell flick Minority Report?   Or was that the intent?

This new Total Recall has exciting moments, but the bleak, dark futuristic world has become so ho-hum that it doesn’t resonate with the excitement of Arnold exploring the planet Mars in search of a reactor that can generate air.

Of course the filmmakers couldn’t have predicted the Dark Knight Rises Colorado shootings and, perhaps, they would have toned down the gun battles here if they had, so theall out assault that is the 2012 Total Recall actually detracts from the possibilities.

With a bang…bang….BANG and some fighting machines that go into sleep mode a la the Borg from Star Trek: Next Generation you have Star Wars: The Clone Wars meeting a frazzled Colin Farrell (more like Keanu Reeves as Neo in the first Matrix) by way of Blade Runner.   It really is too much sensory overload and theft of too many previous motion pictures, not just Verhoeven’s Total Recall.

Farrell is exemplary and needs to find a new director, new scenery and maybe call Arnold up for another dip into the visual potentials that the 1990 Total Recall offered.   The fan base is out there and though this vehicle will provide an evening’s entertainment, it isn’t what we were expecting and didn’t satisfy the way a true sequel – not re-make – could have.

WITH: Colin Farrell (Douglas Quaid/Hauser), Kate Beckinsale (Lori Quaid), Jessica Biel (Melina), Bryan Cranston (Cohaagen), Bokeem Woodbine (Harry), John Cho (McClane) and Bill Nighy (Matthias).

Directed by Len Wiseman; written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, based on a screen story by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill and Mr. Wimmer, inspired by the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick; director of photography, Paul Cameron; edited by Christian Wagner; music by Harry Gregson-Williams; production design by Patrick Tatopoulos; costumes by SanjaMilkovic Hays; produced by Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe; released by Columbia Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for, and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.