Judge David Johnson had some brilliant points to make about this film, but he couldn't recall them.
Our reviews of Schwarzenegger: 4-Film Collector's Set (published May 22nd, 2009), Total Recall (1990) (published September 12th, 2000), Total Recall (1990) (Blu-ray) (published August 10th, 2012), and Total Recall (1990) Special Edition (published October 18th, 2001) are also available.
Is it real or is it recall?
Hey, did anyone ask for this? No? Okay, moving along.
Facts of the Case
It's the future and life on Earth generally sucks. There are two habitable territories left on the planet—"United Federation of Britain" (UK) and "The Colony" (Australia). The blue-collar types are blasted through the Earth's core via an transportation system called The Fall, to mine, fabricate, and generally do the dirty work the well-to-do have no interest in. One of those hapless worker bees is Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell, Minority Report), who's starting to really hate his life, despite the fact he's married to someone who looks like Kate Beckinsale (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld). To distract himself, Douglas checks out Rekall, a shifty new technology that implants memories and…yeah, you know how this goes.
Was Total Recall a necessary remake? No. Did Arnold Schwarzenegger's Martian opus essentially give us everything we needed from Philip K. Dick's short story? Pretty much. But here we are, with Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) stepping behind the camera to serve up a movie few people requested or watched.
The easy critique is to say this new take blows and call it a review, but having paid full price to see it in the theaters I insist on getting my money's worth. Total Recall isn't terrible. It's just completely and utterly forgettable.
Note the irony, because Total Recall is about a guy's memory coming back, hence "utterly forgettable." Get it? See how the magic happens?
While sitting the theater, I was sort of enjoying myself. The visual effects were okay, Colin Farrell seemed relatively engaged in his surroundings, and Len Wiseman's action scenes were serviceable. The story rocked some familiar beats from the first film (as expected), but there I was still swimming along. When the movie ended and the credits rolled, I left the theater and never once thought about it again…until today.
Revisiting Total Recall several months later not much has changed. While far from the abomination most folks believed it to be, Wiseman's re-imagining of the story is a disposable sci-fi action effort. In fact, if Schwarzenegger's film wasn't constantly held up as a baseline, Farrell's go-round wouldn't be judged as harshly.
It is what it is, though, and Arnold did indeed set the world on fire with his nose burrowing and fat lady impersonation. The most glaring difference (next to the startling change of geography) is the film's overall lack of levity. Seriously, this version is utterly humorless, its head firmly rammed up its own keaster. Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback's script is about as lively as the gun-metal gray color palette that swamps Paul Cameron's cinematography.
Alright, so what do we have for a judgment here? Total Recall isn't that terrible. Blah blah blah. The action is decent. Blah blah blah. I'm bored already.
Sony's DVD is pretty good. A clean standard def 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Surround track deliver a suitable A/V experience. But it's in the extras where the disc shines: a gag reel, production design doc of "The Fall," and a somewhat goofy "Science Fiction vs. Science Fact" featurette are joined by an over-achieving Blu-ray-lite in-movie experience.
Decent DVD, half-decent movie.
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