Colin Farrell as Quaid in Total Recall
Published: 30 August, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Len Wiseman
Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars
THE film Total Recall seems now like a rather nice and quaint memory: 22 years after it was released, we’ve got a new version, and while the techno-gizmos at the fingertips of film-makers has vastly improved, the simple ability to tell a story and keep the audience interested seems to gave gone down directly in relation to the shiny toys used on screen.
This new version, starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, looks spectacular: the cityscapes seem to draw on the art of MC Escher, and provide some truly amazing set-pieces for the heroes to leap about on.
There are loads of great gadgets and funky flying cars, an image of London in the future that would make the Victorian Society have a break down, lots of big fat bangs and some bone-crunching fight scenes. But this is not enough to save the film. No matter how good the sets and CGIs are, it becomes wearisome.
The bar has already been set pretty high: the 1990 version, starring Arnie Schwarzenegger, is a brilliant piece of sci-fi – as kitsch as anything, with superbly gross violence, and lots of jokey asides.
This second stab at a film adaptation of Philip K Dick's novel We Can Remember It For You Wholesale runs along the same lines as the Arnie version, with a few changes, none essentially for the better.
We meet Douglas Quaid (Farrell) as he goes about his hum-drum job, living in a high rise block with his wife. Life isn’t exactly exciting – his job entails working on a production line in a factory, helping fit out robot militia men.
One day, he decides to go to a shop in a seedy part of town where they offer brain implants that give you memories of exciting lives you’ve never really lived...
It is here our hero finds out that perhaps he hasn't led such a boring existence, after all...
Whilst in the first outing a trip to Mars is essential to the story, here the action all takes place on Planet Earth.
We hear that the world has been wrecked by chemical war, and the only places still inhabitable are the UK – renamed the United Federation of Britain and Australia, known here as The Colony. Every day, workers zip through the centre of the earth in a kind of glorified Channel Tunnel from one hemisphere to the other.
Without wanting to ruin any surprises, the fractious relationship between those in the UK and the people living Down Under plays the same type of role in the plot as the underworld on Mars in the original and the well-heeled humans.
If they’d put a smidgen of the effort in making the plot or script as good as this film looks, it could have been a winner. Instead it is just one long action scene after action scene after action scene, like a futuristic version of It’s A Knock Out.
The original Total Recall brought into play some really interesting ideas about memory, reality, objectivity and subjectivity: all are fundamentally erased from this shoot ’em up.