Total Recall

Len Wiseman’s remake of the Paul Verhoeven film Total Recall (1990) with Colin Farrell replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role of Doug Quaid, based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1966) is a worthy kinetic Sci-Fi Action Adventure film. 

A factory worker, Quaid, living in the underworld of a worker colony, commutes to work every day in the United Federation of Britain (UFB) on the other side of the planet by way of a global magnetic elevator transport vehicle that travels through the earth’s core. 

Beautifully designed by director Wiseman, known for the Underworld movies, with a blend of futuristic and classical architecture, it shows an over populated dreary world of multi-layered cities connected with industrial landing platforms and super highways used by an array of hovering and flying vehicles. 

Suffering from strange dreams of being a secret agent, he decides to go on a virtual vacation by way of a machine that implants artificial memories of being somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. As part of this mind altering vacation you also get to give yourself a new identity.  

The visual design of the film looks much more impressive than the original Paul Verhoeven film, which was a tongue-in-cheek humorous look at the future. This new film creates a more immersive and realistic mix of sleek futuristic technology, Victorian inspired architecture and grungy cube shaped slum dwellings with retro style neon lights. There is a definite visual homage to previous films based on Philip Dick’s books like Blade Runner (1982) and Minority Report (2002), and I got a similar feeling of a dark oppressive future world that you get from those films. 

What Quaid is not aware of, is that his mind has already been tampered with and that his dreams of being a secret agent are actually real memories left over from another life he lived as, Carl Hauser, a defected UFB spy. 

There is sort of a Logan’s Run (1976) feeling you get from the story of a special agent who has been tricked into taking a mission because of his unique talents making him the only one suited for the job.  He is partnered with a female insider who can help him navigate the underworld of the resistance as they travel through a maze of unique environments eventually leading the authoritarian forces to the secret hideout of the rebels.

There are quite a number of exciting, fun sequences that give the film its relentless drive and keeps the viewer engaged in the story. There’s a suspenseful chase in a labyrinth of elevators that move in multiple directions, a floating car chase through a multi-leveled cityscape that’s visually breath taking, a rooftop chase through the slums of a worker colony that looks like a future Hong Kong, and a climactic supersonic magnetic transport vehicle, called ‘The Fall’, that runs through the earth’s core from one end to the other in just 17 minutes.

If you’re a fan of Philip Dick’s mind altering, conspiracy fueled, surreal future world stories, then you won’t be disappointed with this film, which stays true to the spirit of Dick’s ideas. If however you were a fan of Paul Verhoeven’s lighter hearted take on the story, you may not enjoy this film as much. The whole trip to Mars element has been eliminated and although there are some fun nods to the original film, the humor is definitely lacking in this more serious but engaging updated remake. 



Elizabeth Scott said...
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Susan Cooper said...

I do not understand why the film industry feel they need to remake films from years before. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they fail to make the mark. This one may be good with the advances of CG effects. :-)

JP said...

New advances in technology can breath new life into older films with good ideas that are still relevant today.

Jon Jefferson said...

I haven't seen this one yet. I actually just picked up a pdf of the original story from your mention. I have always been a fan of the old Schwarzenegger action flicks. I kinda wanna see these two side by side and compare the differences.

Kelly Wade said...

Cool review. I can see how a few years and incredible advancements in technology in the film industry would make a remake very different. I've never seen either of these films but I think I'd like them. Its funny to think about what people in a few decades will look back and think about movies like this. When will they finally invent an elevator that can move in any direction?

Gerald Smith said...

Nice review.

I watched the first one years ago, and had forgotten the story line. When I watched this remake I liked it a lot. They brought the future to life very well. The technology was incredible. Your review captures the story line well.