Total Recall (2012)
By: J.R. McNamara on March 23, 2013 | Comments
Sony | Region B | 2.40:1, 1080p | English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | 130 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
Country: USA
External Links
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Why does everyone cry over the cinematic movement known as 'The Remake'? I love 'em, just like I love do-overs of music. Just think, without this phenomenon, we wouldn't have The Beatle's rendition of 'Money' or 'Roll Over Beethoven', Run DMC's 'Walk This Way', John Carpenter's The Thing or Chuck Russell's The Blob. Ok, I admit that stinkers also rise, like Flying Lizard's rendition of 'Money' or Devo's slaughtering of The Rolling Stones 'Satisfaction' or Gus Van Sant's Psycho or Steve Miner's Day of the Dead, none of which help with my argument, but in general, I like to see an alternate take on an idea, especially if it is taken from a classic piece of sci-fi literature, in this case: Phillip K. Dick's We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.

Before I get into the synopsis, I must express my absolute admiration of the chutzpah one has to remake a classic piece of schlocky sci-fi under the production moniker of 'Original Films'. Someone call Allanis Morrisette: that's ironic.

The film starts with a small history lesson about a great war that resulted in the Earth being decimated, and the only two places remaining are the rich United Federation of Britain, in Europe and the poorish Colony, based here in Australia. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a Colony man who travels to the UFB everyday via a gigantic elevator through the Earth's core, feels like something is missing from his life, even though he enjoys the company of a beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and has gainful employment.

After work one day he decides to visit Rekall, a company that inserts memories of holidays or adventures into your brain so you can have the great memory of something that you never actually experienced. Quaid jumps at the chance of a spy adventure, but just as they go to insert the memory, the operator at Rekall discovers that he already has a memory hidden in his mind… and then all Hell breaks loose.

Quaid discovers that he isn't Quaid, but instead is actually Carl Hauser, a UFB operative who had discovered an evil plot by the UFB (which I won't reveal here) and switched sides after meeting Melina (Jessica Biel), a rebel working for a man known as Matthias (Bill Nighy). Hauser has left himself all sorts of clues to get his old memory back, but with a psychotic UFB operative and the entire robot police force on his tail, will he ever get to uncover the truth?

The performances in this film is generally solid. Colin Farrell plays the confused hero well, Biel is the plucky sidekick, and Bryan Cranston plays his villain with all the moustache twirling it deserves. It's Kate Beckinsale however who makes this film her own, and her characters pursuit of Farrell's is played with such a single minded determination that she is almost scary. Considering she is essentially playing both the Michael Ironside and Sharon Stone roles from the original she really needed to bring something extra to the role, and she sure does!

Perhaps the greatest strength of this film is its visuals, which I absolutely love. If I am to be clever, which happens occasionally, I'd even put it in a cinematic Phillip K. Dick-iverse style timeline somewhere between Speilberg's glossy and hyper utopian Minority Report and Ridley Scott's dystopian Blade Runner. If you are going to borrow from other director's visions, I don't think Spielberg and Scott are bad sources to borrow from. The world of Total Recall is futuristic and technologically ambitious, but it is also starting to decay, as perhaps mankind is devolving. The technology on display is a thrill too. Even though the elevator through the Earth's crust is somewhat over the top, the sub-dermal hand installed mobile phones, hand grenades with holographic cameras in them, and maglev cars are something I want right now!

The cornerstone of a film like this is obviously the action sequences and they are here in spades with gunplay, flying car chases and girl-on-girl smack-downs breaking out at regular intervals. Some of the fight scenes are over the top, but the frequent set-pieces are masterfully choreographed and a thrill to watch.

My main problem with this film were the unnecessarily shoehorned references to Verhoeven's original. Some are obvious, like the three tittied prostitute (and her comment about having three hands) and the fat lady at the airport, while others displayed some subtlety, like the robot policemen losing his arm Richter-style. I think whilst amusing for fans of the original, these references are also a distraction, and don't give the film its own identity.

My other issue is a minor one, and that is the similarity between the female leads. A better visual storyteller would show that Quaid's and Hauser's taste in women are completely different, and as much as I hate to say it, as I completely love both Biel and Beckinsale, one of them should have perhaps been played by one of the alternate actresses up for the role, like Rosario Dawson or Diane Kruger.

Other than these two points I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Well, except for those who immediately jump online to complain about any film being remade, as those people will never be swayed!
The Disc
Sharp, clear, and colourful, Total Recall's 2.40:1 HD presentation is picture perfect as one would expect. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is similarly magnificent for the most part, although at least one member of the DR team reported experiencing several audio drop-outs during the extended director's cut version, which occurred at the beginning of each "seamlessly" branched scene.

The disc reviewed is one of those initial release 4 disc jobbies, which has two BDs, (one with the film and a couple of extras, the second with just extras) and then a DVD and digital copy of the film. The main BD has two versions of the film, a theatrical and an extended cut with an alternative ending. You probably shouldn't linger on the main menu as it contains spoilers for the film, though if you have seen the original that shouldn't be a problem.

The Extended Director's Cut features an audio commentary with Len Wiseman, who lost me at first by saying that he really likes the theatrical cut, but here's the extended cut anyway. What? Is this guy Archie? Will he choose Betty or Veronica? He does, however redeem this wishy washiness with an informative talk through.

Total Recall: Insight Mode is one of those Pop-up Video styled things where either text facts (which are difficult to read for us oldies) or scene specific behind the scenes video stuff appears on screen while you watch the movie. Wiseman says that his commentary and this piece are the type of extras he always wanted on DVDs when he was growing up (growing up? How young is this guy?) It's very interesting and with the commentary all aspects of the making of the film are covered.

Previews is just what it suggests: at first we have a Blu-ray promotional bit followed by a preview for The Amazing Spider-man.

Disc 2 is our extras disc and features the following:

Gag Reel: interesting name as a gag is something funny, and none of this really is. Most of the gags involve Beckinsale accidentally hitting Farrell.

Science Fiction Vs Science Fact has Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Future, discussing our technological advances and their influences on science fiction. It is one of the best extras I have ever had the pleasure of watching and seriously could have gone on for three times as long.

Designing the Fall looks at the elevator through the Earth and how it was visualized by the films designers and sfx guys.

Total Action is divided into 7 parts (Colin Farrell, The Tripping Den, Destroying Rekall, Kate Beckinsale, Lobby Escape, Jessica Biel and Quaid vs Cohaagen). These 7 featurettes dissect all aspects of the stunt side of the film and are fascinating to watch.

Stepping into Recall - Pre-Visualisation Sequences is broken down into Apartment Waterfront Chase, The Fall Fight, Flight and Tripping Den, Elevator Chase and Car Chase.

Disc 3, which is the DVD copy has only the Gag Reel, Science Fiction Vs Science Fact and Designing the Fall extras off the BD discs, which essentially makes it pointless to this collection.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I really liked this film, almost as much as the original. This is played straight sci-fi, whereas Verhoeven's Total Recall was a lot more wry, and Schwarzenegger seemingly played it for laughs. Sure, haters are gonna hate, but before you jump on their bandwagon, watch this and see if you'll enjoy it for yourself. I certainly did!

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