With a tough act to follow, Total Recall is not as eye-poppingly charismatic as its predecessor, but it manages to bring this old tale into the 21st Century.
Total Recall is set in a dystopian post world war III Earth where the human population has almost destroyed itself and we are left with two surviving nations, the United Federation of Britain and the Colony, which represents Australia. The nations are connected by a single lift that passes through the core of the Earth. Douglas Quaid is a factory worker building storm trooper lookalike drones that are the police force of the United Federation of Britain. Bored of his humdrum routine life and plagued by a dream, Quaid decides to get memory implants at Rekall; a company that will implant memories into your brain that are so life like that you will believe they are true. Quaid picks the secret agent memory which triggers terrifying events that lead to him questioning his own identity and reality.
Total Recall, as a remake, grounds the short story written by Phillip K Dick; We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, on Earth rather than migrating it to mars, like Paul Verhoeven’s adaptation in 1990. Colin Farrell takes the role of Quaid that Arnold Schwarzenegger performed in the 1990 cult classic and unfortunately the result is a little dry as all the tongue in cheek humour has been drained out of this remake. Despite this, Total Recall proves to hold its own to the extent that it offers a fresh perspective on the narrative, which has been made relevant to the social and political situation in the west today, as it is set on Earth and features a distinctive class divide, difficulty in employment, freedom fighters and threat of terrorism all sound like familiar territory to the viewers at home.
However, even from this fresh perspective this sci-fi action movie, with a set reminiscent of that found in Blade Runner (Ridley Scott 1982), is sorely disappointing. This futuristic thriller picks style over substance as the film becomes more about the spectacle of the chase rather than the development of the characters. It is predictable and shallow rather than complexly deep. Being a film based around this concept of identity and finding one’s sense of self, Total Recall needed to offer something new in order to stand out from the abundance of identity focused films. The lack of depth and character development leaves a lot to be desired in this sci-fi thriller. What was a cult classic narrative in the 1990’s has become a story already told and therefore Total Recall becomes more of a disappointment than a fascination.
Although Total Recall may not meet expectations, the fast-pace of the narrative and the magnificence of the set allow this action fuelled sci-fi to be enjoyable to watch, but you will not leave the movie theatre feeling like you have been enlightened.
Review by @shirley_whelton