Once upon a time, somehow lost in Hollywood legend, a major studio gave an eccentric and – only slightly – crazy Dutch filmmaker one of the biggest film budget’s in history. Of course, he had the biggest action star in the world attached, but there’s no question of the risk the studio took with Paul Verhoeven. He pushed the norm, loved the weird and pulled no punches. Now, 22 years on, let’s see if Len Wiseman’s remake can do the same.
Set in the distant future, where most of the world has been destroyed by nuclear warfare. Doug Quaid(Colin Farrell) is happily married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale), however, stuck in a dead end job with what looks like no escape, he dreams of a more exciting life. On the recommendation of a friend he visits Rekall, a small organisation that is able to inject synthetic memories into your subconscious and therefore fulfil your wildest dreams. Doug decides the take the plunge -but as you’d expect – it doesn’t go quite to plan and an old life raises it head.
Total Recall is a real mixed bag, the world Wiseman creates is well realised and beautiful to look at but it’s the way he deals with his story which brings the problems. Unfortunately, it’s void of any of the quality and fun of the original and quickly becomes an empty shell of regurgitated sci-fi effects. It’s bland and it’s boring, plus the way it attempts to incorporate the ambiguity of Doug’s predicament is way too blunt and easy to read, which that alone takes away 50% of the effectiveness of the plot.
And the action suffers from the same issues as the story, decently choreographed and performed (Kate Beckinsale may not be able to act but she can throw one hell of a punch) but it becomes repetitive and dull. With each set piece feeling annoyingly longer than the one before. Wiseman knows how to shoot, that’s undeniable, he just seems a like director that’s way more excited by the shiny things rather than pre-occupy himself with a adequately paced narrative.
A mindless attempt of a mindless blockbuster, it destroys anything resembling a deeper theme or satire that made Verhoeven’s original so memorable. I’m sure many will get seduced by the glittery aesthetic and beautiful people but this is average sci-fi storytelling that is much more interested in showing you the dollars they spent than taking you on a journey you’ll enjoy. Uninspired and forgettable, Total Recall seems to whimper at the idea of a complex narrative, which I genuinely believe, is a real shame.