Total Recall (2012) (DVD review).

Watching ‘Total Recall’ with its futuristic scenes, CGI of course, one is reminded of illustrations composed a century or more ago of how the future would appear. These pictures contained images of multi-storey blocks, much like London today, with railways in the sky and flying transport everywhere. This movie is somewhat like that but far more advanced. The levels of transport seem to go upwards forever with vehicles travelling at amazing speeds and yet, despite the fact that they seem to be piloted, very few collisions are taking place. There are also mobile phones embedded in the palm of the hand, cluttering of social residences, endless torrential rain and seething masses of people.


Also coming to mind were the earlier movies, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Fifth Element’, and much of the scenery could be extensions from these but it had a lot of original material as well, including the tunnel through the Earth which was an unlikely possibility but nevertheless interesting. To top it all, we’ve also got a bit of ‘Star Wars’ with the clones and ‘Terminator’ in the form of the menacing black robots chucked in. Yes, a real mixture of things we have seen before and also new vistas to tantalise the imagination.

Schwarzenegger movie comparisons must obviously be made because they’ve both got the same name and same general plot. That aside, the old version was much better than this. Sorry, Mr. Farrell, but Arnie has got one up on you on this count! In the first version, there was a conflict between Earth and the colony on the planet Mars. This ‘Total Recall, was firmly embedded on and in Earth.

In a post-apocalyptic future, the only habitable regions on the planet were Britain and the colony in Australia. All the rest was in the darkness and, as far as one was to believe, completely knackered. With Australia and Britain being on opposite sides of the planet, you would think that travel could be a bit difficult but their answer in this highly technically advanced civilisation was to put a tunnel right through the Earth to connect them up. Transport was provided by a massive elevator which went right through from one side to the other, all 8000 miles of it through the crust, mantle, inner cores and all the way up again.

An attempt to be technically correct was provided by the fact that as you go towards the centre of the Earth, a weightless environment would be encountered. Basically, because mass is equally distributed all around, the effects of gravity become neutralised at the centre point. It’s also obvious that people in Australia are upside down compared to good honest British citizens so at some point in the journey between the two, a turnaround must take place. In the movie, this occurred in the weightless environment at the centre of the Earth. The technology required to first of all drill a tunnel right through the Earth is outside anything we could ever imagine, let alone something produced from a post-apocalyptic civilisation regardless of how advanced it claimed to be and then to maintain such a tunnel against the enormous forces which threaten its existence would require so much energy that even the entire world civilisation could not provide it, let alone Britain.

Anyway, this was a convenient and interesting scenario for the movie. Britain was quite rich and prosperous while the colony in Australia was downtrodden and exploited, mainly for its human resources which were shuttled to and from the other sides via the tunnel. Because the Australians didn’t like this arrangement, a resistance network had been set up to try to encourage a more equitable society. With Britain able to produce robots at will, it’s a wonder why a labour force from the other side of the world was required but that’s a minor detail!

Into this we introduce Douglas Quaid, in the form of Colin Farrell. He seems to be an ordinary sort of guy, a labourer from Australia who is married to attractive Lori, played by Kate Beckinsale. After visiting an establishment that provides drug induced fantasies, Total Recall by name, he seemingly (or does he really) change to his real identity which is the freedom fighter Carl Hauser. The battle exploding in this establishment continues right the way through the entire movie. Lori is actually a bit of a nasty girl with no qualms about killing anybody whereas his real girlfriend Melina (Jessica Biel) is a more thoughtful and caring person.

As with the original Schwarzenegger movie, the audience is left wondering if this is all a dream from the start to finish. Secondly, we don’t know if Douglas is really Carl or vice versa. We don’t know if he is the government agent or really a terrorist. Carl has to escape the authorities and stop the secret plan of the British government to send an army of robots to wipe out the troublesome Australians. Unfortunately, the real powers behind the two sides played by Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston do not really get much exposure and appear fleetingly, too fleetingly for any more than a two-dimensional character representation. It’s a pity because in an attempt to introduce political machinations, the adversaries should have been more prominent.

The action builds up towards an implausible and implosive ending and it’s ambiguous at that. Of course, in a movie which contained a continuous mix-up of possibilities and realities, any ending other than that would be missing the theme. Unfortunately, at the end of a couple of hours, you are left wondering if it was all worth it. While the scenario was interesting, it was technically impossible not only from the tunnel’s point of view but from the realities of the societies presented. It’s only a movie nonetheless and we shouldn’t expect too much.

With fast action from the start to finish, there wasn’t really room for intelligent dialogue which leaves the opinion that so much more could have been done to make ‘Total Recall’ a little better. While it will not be memorable, no doubt DVDs sales will be reasonable but the fact remains that if you can’t do a remake of a previous movie to a higher standard, then just don’t do it at all. The very act of making a remake obviously invites comparisons and with the Schwarzenegger version only just more than 20 years old and still fresh in the minds of many people, making a poor comparison was not the right thing to do. However, it’s reasonable enough to warrant a tepid recommendation.

Rod MacDonald

December 2012

(region 2 DVD: pub: Sony Home Entertainment B008JBZ69M. 1 DVD 118 minute film with extras. Price: £ 9.99 (UK))

stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston

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One thought on “Total Recall (2012) (DVD review).

  • Thank you for reviewing this movie, Rod. I have a little weekly movie club with a few friends that I work with at DISH; we dig through the thousands of movies available from our DISH Blockbuster @Home rental service. The genre of the week last week was action/thriller, so I rented Total Recall. I had a lot of problems with this version of Total Recall, but this movie wouldn’t bug me so much if they had named it something else, possibly taking the title from Dicks original work. Arnold’s movie remains a personal favorite, and I would like to forget that this film is in any way connected to it.


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