Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)


Plot: A factory worker with identity issues finds himself in the middle of a war between rulers and rebels in a future dystopian Earth.

Skip the Total Recall remake. I don’t remember the original, but I have to believe it was better than this lazy, unimaginative piece of crap. I felt sorry for Colin Farrell, who acts his heart out in a movie that has no brains, heart, or motivation. If you have any standards at all, your beef with this movie will likely involve the movie’s disregard for science, the poor writing, the nonexistent character development, the boring set designs, or all of the above. Let’s be organized and elaborate all these flaws in list form, shall we? 

Flaw #1: “The Fall”

More like “The Fail.” In the movie, chemical warfare ruined the world, and the only two areas of human habitation are the former UK and Australia. They’re on opposite ends of the Earth. Humans build a transport system called “The Fall” that goes through the center of the planet. Which, as you might recall, is molten at the core, and plastic (flowing) on the lower levels of the mantle. Heat + pressure = kaboom. So how did the intrepid peoples of the movie construct a tunnel through that? Duh! Science!

Look, a good science fiction story walks the line between disbelief and delight. Great writers can even predict future tech, like the three-wall TVs in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (they don’t exist – yet – but they’re believable, and I would buy one in a heartbeat). Or heck, there’s the propulsion system that allows Iron Man to fly. I bought that.

But “The Fall” was a double helping of stupid: it made no effort to be believable, and it served no purpose apart from serving as the setting for the “climactic” battle. Grrrr.

Flaw #2: Lame Writing

Poor Colin Farrell. He saw the dramatic tension inherent in a story about a man who’s implanted with false memories. He understood that he was playing a character whose loyalty remains a mystery to the very end. His eyes reflected confusion and conflict throughout the movie.

Sadly, the rest of the movie was about how attractive Kate Beckinsale is with her long locks cascading down her face as she strides down a hallway with guns blazing. Or how amazingly fit she is, overpowering larger foes by kicking off available surfaces. Or how her sexiness increases by a factor of infinity when she switches to her natural British accent. I mean, hey, I agree – but if we were just going to do a Beautiful Person Show, couldn’t we have had more topless Colin Farrell shots? Please? Or even scenes of Jessica Biel without sleeves? OR BETTER YET – HAVE JESSICA BIEL AND MICHELLE OBAMA HAVE AN ARM-WRESTLING CONTEST?

You’re welcome for that visual image.

My point is, the remake glossed over the interesting parts of the story, namely the role of memories in defining identity, the nature of moral obligations, the ambiguity of personal motivations, and the dangers of authoritarianism. Instead, it focused on the endless running and fighting. It squandered its potential and its science fiction heritage. How dare it.

Flaw #3: Nonexistent Character Development

The emotional core of the movie should have been the relationship between Colin Farrell’s character and Jessica Biel’s rebel. After all, she’s supposed to be why he defected in the first place. But they have zero chemistry. And here I think it was because Colin Farrell was too focused on being panicky and puzzled, and Jessica Biel forgot that she was looking at a man with abs like a Hershey Bar. I’m just guessing here. But the end result is the same: without that romance as a solid anchor, the movie meanders.

More interesting villains would have helped, too. Kate Beckinsale’s character, while fairly competent at ass kicking, seems petulant and insubordinate. The main bad guy only appears for two or three scenes. The robot soldiers are too easily dispatched. Bo-ring!

Speaking of boring…

Flaw #4: Boring Set Designs

The design crew for the slums seemed to be thinking of Blade Runner and Soylent Green, but decided to make a slightly more high-tech version of a diorama backdrop from an 80’s B movie. The Hunger Games had better “dystopian urban setting versus decadent metropolis of our future” production designs, and it had, what, 60% of Total Recall’s budget? Lameness, thy name is Total Recall.

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There you have it, folks. If I haven’t convinced you to avoid this movie like your sneezing coworker, then I’m sorry.

But you’ll be sorrier. Mwahahahaha!!!!