As much as those behind Total Recall would like to have audiences think that this is a successful re-imagining and modernization of the original from 1990, the product speaks for itself. This is a remake that attempts to make tweaks to the original, many of which don't make sense. One of the most predictable moves made was making this a watered down PG-13 flick, removing a lot of the heart of the story, as well as the violence found during some of the fight sequences. This is one loud and stupid remake that tries to entice audiences with nothing more than its visuals.
The planet has been destroyed by nuclear war, which leaves only two nations, which are known as the United Federation of Britain and the Colony. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker with a beautiful wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), but Douglas desires a change to his everyday routine. He decides to go to a company called Rekall, which implants memories in your mind where you can do anything. After the procedure goes wrong, Quaid breaks free and is branded a spy. He discovers that he has a secret identity and decides to join Melina (Jessica Biel) in tracking down Matthias (Bill Nighy) for help in order to save the world. Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) wants to take control of the world, but must get through Quaid first.
For those who remember the original, the Mars sub-plot has been removed, along with the deformed inhabitants. I'm guessing that this was done in order for people to see that the screenwriters, Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, did something different with the story. Well, they changed just enough to make this a different movie. Unfortunately, they ruined both old and new material. They replaced the Mars sub-plot with Cohaagen trying to take over the world, but we're not offered much of a motive. This is a bad villain who doesn't even come across as threatening. Lori is being controlled by Cohaagen, who continues to track down Douglas. She receives much more screen time than she should. The film relies far too much on her chase sequences with Douglas.
The pacing of Total Recall is bad. Despite the fact that the movie isn't too much longer than the average action flick, it drags. I found myself constantly checking the time. There's a lot of chase sequences that end up feeling extremely repetitive. This is an action movie that isn't able to engage its audience with either the story or the unnecessarily drawn out cat and mouse game. Total Recall is one of those movies that is unbelievably forgettable. As I was watching this movie, I couldn't help but feel this mend with a countless amount of other generic and dumb action flicks that have been released over the years.
Replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid is Colin Farrell. He does a decent job with the material he's been given. He's believable as the character and it's a shame that he couldn't have been given the proper script that could have made him shine much brighter. Kate Beckinsale is acceptable in the role of Lori. She's sexy and shows her talent during the early portion of the movie. Once the action sequences begin, she doesn't get much of a chance to save the character. Jessica Biel is satisfactory as Melina. While it isn't Biel's fault directly, the character is extremely flat, removing any and all emotion audiences have towards the character's fate. Bryan Cranston could have been a fantastic villain as Cohaagen. Screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback made that impossible. The character himself is written extremely poorly, which is a shame since I would enjoy to see Cranston as the antagonist in a film where he gets the opportunity to show what his acting chops are capable of. The performances range from mediocre to being solid, but it's impossible for an actor to polish garbage.
Futuristic car chases, fight sequences, explosions, and all other visuals look great, but still fail in grabbing hold of the audience. The car chase is too similar to the sequence in The Fifth Element. This scene could have been much better if more had been done to make this a fresh action scene. The stunt work is cool to watch for a little while, but it wears out its welcome quickly. When there's this many fighting scenes that feel so similar, it begins to become filler. The action that received an R-rating in the version from 1990 is missing, although this remake gets away with quite a bit of violence with still maintaining a PG-13 rating. As far as the audio goes, this is going to be a fantastic piece of demo material once it hits Blu-ray, and it's a shame that the movie itself isn't able to hold up to the audio mix.
There's a lot wrong with Total Recall and these issues cannot be simply brushed off. The script feels as if it was written in a day and the pacing is a major problem. This is a disjointed and forgettable mess that isn't able to improve on the original. The cast is the strongest asset the film has, but even they aren't able to save this horrible script. Even the action is weak, as it's extremely repetitive. Total Recall is a failure as both a remake and a standalone action flick. Save your money and skip it.