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Total Recall - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Total Recall
Directing: C+
Acting: B
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-
Special Effects: B+
Production Design: C

Not that any young person watching this movie today is going to care in the slightest, but the original version of Total Recall was better. This is kind of amazing given the fact that the original starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and by any objective judgment Colin Farrell is a better actor (although why he keeps getting cast in throwaway movies like this and having his talent wasted is a mystery). But in 1990, the concept of memory implants and mind manipulation was a lot more novel than it is today. Bottom line: in the context of its own time, the original was just plain more interesting.

If you're into just looking at the eye candy that is Colin Farrell -- and, let's be clear, I am -- then this Total Recall is worth seeing. It also has a lot of eye candy in terms of special effects, which are largely rather impressive; one sequence with wide shots of a foot chase across a CGI rendered maze of concrete balconies is a bit of a thrill.

That said, this is the first review in which I have bothered to grade production design as a separate element because it was the only way I felt I could be fair. The renderings are impressive, but the imagination behind them is lacking. To say this movie -- like countless other science fiction films; seriously, it's getting old -- borrows from Blade Runner would be an understatement. It just has better angles thanks to computers. It really just looks like what Blade Runner would have looked like if Ridley Scott had access to CGI technology. At least the original Total Recall had an original vision of the future.

And that brings us to the concept. I suppose a commuter pod traveling through the earth's core isn't any less preposterous than a colony on Mars (this movie stays on -- and in -- Earth), but it's certainly not as interesting. Here we have Douglas Quaid (Farrell) living in "The Colony", which is part of Australia, commuting through the Earth to the United Federation of Britain, where he works a blue collar job putting together synthetic police officers on an assembly line. These two areas are the only habitable places left on Earth after "global chemical warfare" at the end of the 21st century. Actually I was a little confused as to how the habitable area of the UFB could have air so clean and yet a single city's subway line could be taken out to the air-poisoned "No-Zone", but -- whatever.

To be fair, no one goes to a movie like this for the realism. Some people might like a love interest (Jessica Biel) and villainess (Kate Beckinsale) portrayed by actors who are a little less interchangeable. I know that's a trifling quibble. The only reason to see this movie is for the special effects and the action, and it has all anyone might want of both.

Certainly I'll give it that: Total Recall is exciting. A little long, maybe. But it's packed wall to wall with gripping action sequences in well-rendered (if derivative) future landscapes. The whole concept of "Rekall," the company Quaid is drawn to for the implants of virtual memories due to an unsatisfying life, is almost an afterthought. But it is the catalyst for all those great action sequences.

It's too bad special effects from the 1990 movie are so dated, though. This remake is arguably more exciting, but the original was more fun.

Colin Farrell gets his mind blown in a not-at-all mind blowing TOTAL RECALL.

Overall: B-
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