HST Reviews…Total Recall (2012)

Lauren:  For a summer jam packed with action films, Total Recall might be going for the title of actioniest.  Yeah, that’s a word.  Don’t look it up.

Loosely based on the original 1990 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger, this Total Recall stars Colin Farrell in a post apocalyptic type world where Great Britain and Australia are the only habitable places on the planet, connected by an elevator traversing the diameter of the globe.  That’s right, this elevator told the core of the planet to “suck it” because this is a man’s world, and we will do with it as we please.

The main story involves the upper and lower classes basically, the lower living on the Colony and sprouting a rebellion that would make Michael Bay proud (Total Recall sure does feel like The Island if you ask me).  Yet the most interesting (and underplayed IMO) part of the story comes from Farrell’s character of Douglas Quaid, if that is his real name.  After a trip to Rekall in which false memories can be planted in your mind Quaid gets thrown into a story of mass identity confusion when he becomes aware that he may be living a lie.

Zac: I didn’t see the Bay similarities to be honest, the movie actually seemed a lot like the original Total Recall; imagine that.  I know you have not seen Mr. Schwarzenegger’s “classic” film, but I was a little let down at how closely they followed that film’s story.  Sure they didn’t go to Mars, but we hit a lot of similar beats and there are more than a handful of callbacks (Three Boobs).

But let’s put the comparisons to the Paul Verhoeven directed original aside and assess this film on its lonesome.  I love the look and futurist design of this film.  The first half of the film is full of cool and intuitive sci-fi concepts and the art design on the city was particularly impressive; even if it was Blade Runner meets Fifth Element meets Minority Report.  Colin Farrell is also very good (he usually is) in the lead of the film as he creates a relatable and emotionally wounded guy that we are able to easily buy as an ass kicking super spy when that gets clicked on.  Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel (wipes drool off keyboard) are also both good as well, with Beckinsale having a lot of fun in a Terminator-esque turn running all over the cityscape.

Lauren:  Be sure to dry out between the keys as well; a top only scrub won’t get it done.

I’ll give you the three films you mention, and I particularly loved the design comparisons between the two worlds.  Granted, my favorite has to go to the Colony by far.  When Farrell was running around the apartments and other buildings during an early chase (one of many in this cat and mouse game.  Don’t worry, it is handled better than Snow White and the Huntsman) we get a great look at this multi-leveled world.  Cubistic, full of depth, and a parkour master’s dream, with one especially cool shot that plays out like a side-scrolling video game.

I never saw the original as Zac mentioned, but my major problem with Total Recall was I still felt like I’ve seen this before.  It makes for a solidly fun and entertaining action film, but I was hoping for a little more than just that.  The whole “who am I?  What’s real?” question really leaves a lot of room to explore, and though they did take advantage of it a few times, even adding some bits that allow someone like myself to read into (like a well placed Rekall sign), I still find myself wishing they had done more with it.  Whatever your opinion of Sucker Punch is, it should be applauded for not being afraid of playing up the confusion in a way that allows the audience to make of the film what they choose to.  After watching this one I was drawn to contrasting the two films and I found myself a little disappointed that they didn’t use Colin Farrell to do this to a greater extent instead of having the psychological elements take the back seat to the action that was forced into a faster pace due to the chase.

Zac: This film is fairly straightforward with the dream/not a dream and that is one thing the original does do better in comparison.  I thought this version of Recall was pretty clearly happening in the real world and I too wish that there was a bit more ambiguity.  A lot of this could have been well suited to be thrown in the film’s later half as the film dragged a bit after the duo of Biel and Farrell find their way into the “No-Zone.”

This “drag” in the film might just be because so much of the film before that is firing on all cylinders as we are given a lot of fun and inventive chase scenes.  It’s not all action though, as I enjoyed the pre-Rekall material a lot and found the material to be far more affecting here than in the original film.  It would have been nice if Farrell got one more moment with Biel along the way to sell their relationship further, but Biel makes it work as it is.  I actually really like the way Farrell played off Biel throughout the movie with a great sense of, “I want to like you, your great, but I am still pretty confused,” some great subtle stuff in there from the lead.

Lauren:  I appreciated his standoffishness, as well as the cattiness between the two girls to an extent, such as when Biel was just like “F this, she’s going down!” and goes out guns blazing (don’t worry, that wasn’t the actual dialog).  Whereas Beckinsale could have used a wider range of material for her jabs at Farrell after she went all head down, unapproachable terminator.

And finally, I know I am going to get some anger from Zac on this one, but as someone who has yet to find the time to sit down with Breaking Bad I couldn’t buy Bryan Cranston as the bad guy.  Maybe it was the haircut (actually I know it has a lot to do with the hair…), maybe it was the fact that he didn’t look like someone who could go toe to toe with Farrell physically, or maybe it was just the fact that the villains were too straight forward to begin with so it didn’t really matter who played them…  It was just another spot in the film that I wished for more.

Zac: No anger, Cranston was fine as Cohaagen, his hair was an ugly wig, but there wasn’t a lot there for him to play with either.  Also, Cohaagen didn’t need to be in the mix of all that action at the end, seemed a bit out of place.

All in all I enjoyed the film for the most part.  I really dug the world building, the performances, and all of the set pieces.  There were a lot of clever ideas floating around the film, it’s just a shame they couldn’t put a little more brain into the plot.  That said, I think it does more than a few things better than the original film, but it never captures the fun and pacing that film holds in my heart.  I would recommend you watch the original film Lauren, would love to know which one you prefer, even if I did scare you off with that picture of Kuato.

Lauren:  I couldn’t agree with you more on all points on this one, and I’ll add the original to the list of old action films I need to see (including Judge Dredd since that remake is coming up as well).

Zac: B- Follow @Indy7Solo

Lauren: B- Follow @BewareOfTrees

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