I guess the floodgates are now open. Adapting Philip K. Dick's stories are no longer enough, and now a trend may follow either to remake the films that have already been done, to give it another spin for a new generation, or how about remaking all of the films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, starting from Conan, and now Total Recall. For sure, Colin Farrell can't step into the ex-Mr Universe's hulking frame in playing the construction worker turned double agent Douglas Quaid through what would seem like a fantasy walk in the park for the mind gone all wrong, but if you'd put away your memory of the past film, then his outing here would stand out against his recent slate of projects, bringing him back to action-hero mould even if Len Wiseman's vision here turned a little bit suspect.
Fans of the original film will see only slight similarities in this one, since it took on a different adventure altogether after the familiar introduction. Quaid experiencing a nightmare of a dream only to wake up beside the sexy wife in Lori (Kate Beckinsale, in a role played by Sharon Stone previously, in lingerie no less), and finding that there's probably more to life than just home and work. Enticed by the fantasy inducing company called Rekall where one can live out one's fantasy for a fee, Douglas soon discovers he got more than he bargained for. The contraption's design got brought over, and so did the cult favourite in the three breasted woman, which Singapore back then didn't get to see at all because our censors found it offensive and unreal. The identity mask also has another go, although with less fun, being solely functional and little else.
But what was sorely missed in this remake, is the quip after quip of Arnie-isms, those puns made each time Douglas Quaid did something smart alecky, dispatched an opponent, or just wanted to drawl on something in his Austrian accent. In the typical Arnie movie, there's always room for fun, jokes, and those legendary one liners. Here, all we get are dead serious moments, with the whole look and feel being laden with the need to feel all gritty. Colin Farrell wears a scowl throughout, being perplexed and confused about his true identity in Jason Bourne style complete with mysterious artifacts stored in a safe deposit box, and having doubts to the role he has to play in the entire battle between the Haves and Have Nots.
This Total Recall requires that you junk all memories of the Schwarzenegger film, in order to enjoy the new narrative involving a chemical fallout across all lands save for Britain and parts of Europe now being part of a Greater Britain, and Australia, known as The Colony (yes, some slight historical references here). There's no Mars this time round, as the story gets set strictly on Earth, involving a carnival styled train service that commutes between the two territories, having to pass adjacent to the Earth's core, for some nifty CG effects involving gravitational force reversal.
CG seemed to be what Director Len Wiseman ordered for the film, with green screen effects and CG laden landscapes peppering the entire movie, that makes you wonder about the tagline "What is real?" indeed. It's big on action sequences and slight on actual story, with pauses only to allow the film to breathe a little, before embarking on yet another stunt sequence that involves plenty of running for Douglas Quaid, and his new found love interest / revolutionary partner Melina (Jessica Biel), as they escape from rooftops to elevators, pass through deadly three dimensional elevator shafts and tunnels, fighting their way past synthetic troopers ala Star Wars. It does get pretty generic after a while, that these sequences all start to look very much the same, and probably a Star Wars: Clone Wars episode gone wrong.
Also for the tagline of "What is real?", this remake doesn't really keep you in suspense in a what is, and what is not thought, because for this new generation of audiences, Len Wiseman probably considered it best if everything was spoonfed. So there's no need to guess, and everything got explained verbatim, that you'd know whether it's real, otherwise, and just about every plot and character twist being laid out for all and sundry. Between the two female leads, Kate Beckinsale got more screen time for obvious reasons, though it's not everyday that we get to see her in a negative role. It's clearly expanded here, with her Melina being something of an amalgam of the roles played by Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside as the relentless pursuer of Douglas Quaid, adamant in hunting him down and finishing him off, against orders.
Ultimately, Total Recall 2012 is one big amusement park ride. This will probably be enjoyable for anyone in for an average CG action adventure extravaganza and have no knowledge of the fun blockbuster the first one was, but for the rest of us who have seen Paul Verhoeven's version, this one definitely pales in comparison, in story, action and just plain fun. And Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his prime then, with big shoes that didn't get filled this time round.