Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

Total Recall (dir. Len Wiseman, 2012) – When his memory implant procedure goes wrong, Douglas Quaid finds himself a wanted man and discovers the unwelcome truth behind his identity.


Stealing fun from its source, the attempted fresh take reduces a cult classic to a little more than an explosive visual feast.



Everyman Douglas Quaid leads a monotonous life and works a mundane job. As time passes, he begins to question his purpose in society. The life of a superspy is what he needs, he decides, and his recurring dreams spur him on. But his memory implant procedure at Rekall goes wrong and reality falls apart.

This time, the illusion Doug chases is not on Mars. He chooses to go straight for the ego-trip as a secret agent. Doing away with mutants and the Red Planet, the new Total Recall is entirely earthbound, taking place against the backdrop of a Blade Runner-esque landscape.

Its futuristic visuals is unsurprisingly a big step up, given twenty years in gap. Yet these tech marvels are not entirely inventive by today’s sci-fi standards, thus much less memorable than those in the original. Who can forget the times when Arnold Schwarzenegger extracts a tracking device from his nose, or dons the face of a creepy obese woman?

Just as forgettable are the characters, through no fault of the cast. A villain, his henchman, a hero and his love interest amount to overly simple interpretations of barren archetypes.

One of the most impressionable differences this remake features is the interesting hint of political cynicism. The established future of a divided world, overrun by capitalism and commercialism, is perhaps more relatable and within sight.

The underlying social commentary is sadly an opportunity wasted. Potentially interesting ideas veers into threadbare explosive action. All we are left with, instead of any thought provocation, is an extensive chase sequence. Tightly knitted scenes of pursuits soon get tiring.

As the predictable movie nears its conclusion, Doug is driven into uncertainty of what is real and what is part of Rekall, which is what made the original so intriguing. One of the biggest disappointments lie with how this remake settles on a definitive answer from the start.

This formulaic piece is an enjoyable visual feast, but ultimately feels like an unnecessary remake and an utter let-down. It tones down violence, language and unfortunately, humour. There is definitely more fun to be had with the original eye-popping (ha, couldn’t resist) Schwarzenegger movie.

Craving for more Total Recall? Check out Stephan Martiniere’s cool concept art over at Kotaku.

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