Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

Total Recall

There are some movies that exceed your expectations only because the bar is set so low. This is not one of those movies.

Sure, the Total Recall of 1990 looks kinda cheesy to a younger generation who grew up on a steady diet of CGI. And maybe Arnold is more punchline than action hero these days. But despite those things, the Total Recall of old holds up well because it’s still a fun movie, and that’s where the difference lies between old and new.


This new Total Recall should be good. It has more than a few things going for it – like a cast that includes Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston (and yes, Colin Farrell, though I’m not a fan), and it has director Len Wiseman who worked on the Underworld films. It’s just too bad they got saddled with such a mediocre screenplay from Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback (whose names I’m not going to put in bold type, ’cause they don’t deserve it.)

Total Recall

Somehow these guys managed to suck out everything that was fun about the original film and they left us a hollow husk of a movie. The entire first half of Total Recall is one long chase sequence – the kind of overlong, exhausting stuff that only George Lucas could love. These scenes would probably be unbearably boring if not for the cool dystopian backdrops they’re set against. The setting for Total Recall is an Earth ravaged by chemical weapons, where the remaining population is squeezed into two habitable zones on opposite sides of the planet. While the well-off live in theĀ United Federation of Britain, the less fortunate segment of humanity lives in the Colony, a Blade Runner-esque cityscape that’s crowded, filthy, and perpetually dark and rainy.

Conspicuously absent is the most interesting character from the original movie – the planet Mars. The ‘red planet’ looms large in people’s imaginations these days, and leaving it out of the new film seems like a bonehead move. Without Mars there’s no place for the characters to go, no mutants (except, inexplicably, the chick with three boobs) and no ancient alien mystery to solve. Instead, we’re given a story that’s been recycled so many times, I’ve seen it in everything from Lifetime made-for-TV movies to Saturday morning cartoons (including half a dozen episodes of Scooby Doo): a wealthy real estate developer steals land away from the poor people so that he can build gleaming skyscrapers for the rich folk.

Total RecallWorse yet, the writers filled the void left by the absence of Mars with a ginormous, ugly plot hole! In the new film, the two habitable zones are connected by a a tunnel that bores right through the center of the earth. Yes, after the world economy collapses and the population is decimated, we somehow manage to undertake the most ambitious public works project in the history of the planet, completely defying the laws of physics in the process. It would literally be more feasible to open a chain of Taco Bell restaurants on Mars than it would be to bore a giant hole through the center of the Earth.

Kate Beckinsale gives the standout performance as a tireless government assassin and fake wife of Douglas Quaid (Farrell), and Bryan Cranston is solid as Quaid’s boss, Cohaagen. Beyond that, Total Recall (2012) is just a predictable action-flick remake that offers absolutely no improvements over the original.

Rating: 2.5/5 ★★½☆☆ 


About Dave_P

Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (

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