Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the original 1990 version (yet). I wanted to keep it out of my mind so I could more accurately judge this film on its own merits without constantly thinking about the original. Part of the reason for this is that it was clearly not going to have a lot of the things the original did, because the new film is rated PG, while the Arnie version is rated R. So, obviously, there were going to be a lot of differences. Overall, I would say that it’s a serviceable and enjoyable enough action flick, but not anything you haven’t seen before.
Spoiler alert underneath!
Some of the things I liked about Total Recall—firstly, it is a very slick and stylish film. I mean, there is no question that the effects were amazing, and I really liked the production design. I of course liked the cast—I loooove Bryan Cranston and Colin Farrell, and they were the main reason I wanted to see this. Kate Beckinsale continues to be a BAMF. The action sequences were good, but were obviously taken from other movies that came before it (most notably Serenity, Inception, and The Fifth Element). A lot of the tech in the movie was really neat. The hand phone was both silly and awesome at the same time.
Where the film really fell flat was in its logic and world-building. SO MUCH didn’t make sense. If the only land left was Western Europe and Australia, wouldn’t the actual issue be arable land? They didn’t even talk about how all these people had food. Also, I didn’t understand why they brought over workers from the Colony rather than resources, because a) that is historically what colonies have been for, and b) it seemed like they had enough people to build stuff up there. How are there American accents when America was totally wiped out? Yes, some ex-pats would survive, but their children would adopt either Australian or British accents. The American accent would effectively be dead. It was also really dumb how people who took the Earth elevator every day seemed to forget there’s like 10 minutes of zero gravity. And why did Kate Beckinsale hate Colin Farrell so much? Like, she LOATHED him! And I never really understood why.
I also really did not understand the political environment of this world well enough to truly care about the main conflict of the movie. From what I could tell, Chancellor Cohaagen was the only game in town. Like, the Colony did not seem to have its own government or anything, so there was really no one to say that Cohaagen couldn’t have done whatever he wanted with it. And with no other government, he really wouldn’t need to hide the fact or justify making more Synthetics. There’s literally no one to stop him! Except the Resistance, but I mean, even then…. If they had been smart they would have been blowing up the Synthetics factories.
So basically, Total Recall is a decent enough movie, but leave your brain at the door or you will give yourself a headache.