Thursday, August 30, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Total Recall (2012)

A bunch of coworkers and I saw  Total Recall  at the Regal Cinemas at the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, VA in the week after it came out. I had seen the original Total Recall movie from 1988 starring Sharon Stone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and am a big fan of the work of science fiction author Phillip K. Dick, on whose short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" both films are adapted.

The previews that were shown prior to the screening of Total Recall were for movies that were so execrable (Dredd, Resident Evil: Retribution come to mind) that it completely lowered expectations of the quality of the film we were about to see.

Thus the film experience was surprisingly more enjoyable than I expected. The remake stars Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel as well as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it came from Bill Nighy.

Farrell is in almost every frame of the film, which diverges from the original pretty quickly (nothing happens on Mars, for example). The basic structure of the relationship between the main characters remains the same (Farrell is caught in a triangle between Beckinsale as the wife he knows and Biel as the woman from his dreams; in the original Stone played the wife and Rachel Ticotin had the smaller role of the woman from his dream.) The plot is frankly ridiculous, but the pace is non-stop action, with Farrell caught in an ever widening web of deceit and confusion as who he can trust becomes less and less clear.

One of the strongest aspects of the film is its visuals and production design. There are some very nice gadgets and features which the producers use to portray the film is set in the future. The film is set entirely on Earth, and one of the new things is a train that tunnels near the center of the Earth from one part of the planet (the slums or boonies) to another (the City). The look and feel of that train and the city itself, especially the anti-gravity cars are very cool.

Another nice part of the film is its shout-out to the original. The (in)famous three-breasted hooker from the first film is back, as is the malfunctioning camouflage device. One aspect of the original film I wish that they should have used in the remake was choosing two actresses who were as different from each other as Stone (blonde) and Ticotin (brunette). In the remake Biel and Beckinsale are both brunettes and very similar in appearance, which confused me in some scenes (although Beckinsale for some bizarre reason has a posh British accent).

Overall, I would recommend seeing this film on Netflix or Redbox and if you go in with low expectations they will probably be (barely) exceeded.

Total Recall.
Director: Len Wiseman.
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual references.
Release Date: August 3, 2012.
Viewing Date: August 7, 2012.

Writing: D.
Acting: B.
Visuals: B+.
Impact: B-.

Overall Grade: B-/C+ (2.5/4.0).

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