Total Recall is a mess.

I think we all saw this coming.
Kate Beckinsale Total Recall
On the upside, Kate Beckinsale is a badass, and when she’s not hindered by the writers, with their pesky “plots” and “words,” she’s awesome to watch. Fans of the original, don’t even play: you know Sharon Stone vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a joke. Not so here: Beckinsale’s Michael Meyers-like omnipresence may be eyeroll-inducing, but it’s worth it to watch her put the smackdown on Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel.

Because THOSE two. I cannot EVEN with those two. Zero chemistry, bland, bland, bland. I’ll concede that this isn’t a deep character study, but Biel has ZERO personality, she’s just a walking trope.
Jessica Biel Colin Farrel Total Recall
Colin Farrell is really not in his element as the doe-eyed, “But I wanna be GOOD!” guy. And his awkward attempts to deliver the quasi-philosophical lines (“An illusion, no matter how convincing, is still objectively just.. an illusion.” very deep, Colin) are painful.
Bryan Cranston Total Recall
Bill Nighy earns his paycheck and carries Farrell through a scene, but sadly that’s all we ever see of him. In his place, we get a completely RIDICULOUS showdown between Farrell and Bryan effing Cranston. Now I love me some Cranston as much as the next guy, but how in the world do they expect me to believe that this aging politician can put up a more than decent fight against a man half his age? Who is supposedly THE GREATEST AGENT ALIVE?

That’s a symptom of a larger issue: the action, for all that it’s meant to be a huge draw, is a disappointment. No one is going to be at the edge of their seats while watching Jessica Biel pilot an arcade game-cum-flying car in front of a green screen, or jump from one flying cube to the next in the most random and physics-defying (this 100-square mile spinning elevator room is all… underground? inside that ONE skyscraper they went into? who knows) chase scene of.. this part of the movie.

But more importantly: director Len Wisemen simply has no understanding of what makes action work. As Film Crit Hulk points out in his excellent 3-part series, great action depends on a number of things including audience 1) ANTICIPATION 2) UNDERSTANDING 3) FEELING 4) REACTING.
Total Recall Colin Farrell
We don’t get any of that. Take for example the action scene in the trailer, where Farrell’s character takes down a room full of guards using instinct alone: it’s mindless action. Farrell easily takes them out, and there’s never a pause or a moment for the audience to fully understand the shocking implications of what he’s doing. We’ve seen that he’s a muscular guy (hello, obligatory shirtless scene); he then gets attacked, and beats some guys up. Who cares? We knew it was coming, we never had any doubt he could do it, and it doesn’t emotionally affect the audience in any way. We’re not impressed, relieved, anxious, or excited.

Fifth Element flying cars

And that audience apathy goes on for pretty much the entire film. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief at the complete absurdity of a high-speed train traveling through the center of the earth, but you have to give me some incentive to do so. The rest of the movie has to be good – or at least FUN – enough to distract me from the funny science. But the action scenes, romance, and plot (the president of the WORLD is leading this invasion? yeah that sounds realistic) are of no interest to me, so I’m forced to find other things to occupy my mind. Like so:

“Hmmm.. so, they pass through the earth’s core and the ship immediately begins decelerating… Then it takes about 3 minutes for them to get to the surface, and the earth is maybe 8000 miles in diameter… so 4000 miles in 3 minutes would be… like… (full disclosure: I used a calculator later >.<) 80,000 miles per hour. Yet somehow Jessica Biel is able to climb a ladder on the outside of the ship at this speed? OH COME ON.”

Ripley Aliens final scene ladder suction

I forgave Ripley’s unbelievable elbow-strength when she managed not to get sucked out into space, but Jessica Biel ain’t no Ellen Ripley. (sidenote: HOW IS THERE NO YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THIS SCENE?!)

Probably the most annoying part of this movie was how poorly they handled the “is this real or Rekall?” theme. I want to be unsure! I want to wonder! I want to DEBATE it!
I say again: Total Mess.

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16 Comments

  1. Kate Beckinsale is gorgeous indeed but almost too much so! I mean seriously, what kind of cop still looks good after running/jumping/climbing, what have you. I guess her husband wants her to look good from start to finish but it’s just ridiculous!

    1. Yeah they definitely weren’t going for realism there.. if they were, she would’ve broken an ankle after landing on a rooftop in those 4-inch heels! Yikes!

      1. Btw, I laughed at the part about Biel climbing outside of the ship/elevator thing-y traveling at 80,000 mph, WOW, she’d have been shredded to pieces!!! But that suspension of disbelief is a given in movies like these, and I don’t mind so long as it’s not boring!!

      2. haha.. like I said, I would’ve forgiven the physics if I hadn’t been so bored, but there was no tension at all and I didn’t care about the characters, so all that was left was nit-picking!

  2. The uncertainty part is what they screwed up most. There was no uncertainty. The original had mystery and suspense. Oh, and Jessica Biel was half-asleep throughout the movie.

    1. Having the friend repeat the stupid lie to out himself was SUCH a mistake. Plus, if they had ended the movie in that moment before he woke up in the ambulance (when he could hear the guy from Rekall) they could have left us guessing; was the Rekall voice a flashback/memory, is he about to wake up in the chair, and if so does that mean this was all a dream…?

      Poor Jessica Biel. I’m not her biggest fan but you really can’t blame her for being so completely uninteresting; they gave her NOTHING to do and there was no reason for Quaid to fall in love with her (again). The only lines she had were “We shouldn’t be here!” “We have to go!” “Get in!” etc.

  3. The film looks like total crap, I had no idea Wiseman directed it it makes more sense as he basically screws up every movie he makes. I agree Bie; has zero personality, I don’t know why she keeps getting parts in the movies.

    1. Yup… I gave him the benefit of the doubt because I love Underworld, but it’s becoming clearer that it was a fluke.

      And if Biel keeps playing characters that are all looks and zero personality (holy crap watching her in A-Team was PAINFUL), in a few years she’ll lose all her roles to the new Disney Channel crop.

  4. It’s not the most inventive remake out there, but it’s still a fun one that has you suspend your belief and turn off your brain for about 2 hours, and just enjoy what’s on display. Can’t see too much wrong with that, can you? Good review Tippi.

    1. Normally I’m much better at turning my brain off for movies like this, but I guess with such a high-concept theme (real vs recall) I wanted more substance. And the Minority Report-style CGI action wasn’t my cup of tea, but I understand that a lot of people thought that was the best part. That’s why they make cars in different colors 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Reviews of this film made me weary and thus I decided to stay away. Great review as you’ve helped cement my urge to see it in the theaters, just because I love the original so much. But apparently, with that love, going to see this remake would be an even worse idea.

    1. I was able to mentally separate this movie from the original fairly easily. Yes, it has the exact same plot (aside from the trip to Mars), but the tone and execution are completely different.

      Make no mistake: it’s bad. But if curiosity/boredom get the better of you, look at it as a standalone B-action movie and it might not taint your love for the original too badly 🙂

  6. I hated this movie. After just getting hooked on watching Cranston in Breaking Bad the last week or so, I hate this movie even more. If we were not reviewing the film for our blog I would have walked out of the theater.

    1. If you’re going to write about something, it’s more fun when you really hate it than if you think “meh. It was okay I guess.” The majority of my posts are about movies I hated.. I guess rage gets the creative juices flowing 😉

      Thanks for reading!

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