By Don Simpson | August 3, 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Kurt Wimmer (screenplay), Mark Bomback (screenplay), Ronald Shusett (screen story), Dan O’Bannon (screen story), Jon Povill (screen story), Philip K. Dick (short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho, Will Yun Lee, Milton Barnes, James McGowan, Natalie Lisinska, Michael Therriault, Stephen MacDonald
It has been a very long time since I have watched Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall primarily because I find any film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger to be overwhelmingly unwatchable. So, as a fan of Philip K. Dick’s source short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, I was actually kind of excited when I first heard that Len Wiseman was adapting the same Dick short story. Okay, “excited” might be too strong of a word — I hated Wiseman’s embarrassingly flawed Live Free or Die Hard and I am not a fan of his underwhelming Underworld franchise — but at least Schwarzenegger was not going to be in this adaptation. At least Colin Farrell seemed to be a somewhat legitimate choice for the leading role, so this adaptation had that going for it. Of course, by naming his new film Total Recall, Wiseman does risk the assumption that this is a remake. Like I said, it has been a long time since I have watched Verhoeven’s Total Recall, but if my memory serves me correctly, Wiseman’s interpretation is drastically different. Wiseman’s film is also drastically different from Dick’s short story. Unfortunately, it still does not come anywhere near the same intellectual levels of complexity as Dick’s short story.
Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) lives in a futuristic world in which the tyrannical ruling elite live on one side of the world and the working class lives on the other; the rest of the world is a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland. Every day, Douglas must travel via a tunnel through the center of the Earth to work on an assembly line in a factory in which a robot army is being constructed for the ruling elite. Douglas’ wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is a police officer. Together they are cogs in the tyrannical machine, helping the elite become richer while their own lives on the other side of the world are far from idyllic.
There is obviously no escape for Douglas. There is no room for upward mobility; he and Lori will never live on the other side of the world. Douglas needs something to free him from the monotony of his lackluster life so he turns to REKALL, a company that implants false memories into its clients allowing them to fantasize of a better life. Today we use cinema and television to escape reality, in the future we will use implanted memories. Sounds great, huh? Yeah, not so much.
Douglas’ visit to REKALL unleashes a whole mess of shit. From that moment onward, he finds himself tirelessly running and fighting for the remainder of the film. Wiseman kicks everything into overdrive, leaving the story’s inherent politics and philosophy in the dust. Suddenly, Total Recall turns into just another mindless action flick and once again Dick’s heady original content is tossed aside for good old fashioned escapist entertainment.