One gets the sense, watching 2012’s “Total Recall,” that Director Len Wiseman took pains to differentiate his film from the 1990 Schwarzenegger-starring original.
Considering the redundant, derivative dreck regularly churned out by Hollywood, such originality is a worthwhile pursuit. Wiseman, though, succeeds only at stripping his vision of Philip K. Dick’s 1966 novella “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” of an identity. Wiseman, in fact, merely throws his own layer of dreck onto Hollywood’s continually growing pile.
Anyone who’s seen the biggest, most popular sci-fi film’s of the last four decades will find something familiar in “Recall.” From “Alien” to “Logan’s Run” to “Blade Runner” to “E.T.” to “Star Wars” to Christopher Nolan, “Recall” recalls them all — and not in an original, reverential way, but in a blatant rip-off way.
This film becomes so entangled in rip offs, that it ultimately feels like a rip off of the 1990 original.
The story here is basically the same as in both the 1990 film and in Dick’s novella: In the late 21st century, an average, everyday working-class Joe named Carl Hauser (Colin Farrell) visits a business called Rekall.
Rekall specializes in transplanting false memories to poor, everyday citizens. Those false memories are intended to grant society’s underprivileged trips to exotic locales and grand adventures.
Hauser requests to be implanted with the memories of a super spy. The folks at Rekall discover, however, that he subconsciously carries real-world super-spy memories, which have been wiped away with a new identity. They can’t get him out of their office fast enough.
Before Rekall can rid itself of brainwashed spy, a swat team from the agency that erased Hauser’s identity — the same one he previously worked for and turned against — breaks in and kills everyone but Hauser.
Working completely from instinct, Hauser proceeds to kill the entire swat team, unaware before then he was capable of such carnage.
Hauser then comes to learn that his supposed wife of seven years, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), is actually an agent assigned to watch him and reinforce his fake identity.
Lori tries to kill Hauser, and he’s off and running with a woman named Melina (Jessica Biel), a member of the resistance movement he ditched his spy agency for. Further complicating matters: Melina was Hauser’s lover in his other life — in his true life as former-spy-turned-resistance-fighter, Douglas Quaid.
In addition to all the sci-fi rip-offs, Wiseman clutters his film with endless chases and gunfights. The film is so cluttered and busy, in fact, there’s no chance to connect with or care about these characters.
For some inexplicable reason, Wiseman also switches to an Earthbound setting, whereas the 1990 film and the source material were set largely on Mars, where Quaid did his actual spy work.
This interpretation is set entirely on Earth, in a world that’s been whittled down to two livable continents by global warfare. It’s a change that reeks of yet another random attempt at differentiation.
“Total Recall” is certainly a visual masterpiece, and I found myself wishing the storytelling efficiency of the original film could be merged with these special effects. Colin Farrell makes for a likable enough everyman, too, and could easily have played the same role in the original film.
Those are about the only things to recommend “Total Recall,” though, and they’re not near enough. This film deserves to be skipped and forgotten.
Runtime: 118 minutes
Rated PG-13 for violence, nudity and language.
Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.