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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
19 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"What is reality and what constitutes the authentic human being? I consider these important topics." - Philip K. Dick

Len Wiseman is a hack. Hacks direct bad films."Total Recall" is directed by Len Wiseman. "Total Recall" is a bad film.

Philp K. Dick wrote "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" in 1966. The short story served as the basis for both Wiseman's 2012 film and Paul Verhoeven's 1990 adaptation, also called "Total Recall". Dick's tale had an interesting structure. It told the tale of Douglas Quail ("Quail" means "to cower in fear" or "chicken-like bird"), a cowardly guy grappling with various existential foibles; he wants to "be someone", to "achieve something", but is much too meek to leave his tiny, white collar cocoon. In this regard Dick has Quail hook up with a company called Rekal. Rekal is in the business of implanting "designer memories" such that the recipient of these implants "really believes" that they've had experiences corresponding to these memories. Naturally Quail decides to be implanted with a "memory package" in which he's a suave and daring secret agent who has had various adventures on the planet Mars.

This is where things get interesting. When Quail is about to have his "designer memories" implanted, Rekal abruptly ceases the procedure. They've discovered that – surprise surprise – Quail REALLY is a secret agent who has REALLY been to Mars. At this point, Dick's tale, Verhoeven's and Wiseman's are all more or less the same. We're asked to choose between one of two things: either Quail really is a secret agent or Quail is merely experiencing the roller coaster highs of his newly implanted memories. Both films then have fun playing with various questions of phenomenology and ontology, watching as ground zero reality and augmented virtual realities bleed back and forth into and out of one another.

In Dick's story, though, things get increasingly more complex. For Quail to accept his secret agent fantasy, this fantasy must first be disavowed by Rekal. Hence Rekal's self-reflexive layer, in which its designer memories include a constituent in which the memory itself is shown to have never been administered. What Dick's story then does is keep adding incredulous layers of fantasy, followed by incredulous layers of disavowal. So you have Quail "beliving he's a secret agent", but only because "Rekal believes it first". As the story progresses, more and more egotistical fantasies are piled upon poor Quail, each followed by equally fantastical supportive rationalisations. Eventually things get so ridiculous that Quail discovers that the reason police officers don't attack him – even though he is an illegally active secret agent – is because he is protected by aliens. Quail then learns that an alien species essentially thinks he is the most AWESOME, most AMAZING person in the universe, and are holding off destroying Earth precisely because Quail lives there. This big fantasy within a fantasy within a fantasy thus serves to bolster poor Quail's fragile ego (he's literally the MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD!), whilst also setting up a series of rationalisations for why Quail "appears to be just an ordinary bum" whom "nobody suspects is a secret agent". Quail thus not only gets to be the GREATEST, but a rationalisation for why he doesn't appear to be so. It's never enough for Quail to actively ignore the actual state of things for his fantasy to work, rather, there always must be present an external Master believing for him; he defers to "it" for belief. This highlights an important difference between knowledge and (the reflectivity of) belief; we can believe through the Other, but cannot know through the Other.

Dick's novels have always ignored hard science predictions in favour of metaphysical speculation. His anticipations of techno capitalism's affects and effects have also made him particularly popular with postmodern theorists. Jean Baudrillard, for example, writes that Dick "immerses the reader directly in a hyper-real environment that is without origin, past, or future". To guys like Fredric Jameson, Dick's texts "reflect a blockage of historical time", a perpetual now that exists as a kind of "flux of all coordinates, be they mental, spatio-temporal or semiotic", which of course results in various psychological upheavals. In the case of "Wholesale", Quail's literal, technocratic world does not permit him to access his unconscious. Rekal thus functions as a kind of desire surrogate. But the closer Quail gets to desire, the quicker he is forced toward schizophrenia, paranoia and annihilation. This is Lacan 101; wish fulfilment is not so simple, and psychotic breakdowns oft result from directly realising the traumatic real of desire. What the existence of Rekal suggests is that we need the excuse of fiction to "comfortably" stage what we "really are", virtual technologies permitting the individual to enact an identity which is free from social constraints. In this regard, Quail's not "really" meek, but rather masquerades as a chicken due to socio-symbolic restraints. The problem is, Rekal isn't your typical medium. It's not like a simple cinema screen or DVD player. It's an Id machine, it trades in FACT not fantasy, and exists to directly collapse the boundaries between fiction and reality, and to realise for its subjects their desires. Poor Quail cannot cope with such a direct confrontation.

Regardless, Wiseman's "Total Recall" is total crap, aside from a cool "hover car" chase. The rest of the film features dull, generic action and expensive-but-derivative landscapes ("Star Wars", "Blade Runner", "Fifth Element" etc). Verhoeven's film, in contrast, had a certain charm. There the mere presence of Austrian Ubermensch Arnold Schwarzenegger, who looks like a ridiculous male fantasy object, rendered the whole film brilliantly dreamlike. Mix in a little of of Verhoeven's trademark camp, satire and nuttiness, and you had a weird drug-rush of a movie. Wiseman's film, in contrast, is almost pornographic in its obsession with "realism", detail, literalism and materiality over metaphysics. The film is totally scared of Dick.

2/10 - Worth one viewing.

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13 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Total- Dirt!!

Author: olliedeane2005 from Ireland
25 August 2012

No original thinking what so ever from Len Wiseman, he was a dog to the studio bosses an done what he was told.

He completely ripped off Minority Report, Blade Runner and Inception any decent film fan will notice this. Jessica Biel didn't even need to be in this film she has a handful of lines an the acting was just awful.

Was very let down to say the least. Keep your money an just buy the original.

The old saying hold through on this one " If it ain't broke don't fix it " There was no need to reboot this at all, but if it makes Hollywood money the reboots are just gonna keep on coming.

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14 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

I liked it. Not like the original, but that's why I liked it.

Author: changx02 from Los Angeles
31 October 2012

Too many reviews comparing it to the 1990 film with Arnie. If the Arnie version was never put out, then everyone would be saying how great this adaptation really is in it's own merit. (And seriously can you really say that you would have given the Arnie version a 10 if you saw it today, come on now).

The action sequences were great. The fighting choreography was good. In all honesty I think Kate Beckinsale is one of the better female action stars out there, I mean she can really kick ass. Well the CG was awesome. The interpretation of the future was well though out. I especially liked that there were cars hovering and not "flying" using a magnetic levitation system (very realistic look into the future of transportation).

The plot was decent, and this is where it loses 1 star. I thought it did a great job adapting Philip K. Dick's science fiction story into it's own. However, I thought that it followed too similar in plot sequence of the 1990 film. It would have been a 10 for me otherwise.

I wished that they could have really gone another way making it a complete mind f*** that would just blow our minds away. They could really had more fun with the memory thing.

Overall, great action film and worth seeing. Just don't compare it to the 1990 film.

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15 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Total Gloss

Author: Mek Torres from Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines
24 August 2012

The 1990's version of Total Recall was a solid sci-fi adventure despite of its silly moments, especially the remarkable scene when Arnold Schwarzenegger's eyeballs are popping out. But those unhinged moments are the reason why the first film is so charming. This remake tries to be more serious and wants to take away the silliness from the first film. The result is it looks cool. It looks so cool, it looks like that is the only ambition of the movie. Anything else is just bland characters and a series of chases, and action. When it becomes suspenseful, it fails to deliver the tension. Total Recall seemingly doesn't care about anything else but to play around the futuristic world that is set in.

It's a total gloss. The film is nothing but a series of action set pieces and cool looking visuals. The world of the film looks intriguing but we don't get to know much of it. We know its origins and nothing else. Aside of its Blade-Runner-esque world, the story is still there, but it loses focus by the overlong sequences of action. There's nothing wrong with too many action, except if you don't care about the characters, you wouldn't feel the thrill and just watch these soulless beings run.

The characters are incredibly bland. Colin Farrell ends up being a boring generic hero. Kate Beckinsale is just doing her action swagger. Bryan Cranston is the only one who is fun to watch among the cast. The rest, Bokeem Woodbine and John Cho are both pretty awkward with their short roles. The worst is Jessica Biel who basically embraces the blandness of the script. She may not be the right one for this role but she could've at least gave some personality to the character.

For its fan service, the film recaptures some scenes from the original, but they're just there. It doesn't make any difference. There are scenes that tries to be suspenseful, but they somehow fail to work because, once again, the looks has more attention. Its fortitude is replaced by the excessive amount of shoddy lens flares. The only merit here now is the visuals. They sure look good even though we've seen most of them before. It's still pretty eye candy.

To be honest, I'm actually optimistic about this remake, but unfortunately, it is really disappointing. It does succeed to be less sillier than the original but it is also less interesting. Too much action and explosions may sound fun, but most of it is just stale and empty. Years from now, if someone mentions this title, people will still recall Schwarzenegger's unhinged performance and the fun from the original. Total Recall could have been a good remake if it cares more to the story's idea than throwing away all the CGI effects on screen.

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23 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

buy the original twice over before ruining your week and watching this major dud of a remake

Author: tbmforclasstsar from United States
5 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 2012 Total Recall remake is a complete mess. Usually when writing reviews, the critic is a little softer with his thesis, probably opting for a clever pun right off the bat instead, but I took this one somewhat personally. The original film was incredible – a staple of my VHS days alongside T2, Star Wars, Die Hard, Rocky IV, and all of those other gems that could teach a boy how to be a man when played on a loop in the living room. Steroid-pumped action aside, the original was a dream. A colorful, visually-charged adventure from beginning to end, that first Total Recalllet my imagination run wild. As one good friend put it, "Total Recall is the ultimate movie." He's right. There's a girl with three boobs, a tumor baby that's actually really smart when you give him a chance to talk, and half the movie takes place on a colonized Mars. This new effort mines one of those three to poor effect, but unlike other remakes, you kind of wish the new Total Recall did less to differentiate itself and merely copied as much of its superb brother as possible. Seriously, Total Recall is total garbage, a total waste of time, and totally uninspired (though I'd imagine some 90% of reviews will contain "total" puns, I can't help myself). If you'd like, feel free to stop reading now and live on with the solace of knowing that you've responsibly saved ten-plus-dollars.

I was really, really excited for this remake. Len Wiseman was helming, and his directing of the last Die Hard movie was more than competent. Even though the Underworld movies – more of a way into the director's chair for Wiseman (or so I thought) – were not my cup of tea, Live Free or Die Hard was action-packed and introduced me to a director who knew how to shoot killer gunfights and chases. Another ray of hope was the look and marketing of the movie in general. This was a much different take on the story, one which primarily didn't included Mars (neither did Philip K. Dick's source material I'm told). I love when remakes have the moxie to try something fresh. But man did we receive something stale here.

First and foremost, I haven't seen an uglier movie in a while. Vivid reds and a believable future were traded in for the dullest grays and a sci-fi world that sloppily crams so much indistinguishable crap on screen that we're left with a muddy, murky soup that fails to inspire awe on any level (and isn't that one of the best part of watching science fiction?). Aside from some fancy camera-work and creative shot choices, Total Recall looks just as bad and sewer-like as the Underworld trilogy, but with egregious lens flare dropped on top to remind us that we're in the future. Oh man, the lens flare. You thought Star Trek overused the technique (I actually liked it and found it appropriate there)? Well prepare to have some flashlights in your face. You thought scenes in the Star Wars prequels felt so remote and computer-generated as to remove you from the world (that I do agree with)? Get ready for a whole lot more of that with apparently much less of a budget. There's a climax explosion that looks particularly cornball. And what's with technology in the future looking so unusable? At least in Minority Report and Avatar, the touch displays had somewhat of a user-friendly simplicity to them. Here everything looks so complicated and nonsensical. I guess convoluted is supposed to translate to cool? It only gave me a headache. Probably the worst offense is the overall depiction of the slum- ridden city, the alleys and street corners of which look like hand-me-down Blade Runnerknockoffs complete with Oriental theme.

To read the rest of the review (IMDb form too short) visit: recall/

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Worst film I've seen in a long time

Author: Emma from UK
26 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Warning - may contain spoilers (or not as the film is pretty predictable)

Now I always knew when watching a remake of such an awesome film there was the danger I would be underwhelmed, but I never thought I would be bored or frustrated!

For those of you, like me, who are pure generation X and were expecting an up to date homage of Arnie's masterpiece, you will be gravely disappointed. Not only does this film fail to follow what was a genius storyline, but it changes too much of what was good.

Remember the classic 'airport' scene....'two weeks'....well the woman's head is just a head, and Quaid is the guy behind her. I get you may be trying to surprise, but you've taken out the most iconic scene.

And why combine Ironside's character with Quaid's wife to create a woman not in the least intimidating or scary but just plain annoying??

And where are the martians? Kuato? The fight to provide an atmosphere for Mars? Instead it's about saving 'The Colony' from being invaded, which let's face it - it's pretty crap there anyway so maybe invasion would be better?

At least you kept the woman with three breasts - but why??? you're not on Mars!! There are no mutants?? So what's the point?

And what about the taxi driver with ever changing number of children, the Johnny Cab, the nasal extraction of the homing device and wet tea towel over the head?

What went wrong here? You had some hot chicks, some famous actors and modern technology, you should at least have been able to come up with something watchable!! I guess the only consolation is that I know there won't be a sequel (please no).

And one final thought - hover cars....leave it to BTTF2....

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A major disappointment

Author: canadian58 from United States
28 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As its own movie, it's average at best. As Total Recall, it's terrible. What a clusterf**k to say the least.

As its 1990 predecessor is one of my favorite movies of all time, I had little hope that I would be overly impressed by the remake a mere 22 years later. First of all, Total Recall did not need a remake. The original itself is not that old. It's not like it was made back in the 70's. And the worst part? It shows almost no resemblance to the original other than a few familiar names and minor (and I mean very minor) references to the Arnold version.

The storyline makes a far-fetched pathetic attempt to follow the original. Hmm, let's see. Take Mars, Kuato, the Martians, Benny the taxi driver, and anything of any importance to the plot, write them out of the script completely, oh, and drop in the three-breasted chick out of nowhere just to please the fans. If anything, that tells me that the writers knew this new script was bad, so they try desperately to add a few entertaining elements from the first film to squeeze another IMDb star out of the viewers.

That's right. Mars is completely out of the picture, and in comes the story of chemical warfare on Earth, making 90% of the planet uninhabitable. Add Cohaagen, Lori, and their army of robots (stupid) to chase after Doug Quaid through this post-apocalyptic world for reasons we (the audience) don't even care about anymore.

All that being said, had the new Total Recall not had a predecessor that set the bar so high (almost unreachable), it would be a decent movie on its own. Not by any means terrific, but a 6/10 on the IMDb scale. Plenty of action to stay entertaining, and the acting is not bad. I will also compliment the visual effects as being outstanding throughout the entire movie, of course, only what is to be expected of a $120 million budget. Unfortunately, the original holds its head high and crushes the high-dollar remake, proving that no matter how much money you spend, it does not necessarily make a movie good. To the makers of this movie, next time you want to do a remake, pick a movie that was just "average" to begin with and make it better. You can't make something better that is already perfect to begin with. Go team Arnold!

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Where were all the Australians?

Author: c-kelsall from United Kingdom
15 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So, a remake of Total Recall....I mean, why bother? The original wasn't perfect, but it was grand and slightly ridiculous, and of its time. Surely the only advantage of a remake could be better special effects? Well, I'm happy to report that, on the whole, the special effects were pretty good. And it wasn't a terrible film; I enjoyed it for what it was, slightly interesting sci-fi action. But a fulfilling remake it most certainly wasn't. Let's take a moment or two to address the shortcomings: 1) Where were all the Australians? Seriously! Just to put you in the picture, this is a dystopian future in which the Earth has been ravaged by global chemical warfare, to the extent that the only habitable territories are most of Britain, and Australia. Somehow, though, the majority of the people seem to have American accents whether they live in the 'Federal Territories of Britain' (sic) or The Colony (aka Australia). I didn't detect a single Australian accent, though many of the Colonists did seem to be south-east Asian, and to have been transplanted with their buildings from the set of Blade Runner! So either the Americans were the aggressors and basically stole all the habitable land, or the film-makers didn't really give a ****. I'll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide which it was. 2) The Fall? Seriously? What utter nonsense. The only means of transport between Britain and Australia was a giant underground train that skirted the Earth's core. This isn't science fiction, it's pure fantasy. Similar ideas were pedalled in The Core (don't get me started on that one), and they were just as scientifically misguided then. I'd have had a lot less trouble believing in a colony on Mars to be reached by spaceship. Which, by the way, was a fundamental plot element of Philip K Dick's original short story upon which the first Total Recall film was based. At least Arnie's version had the spectacle to leave the viewer uncertain as to whether the whole thing might not be a delusion after all. Daft as the remake is, it never conveys that feeling; just the idea that it's all a load of badly-conceived hogwash. 3) The pointless nods to the original film - why bother? It might as well have had a different title, so little did it resemble the plot of the original in any meaningful way except the identity crisis of the hero. 4) The acting. Okay, it wasn't terrible, but to a man/woman the cast had nothing to get their teeth into with the dialogue. The blame clearly lies with the screenwriter and the director, because the leads (including cameos) have all been much better in other roles. So, not phoning in their performances from Mars so much as...well, Australia maybe. So what has this film got going for it? The aforementioned special effects are perfectly respectable, some of the fight scenes are well- choreographed, and the pacing isn't bad. And maybe that's all it really needs if you're happy to switch off your brain and reach for the popcorn.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A Len Wiseman Special

Author: speeddefreeze from Netherlands
28 February 2013

I wasn't expecting much from this movie at the start. I had not watched the original movie (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) so I didn't really know what the story was. I was expecting an overdose of action and a confusing plot.

I was pleasantly surprised by Colin Farrel's acting. I feel he has really improved as an actor and I thought the chemistry between him and co-stars Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel was great. The action sequences were fun to watch and exciting. Fast paced action sequences kept me refreshed and the stunning Kate Beckinsale, who you may know from 'Underworld' and 'Van Helsing', nailed the antagonist role.

The director, Len Wiseman, who previously surprised by making 'Live Free or Die Hard' a fantastic action film, has once again done his job well. The storyline was clear and made sense, which was more than what I had expected. I admit that it could have been better, because the climax was kind of dull compared to the rest of the movie, but definitely worth the watch.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Remake shows all the pros and cons of modern film making trends

Author: xamtaro from
8 August 2012

What makes up who we are? Are we the result of our past experiences and memories or does our identity stem from something much deeper? These are questions that the 2012 remake of the classic action film "Total Recall" could have delved into. What we have instead is a showcase of the best and worst of modern science fiction film making. It is Definitely a product of 2012 as much as the original was a product of the early 90s.

The aforementioned themes are only teased but never developed in this intense tale of on man's quest to uncover the truth of his identity and past. In a vastly overcrowded, class segregated future, everyman Douglas Quaid is haunted by dreams of being a secret agent on the run. Convinced that these are repressed fantasies brought on by his monotonous life assembling security automatons (which are like Cyber Stormtroopers) Quaid visits this place called "Rekall"; Rekall claims to implant fake but realistic fantasies into one's mind. So he gets a fantasy of being a double agent implanted. Suddenly, its discovered that he already has memories of being an agent: meaning he actually is an agent with his memory erased. A swat team busts in for some reason and he dispatches them to some beautiful camera camera pans. What follows is "Kurt Wimmer's 'Salt: dystopian future edition - minus Angelina Jolie" (surprise surprise, this movie is also written by Wimmer) with Quaid's wife turning out to be a psychopathic killer, his past a complete sham and his grip on that fine line between reality and fantasy slowly slipping. In the background lies a dastardly plot by a rich chancellor involving the poor dissidents of the overcrowded Colony and the leader of an underground resistance.

The most striking feature of Total Recall would be the stunning vision of this overcrowded future. Floating buildings to make up for scarce land, a country confused by its melting pot of cultures, cyborg police, hover cars, it is amazing. This is a future that seems very real judging from our current world: Strict class segregation taken to the extreme. The dichotomy in the design between the rich and elite United Federation of Britain and The ramshackle Colony is beautifully rendered thanks to the amazing production design headed by Patrick Tatopoulos (the guy who worked on Independence Day, Starship Troopers and Dark city).

A pity that the rest of the movie is fairly typical of modern day chase thrillers. Compared to the original Total Recall film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, this remake has Less twists, a less ambiguous ending and lacks the cynical dark humor that made the original so memorable. Instead of keeping it ambiguous as to whether the events unfolding are real or part of Quaid's implanted fantasy, this remake spoils its own mystery for the audience.

Director Len Wiseman brings in all that is good and bad in modern day film making into this movie. He shoots Total Recall with an over reliance on shaky cam and lens flare, almost like a "Paul Greengrass meets J.J Abrams". Think Bourne Supremacy with the visual style of the 2009 Star Trek film. The future is epilepsy inducing, we get it; and sometimes this really distracts from the tip top designs.

The cast is basically a reunion of mist actors that were in Len Wiseman's Underworld franchise. They do an excellent job with the acting and chemistry but the good actors like Bill Nighly felt under utilised. Only Kate Beckinsale was able to truly shine playing Quaid's wife-turned-assassin. Quaid himself is played by Colin Ferrel and is perhaps the only improvement this remake boasts over the original. Schwarzenegger's Quaid was the quintessential action hero but Ferrel's portrayal of the character had a greater sense of peril: he looks nothing like an action hero and this makes his transformation from everyman to savior of the downtrodden all the more powerful.

Whether one finds this a good movie or not depends on whether one can accept the modern trends of science fiction film making. It is the same plot as the original with all the "1990s" elements taken out and replaced with "2012" elements. Art Aficionados will be impressed by the overall look, style and camera-work showcased here. Those looking for a deep meaningful dive into the nature of human identity or even those looking for clever twists or smart dialogue will be let down. Take away the visuals and it's a rather generic, straight forward modern chase thriller.

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