Of all the movies to remake, cult films seem a particularly bad prospect. Fans don’t necessarily love the characters or stories independently of the film, they’re fans of the film itself. Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is beloved for its funny dialogue, weird effects and Arnold Schwarzenegger, none of which are present in this 2012 remake.
Abandoning the Mars setting along with all sense of fun, the movie is set entirely on an Earth that’s been separated into the United Federation of Britain on one side and the Colony on the other (bit racist but go with it). These territories are joined by a gravity lift that goes through the centre of the Earth, thereby building an enormous shaft of stupidity through the core of the film.
This sets the stage for a bland action movie about a man named Quaid (Colin Farrell) working in a robot factory (which would be ironic if it wasn’t so earnest) who gets to live out his latent fantasy of fighting his wife (Kate Beckinsale) to the death. She’s pretty much the main villain in this version, pursuing Quaid for the entirety of the film without so much as a “consider that a divorce” or a consideration of anything for that matter.
Every scene is undermined by some glaring idiocy or other, which is a problem in such a serious movie. It thinks it’s Blade Runner but it’s closer to Blade: Trinity, its plot as garbled as an Arnie quip. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld) keeps a high rate and standard of action against a well-realised if uninspired Ready Player One–meets-Origin Wars backdrop, but you won’t remember it, wholesale or otherwise.
Farrell does what he can with nothing to work with but the real Quaid he’s not, just doing what other characters tell him to for 2 hours. There are equally thankless roles for Beckinsale, Jessica Biel (who look so similar you genuinely can’t tell them apart) and Bryan “oh, I liked him” Cranston, while Bill Nighy is lumbered with lines like: “It is each man’s quest to find out who he truly is, but the answer to that lies in the present, not in the past. As it is for all of us.” We can probably all agree that it’s not as good as “Get your ass to Mars.”
With neither the eccentricity of Verhoeven nor the intelligence of Philip K. Dick, this is such a lazy version of the story and vision of the future that Verhoeven should probably sue them, dickhead. The triple-breasted woman appears so briefly that if you blink you’ll miss it, and the rest of her scene only shows her from the neck up. As with the movie in general, you wonder why they bothered.