Though by no means is it a good movie, Total Recall, the 2012 remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Paul Verhoven action classic, is also not the disaster that some might have expected or hoped for. For the most part it’s a slightly stupid action movie with a number of big set pieces, but nothing all that memorable about it. Colin Farrell stars alongside Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale in Len Wiseman’s update, and our review of the film on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Douglas Quaid (Farrell) has been having dreams lately about a big fight and a woman (Biel) he’s in love with. But when he wakes up he’s with his wife (Beckinsale) and has a boring factory job making robots. But his mind is preoccupied with these dreams, and so he goes to Rekall where they give you memories of things that didn’t happen. Where this set-up works fairly elegantly in the original because of Quaid’s desire to go to Mars, here it’s more the thing that has to happen to start the movie. And here there is no Mars, the set up is that the poor half of the world lives in Shanghai, while rich people live in London. There’s a tunnel through the center of the earth that brings the workers into London, but the politics are never more than rich people = mostly bad. But when Quaid goes to Rekall, before he gets any of the treatment, it’s revealed that he’s a government agent and the building is stormed. Before he knows it, Quaid is acting like Jason Bourne. And Bourne seems to be part of the template here.
Still confused, he goes home to his wife, who tries to kill him once he tells her about Rekall, which sends him on the run. Eventually he finds his dream girl, who is the daughter of the leader of the resistance, Matthais (Bill Nighy). But they’re all being pursued by the ruler of earth, Cohagen (Bryan Cranston), and by his fake wife, but it’s revealed that his former life as a spy might not be what he thinks it is.
If you’ve seen the original film, there’s no real reason to see this. And though Len Wiseman is not a bad director of action, he doesn’t seem to understand gravity. People fall and bang themselves up in ways that would kill a normal person, and though much of what he shoots has a fluid feel and a drive, it lacks the humanity necessary for it to really work. There’s just too much whooshing around and precipitous falls. It’s impressive in a video game sort of way. He also doesn’t know how to stretch things out to create tension. Late in the film the main characters have to crawl over sleeping robot soldiers. That’s a great set up for an action sequence, or a prolonged sequence of tension as they try to make their way across, but instead this idea is introduced, but then Farrell says “oh they won’t wake up” and they don’t.
Farrell is a good substitute for Schwarzenegger, but Arnold has never been very believable as a normal guy. So when Farrell spins into action it does have a bit more pop, but again, the model is Bourne, so it’s not that surprising (also, it’s an action movie). The acting is fine, though at this point I don’t think we can ever expect much of Jessica Biel even if she is exceptionally easy on the eyes. It is sad to think that at one point Beckinsale could have been one of our great actresses, and has settled into doing crap action films. Then again, maybe she seemed great because she has a British accent. Hard to say. She’s working.
Sony’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The presentation is perfect for this sort of film. Disc one offers the film in a theatrical cut (118 min.) and the extended cut (130 min.) the longer version plays up more of the “is this all a dream” stuff, which doesn’t work, but does offer Ethan Hawke in a cameo. The extended cut comes with a commentary by Wiseman, while the theatrical cut comes with “Insight Mode” which offers PIP videos of the making of the film.
Disc two kicks off with a gag reel (8 min.), which is followed by the featurette “Science Fiction Vs. Science Fact” (10 min.) which focuses on the sci-fi elements of the film, like the use of robots. “Designing the Fall” (3 min.) gets into the film’s big tunnel through the Earth, while “Total Action” (20 min.) is a seven part piece that offers a look at the three leads, and four of the film’s set pieces. The disc closes out with five pre-viz sequences (26 min.). An Ultraviolet version is also included.