Total Recall (2012) Review **WITH SPOILERS**

WARNING: This post contains some key spoilers for the 2012 remake of Total Recall.

I never watched the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of this film (yes, shame on me, I know).  After having watched this version though, I am pretty curious and will be checking it out soon.  Somehow, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Schwarzenegger version was a lot better, even if I’m not a huge fan of him or any of the movies he’s made.  I don’t know if I could say this movie had a lot of plot holes so much as I felt like the movie just kind of fell short in a lot of areas.

I had three big problems with this movie.  The first is the concept of the Rekall center.  Sure the idea is cool, “incepting” memories that you wish you had.  Although, unlike Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), you’re aware that someone is about to plant ideas in your mind.  However, I think that Nolan’s movie did the better job in making you wonder if what you were watching was real or if it was all just a dream.  You could almost say that movie raised the bar in what I’ve come to expect from movies like this one, and this didn’t quite meet that expectation for me.  To sum it up quickly, since I never watched the original movie, I have to say that this movie seemed a lot like a mash-up of Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (2009-2010) TV series.

The trailer led me to believe that Colin Farrell’s character, Douglas Quaid, is living his day to day life until he tries out Rekall, and then all of a sudden after they inject him with whatever it is they inject people with to send them into la-la land, he “wakes up” to chaos, and we’re left wondering whether he’s currently still in the “Rekall” process or if what he is experiencing is happening for real.  However, it turns out that he’s already slightly aware of his past life and he just tries to piece it together the entire length of the movie, which is considerably less cool in my opinion.  I never thought for a second that he was “under the influence,” because they ripped out the liquid they were about to inject before it could even take.

There’s also a few plot holes that I found to be glaring.  For example, according to Kate Beckinsale’s character, Douglas has only just recently had his memory wiped out after he failed to escape some facility; she tells him at some point that she’s just an agent that has been playing his wife for about six weeks.  Before he was given his new identity as Douglas Quaid, he was Hauser, a double agent.  On the one hand, I get why they had to do this whole charade with him, since it seems pretty clear that his loyalty changed at some point and he became a fighter for the rebel side.  On the other hand though, I wonder if it was entirely necessary because even though all signs seem to point that Hauser turned pro-rebel, there’s one line said by Cohaagen that seems to completely contradict that, and that’s when he tells Melina (Jessica Biel’s character) that if they give Hauser all his “original” memories back, he will once again be completely loyal to the UFB.  If that statement were true, then they might as well have skipped the beginning half of the movie and just gone right down to business instead of wasting time.  Still though that may not have entirely made sense since I think Hauser’s feelings for Melina were real, so unless those feelings were planted in his memory and Melina was only pretending to love Hauser (though her “love” seemed pretty real to me), I don’t see why Douglas would return to the UFB side even with his memories as Hauser returned to him.  Of course, there’s also the possibility that they had Hauser’s memories from before his falling in love with Melina, which would probably make a little more sense, but in the end they never succeed in injecting him with the stuff anyway, so I guess those theories don’t really matter.

The second biggest problem I had with the movie was in a way how easy it was to defeat the UFB.  It made you wonder why the rebels didn’t just do it sooner, albeit a few sacrifices on their end.  Apparently all they really needed to do was to make sure the synthetic army, a good portion of UFB troops, and Cohaagen were on board The Fall, and then blow the whole thing up.  Maybe that’s such a black-and-white way of looking at it, but that’s how it felt like to me.

Other than that, I think the other main issue I had with this film was the fact that there was so much more of the world and the concept of “total recall” that could have been explored, since I mean, that is the title of this movie.  Instead, we’re given a film that feels like it’s about 90% chasing and running away, and then maybe 10% storyline that isn’t even completely fleshed out.  Visually, I found this movie to be very appealing, but I was definitely let down by all the potentially awesome places where they could have taken the plot that just never happened.  And as much as I love action scenes, I felt like there was actually so much of it that I found myself getting a little bored at times.  It made me realize that there is such a thing as having too much action.

As for the ending, it seemed kind of silly and unnecessary.  I don’t believe for a second that Beckinsale’s character held onto that piece of tech that Douglas/Hauser had used earlier in the movie, which supposedly can allow you to take on a different identity, only to use it on him later by pretending to be Melina.  The tech had malfunctioned when Douglas had tried to use it, and I don’t think there could have been time to get it fixed at any point during all of that chasing.  Also, it seemed like one of the limitations was the tech was pre-programmed with a certain set of faces and responses to questions, but perhaps I’m getting a little too nit-picky at this point.

Finally, just a random observation, but I will admit to being a little amused that they decided to make “Rekall” a Korean thing; they had the characters 리콜 show up under the “Rekall” sign towards the end.  At least they imply that we make cool stuff, I guess.

FINAL VERDICT: C+

Coming up next is my review for Ruby Sparks, so stay on the look out!  🙂

10 responses to “Total Recall (2012) Review **WITH SPOILERS**

  1. Without even seeing this version yet I can honestly say in my opinion the original is a million times better than this remake 🙂 (I will retract this statement and eat my words if I’m wrong!) Nice write up as always though!

  2. I haven’t seen either adaptation, but I do know in the original, a big part of the movie is Arnie never quite knowing if what he was experienced was real or part of his Rekall dream. I DO have the Arnie one lying around on VHS, so I should probably get around to seeing it this weekend….

  3. I’ve seen both versions. They are apples and oranges in regards to their approaches. The original is a campy action comedy, and the remake is a straightforward action film.

    As for your objections to this version, all but the “why didn’t they destroy the Fall” one will also be objections to the original. The Rekall process is merely a means to an end and that end is to get to the secret agent action story line. (There is no Fall in the original; instead there is a trip to a domed city on Mars.)

    • Sorry for the late reply! Thanks for the info. That makes me think that if they felt they could take out the whole trip to Mars and add in the Fall, why not just do a real remake instead of a half-hearted one and really make the story better?

  4. It wasn’t just Rekall. Near the beginning of the movie where she puts her hand on the police vehicle for the video call, it has 이십오 written on it. Obviously some Korean influence in the movie, perhaps some designers or animators or something.

  5. Having seem the original tocal; recall before seeing this one I can tell u the ambiguities were on purpose. u were to be convinced he was not under the influence and still at recall only until the very end. Remember the programmer at recall told him he could be a double agent if he wanted. the original movie has him describing his dream girl in detail to be programmed into the fantasy. thus he brings his dream girl to life at the recall facility; thus her appearance later does not prove her to be a ligit memory.
    the original also pointed out that it was hauser’s idea to trick his memory altered self n his boss was putting total faith in his plan. Also the easiness of the defeat n heroism is evidence the rekall is a satisfaction guaranteed service.LOL
    The reason they never jus originally give Quaid Hauser’s original memories n cut out all the run around is because a logical plot never really commences until Quaid is at rekall (I wonder y hmmmm…)
    watch the original Arnold’s last line shows that he is suddenly aware that all the things that have transpired fit what he has ordered at rekall “I jus had a terrible thought…”
    Any HOLES are left for the viewer to fill.
    one last thing you have not considered with both versions the dialog sets up that the entire plot of both versions are to be the ultimate fantasy/memory of the rekall customer (not to suit the taste of the movie goer LOL). Arnie/Farrell wet dream, it suceeded at that.
    the ripping out of the needle is just part of rekall’s memory plot line to make the experience that follows real to the customer…he got a shot before they put in the drip be fore the programmer announced he was a spy (the original shows this best, he was under the influence of at least 1 drug before anything “went wrong” by that i nean exactly as planned an paid for)

    the starting dia;og n seeming irrelevant details set up the viewer to ask the precise questions the movie makers intended: is rekall a safe service to undertake (labotomy)? Quaid is bored always watching news about terorist Hauser, want to learn to play the piano, want to be a spym wants to do something important that matters…did he get exactly what he ordered? Is he really stuck in rekall world or is he going to simply wake once his adventure is done (did he wake up as the movie ends)?

  6. watch cypher to see a protagonist diliberately wipe his own memory then trick himself. it will explain wat hauser’s plan was.

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