A quick, math problem: It takes 17 minutes for a transporter to go from London to Sydney through the Earth’s core. If the diameter of the Earth is 7,926.41 miles, how the hell can Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel’s characters climb and fight on the outside of the transporter—with just their hair blowing—and not be pinned to the floor screaming for their lives?
The original Total Recall, by no means a bastion of fine filmmaking, was filled with cheap-looking sets, hokey dialogue, an absurd plot, and tri-boobed women. Together, the improbable and the cheese simply made it more enjoyable: Each frame felt like a wink, as if the moviemakers were in on the joke. (Much like director Paul Verhoeven’s other films RoboCop and Starship Troopers). And though the new Total Recall—more reimagining than remake—makes homage to the first (fake-looking sets, a tri-boobed woman), the overall tone is more serious, less satirical. And, therefore, it is all the more ridiculous.
As in the original, Recall 2.0 is set in the near future and centers on Doug Quaid (Farrell). Quaid, after nights of horrible dreams, visits Rekall—a company that implants artificial memories into customers—and discovers that his life (including his wife, played by Kate Beckinsale) is a lie. Unlike the original, Recall 2.0 does not feature Mars. Rather it features a chemical-warfare scorched Earth and its two remaining civilizations: Europe (now the United Federation of Britain) and Australia (the Colony), which battle for dominance. With the help of Melina (Biel), Quaid must stop the Federation and its leader (Bryan Cranston) before they invade the Colony.
Farrell does his best, but he cannot overcome a script that includes the lines: “The past is a construct of the mind” and “The heart wants to live in the present.” Farrell is a talented actor (In Bruges) and has the right look, but he has yet to prove himself as a compelling action star. Kate Beckinsale plays her usual smoldering killer—not surprising, as Recall 2.0 is helmed by her Underworld director Len Wiseman.
The rapid chase sequences have dazzling special effects. But they become so numerous, so monotonous, it’s easy to tune out and obsess over other details. Like, if a futuristic society has developed flying cars, why would they still have modern-day horns and be able to crash into each other? Or, if technology has advanced to the point of creating robot soldiers (part Clone Trooper, part Cylon), why are gauze and bandages still used on wounds? And, why is Bryan Cranston’s wig so bad?
If the filmmakers had simply updated the original—adding better special effects, a tighter plot—the remake could have been just as fun. But Recall 2.0 improves upon nothing. Simply adding an overly complicated intergovernmental relationship (thereby removing all subplots involving Mars which is in both the original and Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” that inspired these films), the look of Blade Runner and Minority Report, and an even weaker script, it is a middling disappointment. Tri-boobed woman or not.
My Grade: D+