It's near the end of the 21st Century, and following a global war, little exists of the world we know now. The only habitable regions are the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony (Australia). Problems have arisen in this new society as a possible invasion looms, the UFB and its governor (Bryan Cranston) threatening to attack the resistance. Among the citizens is Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker who lives with his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), but he's frustrated with his life and starting to question certain things. He wakes up at night with memories of vivid dreams so he investigates, going to Rekall, an experience via software that allows you to "obtain" memories. What awaits Doug is a complete surprise. He has a hidden past that even he is unaware of, and it's a past that involves the government, the governor and many more secrets.
So if you're not aware, this basic story was first used in a film in 1990's Total Recall starring the Govern-ator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's an above average sci-fi epic that overcomes some general cheesiness to be a pretty good movie despite some special effects limits. It's also not completely fair to say this is a remake because it is based off a short story by author Philip K. Dick, but for all intensive purposes....that's just what it is. So yes, this 2012 version is its own movie. It tweaks certain things to make it "Its own movie," but does it really matter? Sorry to go all Old Curmudgeon on you loyal viewers, but I can't help. Some 22 years have passed. Did we really need a remake of a movie that yes, is pretty good, but is it anything more? Nope, and that's what I find frustrating.
Well, the movie was remade so no point crying over spilled milk. The biggest improvement are the incredible advances made over the last 20-plus years in CGI and basically anything associated with computer visuals. The 1990 Recall has a somewhat cheap look, but that's not the case in director Len Wiseman's film. A look at a futuristic dystopian society in the right hands is a fast ball down the middle. The UFB and the Colony are ultra-cluttered, buildings seemingly piled on top of each other as they tower up to the sky. The CGI is incredible, and the story itself presents some very interesting premises. The concept of Rekall itself is pretty cool, implanting memories that seem real. Means of transportation especially stand out, including an expressway of sorts with hover cars floating and moving far above the city. The biggest standout though is the Fall, a way of getting from Britain to Australia in just 17 minutes, a free-falling train that literally falls through the Earth via gravity, reversing its gravitational pull near the core. Scientifically implausible? I'd assume, but it's pretty cool.
If you seek this movie out, I'll recommend it for one main reason; the action. Done on an impressive scale and handled about as ideally as possible, I came away very impressed with the action. Always a bonus, the action varies in type, not limiting itself to one chase scene after another. The highlight has Farrell's Doug running from government forces with Melina (Jessica Biel) and eventually ending up trying to escape courtesy of the hover car expressway. Police and government forces are in high pursuit in action scene that will hopefully get the adrenaline pumping. So without expressing and explaining every little thing about the action, just know that's it the best thing going here and a real highlight.
What isn't as impressive is the acting/characters. Farrell is one of my favorites regardless of the movie, but this isn't his best work. Chalk up part of that to the script which doesn't do him much in the way of favors. His Doug Quaid is full of mystery and confusion -- what and/or who exactly was he previously? -- but it's never a truly well-written character. The more interesting parts of Quaid are the things we eventually find out about him. Biel is necessary but pointless eye candy, around because a movie of Farrell running around would be dull. Beckinsale is a movie stealer as Lori, seemingly the perfect wife but she's got secrets of her own. She ends up being a villain that is surprisingly effective in its ability to keep us guessing. Cranston is Cranston, imposing and intimidating with a touch of slime and greed. Also look for Bokeem Woodbine as Quaid's work friend, Bill Nighy as a resistance leader and John Cho in one scene as a Rekall specialist.
My biggest takeaway from this 2012 remake was pretty blase, even a little mediocre. It's far from good but never really amounts to anything good, above average or memorable. Like so many remakes, it just isn't necessary. It tries to do enough to distinguish itself from its predecessor, but for anyone with even a few working brain cells and/or ability to remember anything, this movie will come across as nothing more than an average, enjoyable time-waster.
Total Recall (2012): ** 1/2 /****