Click here for the first half of Original Vs. Remake: Total Recall (1990)!
I honestly try to keep an open mind when I watch a movie, no matter how much bad I might have heard about it or what my preconceived notions of the people making it are, because time after time I get proved violently wrong.
“The crappy actor from that stupid Knight's Tale movie is going to play the JOKER?!? FRANCHISE. RUINED.”
That being said, Total Recall (2012) sure did start off in the proverbial hole with me. Not only is it a completely pointless remake (which I suppose adding the phrase “completely pointless” is redundant when talking about remakes), but it was brought to us by the brain children behind the abominable Underworld series AND Live Free Or Die Hard. But I'm sure they at least got some good actors to star in- oh Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale, eh? Yikes.
If you don't know, Kate's husband, Len Wiseman, directed this! Don't worry though, I'm sure she got a part in this movie based off her versatile, NOT AT ALL one dimensional acting and no other reason. You know, just like her AMAZING acting range got her the starring role in the Underworld movies... a couple of which her husband also directed. Hmmm.
Okay okay, well what about Jessica Biel? She's a great actress with an impressive body of work, right? Who can forget her epic performances in classic films such as Summer Catch, Cellular, Stealth, and that Adam Sandler movie where he pretends to be gay?
“But Ghoul, they're both SO HAWT!!!!111!!!”. Because that's all a movie needs, is just tons of eye candy in tight and/or revealing clothing in lieu of a story or characterization or compelling characters or logic or- yeah, that's probably enough foreshadowing. I suggest you get comfy, this could be a long one. I give you A Ghoul Versus Total Recall (2012)!
(Note: this review will be primarily for the Unrated Director's Cut, although I will point out the major differences it had from the PG-13 version because there are several big ones)
The film opens with the logo of the production company behind this, Original Film. Oh, the irony. And we're off to about as bad and lazy of a start as possible as we get text screens to fill us in on the film's backstory!
At the end of the 21st century, global chemical warfare left the planet nearly uninhabitable. Living space is now Earth's most valuable resource.
Only two territories remain: the United Federation of Britain (the UFB) and the Colony (which is Australia).
Workers from the Colony travel through the planet each day on the only transport possible: 'The Fall'.
A bloodied Colin Farrell awakens to Jessica Biel yelling at him to wake up. He finds himself on the floor of a hospital room, Jessica being saying they have little time before security arrives. They run down a hallway, escaping into a locked room as a team of heavily armed men shoot at them. I just want to note this entire scene is filmed in with AWFUL strobe lights, slow motion, and TONS of lens flares.
They open a window, but before they go out Colin tells Jessica he loves her and they kiss. Unfortunately, this brilliant use of time results in a single bullet piercing both of their hands as they try to climb out said window. Colin gets captured as Jessica falls out the window to freedom. Or not, it's all a dream! Colin wakes up next to Kate Beckinsale in bed, which in 2012 was probably the best way in the world to wake up. This scene is very similar to the original, as we learn this is a recurring dream he's been having but here he's MUCH SMARTER than Arnold as he doesn't mention there's another woman in the dream. Point to the 2012 version. I doubt I'll be saying that a lot.
Kate tries to spin his dream about him feeling trapped in their relationship or whatever, but all I can focus on is the lens flares. Pssssst Hollywood, STOP DOING THIS! IT MAKES NO SENSE FROM A FILM MAKING STANDPOINT! They start making out as I realize why Colin agreed to take this role, but then Kate gets a call that there's been a bombing on a UFB train carried out by the resistance. She gets dressed as we see she's a paramedic of some kind.
Colin watches a news report about the bombing, the reporter believing it was carried out by the resistance's leader Matthias. The play a voice clip of him saying the Colony is tired of being exploited by the UFB and they just want equality. He then drops his catchphrase “The Fall Enslaves Us All”. Chancellor Cohaagan- yes, COHAAGAN. The news reports all spell it with an “A” instead of an “E”, so EVERYONE is spelling it wrong, including the subtitles AND credits of the movie. Let this level of consistency be an omen for what is to come.
Cohaagan condemns Matthias and his actions via recorded footage. The reporter goes on to talk about the last bombing, which was only six weeks ago and was carried out by a man named Carl Hauser. Hauser was a former intelligence officer that turned traitor and is now the right hand man of Matthias.
Director's Cut Version: The TV shows an image of Hauser, who is played by Ethan Hawke.
PG-13 Version: There is no image of Hauser on the TV.
I admit I'm pretty intrigued by this development, that Hauser appears to be a different man than Colin, who still doesn't have a name yet. I'd assume he's Quaid, but it's hard to say now after what we just saw. Also, HOLY SHIT Cohaagan is played by Bryan Cranston! The movie definitely has my interest so far, I'll gladly admit that.
Colin goes for a walk through the city, and he must be living in the Colony because the entire place is a dump. He sees a commercial for Rekall, which seems identical to the original movie. He walks on, going through body scanners that are a pale imitation of the x-ray scanners we all know and love. He meets up with his friend Bokeem Woodbine, and BAM! This movie just got a whole hell of a lot better, although it hasn't been bad at all to begin with. With the exception of the lens flares. I feel bad for people whose eyes were subjected to this in a high def theater.
They board the Fall, which so far is just a room with a bunch of seats and invasive nonsensical lens flares as far as the eye can see. We get a very interesting scene where Colin tells Bokeem they've been sitting in the same seats for years, so Bokeem suggests they switch it up by sitting in different ones. This almost HAS to be an allusion to an episode of the TV show Scrubs called “My Lucky Charm”, which also featured two men experiencing the thrill of sitting in different seats than they usually do. This episode just happened to have a guest star by the name of one Colin Farrell.
The Fall is revealed to be a gigantic elevator full of rooms that drops from the Colony to UFB via a giant tube hollowed out through the Earth in about 17 minutes. Through the center of the Earth. Where the molten core should be. What is WITH the Total Recall franchise and not understanding what a core is?! A news report plays over the Fall that announces Cohaagan is no longer going to give the Colony humanitarian aid because of today's bombing. He says all of the money that went to aid will go into strengthening their robotic police force, as using robots is a GREAT way to avoid having to shoot people and earn that PG-13 rating. Although it is weird, as we see they use plenty of human soldiers side-by-side with the robots which kinda defeats the purpose but whatever. The Fall arrives at UFB, which is just as lens flare-y as the Colony was unfortunately.
As they arrive for work and get dressed in the lens flare-y locker room, Colin and Bokeem pretty much recite the Rekall conversation from the original movie word for word although Colin seems more determined to try it out than Arnold was. We learn they work at a factory that manufactures the robocops. They call them “police synthetics” here, but screw it, they're robocops. Colin and Bokeem talk in the locker room as they get dressed, a throwaway line of dialogue alluding to humans living on Mars. It's never followed up on again as this movie goes in a WAY different direction than the original, but if humans are on Mars why is living space a concern at all? The single line raises SO many questions I won't bothering going into here because I know it's a waste of time... just like this remake.
Colin, whom finally gets named as Doug Quaid, is picked to train a new hire. As they wield robocops, the rookie tells him Rekall is awesome as he was eavesdropping on the conversation earlier. He gives him a business card and tells him to ask for Mac.
Director's Cut Version: Doug gets called to Human Resources where a man from the Cohaagan administration is going over all the employees concerning the bombing. When Doug realizes they're only interviewing people from the Colony, he starts going off on profiling because all movies today need heavy handed social commentary shoved down our throats.
PG-13 Version: Colin gets called to Human Resources where he learns he's been passed over for a promotion because he's from the Colony and the person that beat him is UFB. Both of these Human Resources scenes are pretty pointless because we already totally get the UFB is a bunch of assholes.
The day over, everyone boards the Fall to return to the Colony. I should note this movie has also has a fetish for upside down shots because we get the third such one here. It's because once the Fall hits a certain point through its journey through the center of the Earth, gravity inverts and... I don't know. There is absolutely no point in obsessing over science in a Total Recall movie, BUT since they're playing this movie straight so far it is a little more glaring here.
Which leads me to the next point: how they're doing this movie. It's 100% serious like all movies have to be nowadays, but I will say they're doing a good job of it so far. It doesn't feel OVERLY bleak and joyless like Man Of Steel or Robocop (2014) did. The issue though is with the director, as Wiseman is yet ANOTHER student of the “Good Movies Only Feature Monotone Characters Too Cool To Show Emotion” school which has absolutely crippled the industry. I expect this from Kate Beckinsale, but Colin Farrell is soooooo much better than that. But no, Wiseman was totally happy with him just sleepwalking his way through the entire movie and not even attempting to show any kind of emotion. This, of course, makes Colin's character one more participant in the endless parade of cardboard cutouts trying to carry a movie. But hey, check out his abs! That's WAY better than characterization, right?!
Doug meets with Bokeem in a bar, lines of dialogue confirming Bokeem is playing Harry and Kate is playing Lori. Doug talks about how unhappy he is with his life and his job, but Harry tells him things aren't so bad. I just wonder how it's possible to have lens flares in the dark. Instead of going home to his wife like Harry advised, Doug goes out to the seedy part of town. Well, seedier considering the entire city is seedy. He encounters the Mandated By Remake Law Three Breasted Hooker because you KNEW they were going to have to shoehorn her into this thing somehow. But they picked about the dumbest way possible because there's NO BLOODY MUTANTS IN THIS MOVIE! Was she born with three breasts? Is this some kind of bizarre elective surgery she had done? Is this because of the chemical warfare?
Oh movie, why did you take all the goodwill you've earned with me and set it on fire? Although I do have to give them props for actually showing her breasts in both versions, as we all know America considers bare nipples worse than BRUTAL GRAPHIC SADISTIC VIOLENCE. Sadly though, this just means millions of American children will turn into serial killers because of this scene.
Doug isn't interested in her services though, he just wants directions to Rekall. This time around Rekall is much less “high tech corporation” and more “lens flare-y whorehouse”, which actually works with the tone of the movie. He's taken to Mac, who is played by a distractingly blonde John Cho. This scene also echoes the original as Doug's eyes light up when he hears he can be a secret agent. In addition to the film's opening, we've seen Doug reading a James Bond book on the Fall so the idea he wants to be a spy is set up here much better than it was with Arnold and I can't believe I just typed that.
As Mac sets up Doug in the implant chair, he warns him none of the scenarios he chose for his fantasy can be true because it would cause “irreparable conflict and confusion” to his brain, but Doug assures him none of the stuff he selected is. It's worth mentioning that as they drug up Doug for the implant, the injection leaves a peace tattoo on his arm. Which seems really dumb for all those men who use this to cheat on their wives. A tattoo wouldn't be a dead giveaway or anything...
Mac runs a psyche profile just to be sure, and discovers Doug IS a spy. He pulls a gun on his and demands why he's there as police suddenly burst in and start shooting everyone up. Bloody hell that was abrupt! The police surround Doug when his instincts kick in and he manages to kill them all. It's very bloodless, but shot in a very interesting manner where the camera keeps zooming in and out allowing us to actually follow every death. If it weren't for all the lens flares blinding us I'd almost say it was... awesome! He gets out of the building before a second team can detain him.
He returns home to Lori and their collection of lens flares, where she's watching a report on the news about the Rekall shooting. He tells her what happened, but she doesn't believe him and blames it all on Rekall. She tries to comfort him by hugging him, but instead tries to suffocate him. They erupt into a crazy fight, as Lori reveals she has an EVIL British accent while she shoots at Doug. He gets the drop on her, holding her own gun to her head and demanding she talk or else he'll skip straight ahead to the “until death do us” part, which is probably the closest we're going to get to “Consider that a divorce” but once again... it works. You know what DOESN'T work though? The remake STILL didn't fix one of the biggest plotholes from the original: WHY didn't Cohaagan order his people NOT to kill Doug? Why is their first instinct to always try to kill him? What exactly did Cohaagan tell them when he put them on this detail?
She tells him she's not his wife, which he calls bullshit on because they've been married seven years. Really? We had to change that from eight years? “I'm A Better Writer Than You!” Syndrome REPRESENT! She says she's UFB police intel assigned to watch him, having only met him six weeks ago. So we kept that time frame but had to change the years? What does that accomplish besides irking fans of the original? I just don't GET stuff like this.
He learns his whole life is a life and that he's not even Douglas Quaid. He's struggling trying to comprehend this as Lori quips “What can I say? I give good wife.” which is so stupid it's actually hilarious. The only problem is Beckinsale delivers the line so terrible, they REALLY needed some crazy ass over-the-top actress in this role. Just imagine Claire Danes playing Lori, that would have been AMAZING.
After some more dialogue straight from the first movie, Lori tells him Cohaagan is behind all of this and is trying to hide him from the resistance. Before he can learn why, Lori disarms him and he's forced to jump out a window... or something, their apartment layout is really confusing. They engage in a very thrilling and well done chase sequence throughout the roof tops and apartments of the city, although they don't run through the bedroom of a couple having sex so I have to take points off for that. Doug hides in an alley as his... hand starts ringing? In the future phones are implanted into our hands? That has to make phone sex REALLY awkward.
He... answers it somehow, a man named Hammond on the other end. We see how cell phone in the future work, as Doug holds his hand onto a window and this projects an image of the man he's talking to. That's... infinitely stupid. So everyone can just see the person you're talking to then? Hammond warns him they're tracking him through his phone hand, advising him to get rid of it. He also says they used to work in the intel department together, and Doug told him if he ever vanished to call him up and tell him to “get the key”.
The Director's Cut Version has an extra line where Doug learns his real name is Harry before Hammond hangs up.
He then gets a text message with the number of a safety deposit box at the First Bank. A text message via his hand. How would you even- on second thought, let's just let this one go. Doug breaks a glass bottle and cuts the phone out of his hand, allowing him to avoid being tracked anymore. Well, THAT was freaking lame when compared to how he removed his bug in the original! Were they even TRYING here? I didn't even come close to throwing up this time!
Lori gets a call from Cohaagan, who tells her and her team Doug is to be taken alive for re-implantation. Gosh, should have told her that in the FIRST place there Heisenberg. Lori asks why Doug is so important and he tells her, but tells her in private so we only get the conversation from her perspective. She reacts with pure shock and horror, demanding to know why Doug is still alive. After hanging up with him she tells his team Doug is to be killed on sight. When one of her men points out what Cohaagan says she's all “Blah blah blah, we're doing it my way 'cos I'm a bad ass bitch!”. She is just ruining this movie every time she talks.
Director's Cut Version: Doug goes to the bank to get the safe deposit box, but they tell him they need a signature which is WEIRD. In the original Arnold have his thumb print read on a scanner to confirm his identity which is nice and futuristic, but in this movie they still use handwritten signatures? But I guess this was the only way they could think of to reveal the rest of Doug's real name, as Doug hesitates to sign the form so the teller asks “Is there a problem, Mr. Reed?”.
PG-13 Version: They omit all of this, as we cut to Doug opening the safe deposit box.
Inside the box Doug finds multiple passports for three different men, including one named Harry Reed which looks nothing like him. He also finds a strange silver collar and tons of money. The money features Obama on it, so I guess after he was done being the U.S. President he went on to become the Prime Minister of England or something? Continuing to search, he finds a small black rectangular shape that does nothing and the crown jewel: a video recording from himself.
The recording is of himself barricading himself into a hospital room and quickly talking into a camera while guards try to break into the room. He says if he's watching this it means he was captured and had his memories erased, and that nothing he remembers is real. He gives him the address of his apartment, telling him to go there. The Director's Cut version has an extra line where he says his face has been resculpted into the handsome mug of Colin Farrell.
We shift to the UFB, where passengers are arriving via the Fall. A woman dressed very similar to the one Arnold masqueraded as in the first movie steps through the scanner when a guard yells out “Hold it!”. But it turns out he wasn't talking to her, but an Asian man behind her that just happens to match one of the men from Doug's passport collection. The woman moves on to her counter, where she tells the attendant she'll be staying in the area for two weeks. Ha hah! If you MUST do a remake, this is how you should do it. Gotta give them clever points for this one.
We're shown the collar is a holographic projector, as that's how Doug was able to impersonate the Asian man. The collar malfunctions pretty quickly, revealing his identity to the guards. A fight scene breaks out, which is probably the highlight of the movie as Doug punches one guard's head THROUGH a glass window. Epic! For some reason Lori is now suddenly here, leading the pursuit of her “husband”. He escapes outside to the highway, which is full of hover cars. Luckily one stops for him and it just happens to be Jessica Biel. She says she was able to find him because she was monitoring the police scanners, so at least her sudden appearance makes sense. This leads to a pretty thrilling hovercar chase sequences that ends with Doug and Jessica escaping Lori and the robocops. They go to the address Doug gave himself, Doug searching his place for answers but finds nothing.
He finally sits down at a piano, which echoes a conversation he had with Harry earlier where he wished he could play the piano. He starts playing, and to his surprise, can play really well. As he plays he finds one of the keys is broken, which jolts something in his head as he realizes what the black shape in the safe deposit box is. He switches it out with the broken key and finishes his song, which queues up a hologram atop the piano.
Director's Cut Version: the hologram is of the Henry Reed from the passport, who takes off a hologram collar to reveal himself as Carl Hauser. The hologram says it has, and I quote, “limited interactive capabilities” so Doug is able to question it as if he were talking to a person. Um... no?
I don't even- how would... so apparently Hauser took the time to program this recording with ALL of his memories and give it the ability to answer questions based off them. Does that mean if Doug asked him what his favourite flavour of Skittles had been, it'd have been able to answer that? What was wrong with, y'know, just having a recording that told him what he needed to know? We had to go with “clever” instead? And by clever, I mean stupid.
Ugh. Hauser says he was a top intelligence agent assigned by Cohaagan to infiltrate the resistance and kill Matthias, but instead he met a woman who convinced him he was fighting for the wrong side. Cohaagan is actually the one behind the bombings, as he's killing his own people to justify the increased production of the robocops so he can have a private army to invade the Colony for their valuable SPACE.
Click here for Part 2!