Total Recall

Collin Farrell in “Total Recall”

The new movie “Total Recall” could have been much better.  What begins as a thoughtful movie about memories and the natures of fulfillment and identity, turns into just another loud series of chases and shootouts (I used earplugs).  In other words, “Total Recall,” instead of trusting its ideas, homogenizes itself into every other summer big Hollywood movie that aspires to blockbuster status.  Between the elongated action, blasts, and CGI (computer graphics imaging) there was a potentially interesting story to which I kept longing to return. 

“Total Recall,” is based, as is its 1990 predecessor of the same title, on a short story entitled “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” by science fiction author Phillip K. Dick.  Dick was a prolific writer, much of whose work has been turned into movies: “Blade Runner” (1982), “Minority Report (2002)” and the previous “Total Recall,” which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name just a few.  In fact, this new “Total Recall” looks as if it is taking place in the same world as “Blade Runner.”  Both “Total Recall” and “Blade Runner” are set in over populated dank, dark, dirty cities of the future that have lots of rain.  Both settings have large neon billboards that talk, hawking their services.  As in the case of “Blade Runner,” “Total Recall” has to do with the importance of memories and the concept of artificial memories.  Whereas “Blade Runner” is thoughtful and poignant, “Total Recall” is more “slam, bang.”

From a sociological perspective the new “Total Recall” is about conflict theory, originated by Karl Marx, which says that an elite few dominate the majority.  Collin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a working class stiff who lives in a place identified only as “The Colony,” but which, as shown on a map, seems to be occupying the same land mass as Australia, which was in fact a British colony.  We are told that “The Colony” and Federation of Britain are the only parts of earth left habitable as the result of chemical warfare.

Each day Quaid and his co-workers travel to the Federation of Britain in a space ship like contraption.  It is a commute called “the Fall” that takes them half way around the world, by way of its center, to work for a company that makes robotic police officers that look pretty much like the storm troopers from “Star Wars.”  Quaid does not so much want a better life as to have memories of a more exciting one.  Perhaps this can be seen as a commentary on our culture’s increasingly dependence on virtual reality experiences, as opposed to real ones.  Enter Rekall, a company which specializes in implanting memories, enabling their clients to think that they have had an exciting past.  It is in the implementation of these artificial memories that Quaid becomes a pawn in the scheme of a totalitarian government and soon does not know what is real or whom he can trust.

So, we have a story about memories, identity and fulfillment, all of which could have made for an interesting film that could have also allowed some summer action sequences.  Instead, by film’s end I felt bludgeoned and indifferent.  All in all “Total Recall” is a film I would just as soon forget.

“Total Recall” director Len Wiseman, 2012,

Columiba Pictures, 113 minutes, rated PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 5, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Phillip K. Dick is one of my favorite scifi writers. There’s a really spooky short story of his that I read hold up in some flea bag hotel room in Rome. I’ve never forgotten the story, but surprisingly, I’ve forgotten the title. Anyway, I’m not surprised by your review of “Total Recall”. The original wasn’t quite that good and I hadn’t expected that the remake would be either. I’m not sure that I’m all that interested in feeling bludgeoned and indifferent by yet another summer blockbuster movies’ end.

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