Fans of The Governator’s 1990 version of “Total Recall” tend to share a common concern with this reboot. They’re worried that an iconic figure from the original will be forgotten in the Colin Farrell version. And no, they’re not worried about cameos from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sharon Stone.
They’re terrified this “Total Recall” will forget the three-boobed lady. Spoiler alert! She hasn’t been forgotten.
Now, with those weirdoes breathing a little easier, let’s move on. It’s appropriate to compare the two movies to start. They’re both inspired by the Philip K. Dick short story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” They both center on a man named Douglas Quaid. Both movies quickly reveal that things are not what they seem. At least not to Douglas. Not after visiting a place (Rekall) that specializes in giving you memories that aren’t real. He’s married to Lori, but Lori is soon trying to kill him. He dreams about Melina, but he has no idea who she is.
And P.S., Douglas, you may or may not be a super-skilled secret agent. You might also be dreaming. What is real, what is fake, what is somewhere in between is all a mystery to poor Douglas. From there, The Governator’s movie and Farrell’s drift apart. Arnold’s goes to Mars. Farrell’s never leaves Earth.
Here’s how else the two movies differ: this one is rad.
Before Arnold’s fans track me down in a roid rage, I enjoyed his “Total Recall” as well. It’s fun. It’s over-the-top action. It’s gory. It’s Ah-nold at his best.
The Governator’s “Total Recall” never made me jump with surprise, though. I never found myself inadvertently yelling “Holy hell!” during its action sequences. I didn’t constantly have to scoot back in my seat to avoid falling off. Director Len Wiseman (“Live Free or Die Hard”) knows how to direct an action flick.
Nobody is going to claim Farrell is on Arnold’s level as an action hero (after all, only one of them is in the upcoming “The Expendables 2,” which by rule includes every single action star known to man). Conversely, it’s probably safe to say that Farrell is considerably more gifted as an actor than The Governator. Farrell’s Quaid feels more layered. He seems like he has more going on in his head. It’s easier, then, to invest in him a bit emotionally.
Sorry, Team Arnold, but I’m not sure I’ve ever invested a single emotion in a Governator character. Well, unless you count feeling like I wanted to gouge out my own eyeballs with a spoon while sitting through his Mr. Freeze scenes in “Batman & Robin.”
Still, while Farrell gives Quaid a bit more depth, let’s not pretend the “Total Recall” reboot isn’t just as much of an action extravaganza as the original. Wiseman’s movie features a future Earth where the majority of the planet is inhabitable (sadly plausible). The Colony (Australia) is where the common folk, including Quaid, live. They mostly work, however, in what remains of Great Britain. The cross-planet commute is actually fairly quick. Called “The Fall” by the future peeps, it’s essentially a commuter rail that goes through the planet. As in, through the middle of it. The core and everything. Visually, the future world is a lot of fun.
Commuting through the earth’s core every day? C’mon, that is cool.
Living in that world, of course, isn’t as fun as looking at it on the big screen. Quaid, like most of us, feels very much unfulfilled. He commutes across the planet every day to work in a factory. He commutes back home to his tiny apartment. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. His attraction to Rekall is more than understandable.
Unlike most of us, Quaid’s wife (an awesomely vindictive, hateful Kate Beckinsale) relentlessly chases him all over the planet trying to blow him up. The girl of his dreams, literally, is Jessica Biel and she apparently loves him deeply. Also, she can hold her own in a future car chase, gun battle, whatever.
Just in case things aren’t stressful enough already for Quaid, there’s also the fact that he’s the only thing standing between The Colony and an all-out invasion by an army of robots. The Chancellor of the hoity-toity Great Britain part of the planet (an arrogantly corrupt Bryan Cranston taking a break from cooking meth) is running out of living space, you see, and he means to take it by force.
Quaid, then, has to figure out who he actually is. He has to avoid getting murdered by his wife. And he needs to save the world. No big deal.
“Total Recall” is a total blast.