An Original Film in ironic production credit only.
DIRECTED BY LEN WISEMAN
In all respects bar its $200 million budget, Len Wiseman’s aggressively derivative Total Recall is a poor man’s version of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original. Technically, that budget certainly shows—a thick blanket of Blade Runner–inspired CGI masks most traces of contemporary Toronto—but, creatively and intellectually, Wiseman’s remake is bankrupt.
Early word was Wiseman’s film would distinguish itself from Verhoeven’s by hewing more closely to Philip K. Dick’s source material. But apart from trading the earlier film’s trashy sense of humour for unwarranted earnestness, adding on-the-nose nods to a subjugated 99 per cent, and doing away with plot elements concerning a mutant-led rebellion on Mars, screenwriters Kirk Wimmer and Mark Bomback have largely retained the structure of the Schwarzenegger-starring action landmark, down to the particulars of its identity-crisis twists and turns—and have even shoehorned in a three-boobed hooker to boot.
As such, Wiseman’s would-be mind-bender is a non-starter for those with all but the vaguest recollections of its predecessor. And while others who are totally ignorant of the original Total Recall may be marginally more intrigued by the film’s central “Is-this-just-a-fantasy-or-am-I-actually-a-badass-secret-agent?” predicament, Wiseman seemingly goes out of his way to subvert the ambiguities on which a premise of this nature thrives.
Instead, the director amps up the action, as a curiously subdued Colin Farrell and an intractably glowery Kate Beckinsale careen through an increasingly tedious marathon of chase sequences and shoot-outs. Along with Minority Report, The Fifth Element, and all manner of post-Matrix sci-fi action fare, these scenes crib heavily from video games—Uncharted, Mass Effect, Portal, and Gears of War are among the apparent influences—and are generally about as engaging as watching someone else play.
Character development, too, appears to have been modelled on a typical action game. Which is to say, it’s in short supply. If that’s also true of Verhoeven’s version, it at least boasted a host of memorable, scenery-chewing performances, as well as countless classic Arnie quips. Here, the laughs begin and end with the opening credits, where it’s revealed that this redundant re-hash of an adapted short story was produced by a company called Original Film.