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Total Recall (2012)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/18/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/22/2012

Throughout his career, Colin Farrell has gone through several changes. He was an action star, he was a serious actors, and he's always been portrayed as a bad boy in the media. It appears that in the past year his goal as been to appear in as many unnecessary remakes as possible. In 2011, we saw him in Fright Night, which did nothing to improve upon the 1985 original (and actually messed up several things). Now, he stars in Total Recall, a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, both of which are based on a short story by renowned sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. This movie is all about losing memories. If only.

Total Recall takes place in a future where the Earth has been decimated by chemical warfare. The only inhabitable areas are parts of Britain (United Federation of Britain) and Australia (The Colony). In order to travel economically between these two places, a hole through the planet called "The Fall" allows people to pass from place to place. The primary industry is the manufacture of security robots for the government. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) lives in The Colony and travels to the UFB on a daily basis to work in the factory. He lives with his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), in a cramped apartment in the most depressed area of town. Anxious to escape from his life, Quaid visits Rekall, a company which can provide the customer with false memories. Quaid decides that he would like to be a spy. As the procedure gets under way, the technicians discover problems in Quaid's brain. Suddenly, government troops swarm Rekall and Quaid is on the run. Quaid begins to find clues which he left for himself which point to the fact that he's actually a spy whose memory was erased. As he tries to piece this together, he gets teamed with Melina (Jessica Biel) who wants to help him. It soon becomes clear that Quaid was involved in something big which could bring down the oppressive government.

While watching Total Recall, you'll keep saying to yourself, "This couldn't have been cheap." Yes, the movie has a great look to it and Director Len Wiseman, who made his name with Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard is definitely qualified to direct this effects-heavy movie which offers a lot of futuristic green-screen work. (And, apparently, he's also qualified to cast his wife, Kate Beckinsale, in a key role.) The dystopian city-scapes and the sleek interiors of the government labs impress and the film's production design is good. (Not necessarily original, but good.) However, Wiseman can obviously still learn about pacing, especially in the extended director's cut which seems to have the same scene over and over, and the action scenes, most notably the one involving elevators goes on and one.

The movie really goes off the rails in the story department. The short story and the original movie dealt with Quaid (Quail, as he was called in the short story) longing for adventure and wanting to fulfill his dream of going to Mars. His life wasn't necessarily bad, as the city in the 1990 film has a nice, clean place, he was simply bored. Having Quaid feel like his needs to escape from an awful life i the remake was a huge mistake, as it makes it difficult to get behind his character, as it makes him seem selfish. Once the espionage plot kicks in, the movie becomes very convoluted and the plot-holes settle in. Quaid watches a video of himself being dragged away by guards...so who sent the video? The movie wants to focus on where Quaid's allegiance lies, instead of the question of what is real or what isn't, which should be the motivating factor for the story. The film attempts to reproduce a scene from the original in which Quaid is told that none of it is real, but it holds no tension. When one begins to question a film's raidon-d-etre, you know that you are in trouble.

If Total Recall wanted to re-visit the Dick short-story and be more faithful to it or pull out some new elements, that would have been acceptable. That wouldn't have guaranteed a good movie, but it would have been understandable. To simply take the original movie and replaces its fun, goofy nature with darkness was a huge mistake. The movie is somehow both overwritten and pointless. I think that most viewers will reach a point where they simply don't care. Yes, Verhoeven's 1990 film colors outside the lines at times, but at least it was a breath of fresh air. This Total Recall is ultimately forgettable.

Total Recall implies that being married to Kate Beckinsale is a life from which one would want to escape on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. This is a dark movie, but the image is rarely overly dark. The colors look good, although there are few bolds tones here. The level of detail is excellent, as is the depth. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very nicely done, showing off sounds coming from off-screen and showing nice separation. The surround sound effects are great during the action scenes and we can pick out individual sounds from the rear speakers. The subwoofer effects are strong and provide "oomph" to the action sequences.

The Total Recall Blu-ray Disc contains a small variety of extras, which are spread across two Blu-rays. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Len Wiseman on the Extended Director's Cut. Viewers can choose to view the Theatrical Cut with "Insight Mode" which delivers picture-in-picture video throughout the movie. The remainder of the extras are found on the second Blu-ray Disc. We begin with a 8-minute GAG REEL. In "Science Fiction vs. Science Fact" (9 minutes), Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics and author of Physics of the Future gives his views on dystopias, offers real-life examples of memory insertion, discusses the reality of robots, 3D holograms, hover cars, and other facets of the film. This is actually a very interesting extra which should serve as an example to others. "Designing The Fall" (3 minutes) delivers concept art and design ideas of the device which travels through the Earth. "Total Action" (20 minutes) contains seven brief featurettes which examine the action scenes in the film. We see how Farrell, Beckinsale, and Biel approached their stuntwork and we go on-set for several of the key scenes. This contains a nice amount of on-set footage and interviews. "Stepping Into Recall - Pre-Visualization Sequences" (25 minutes) offers computer animated examples of five scenes. (These are actually more detailed than other pre-viz samples we've seen.)

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2012.