Review: ‘Total Recall’ 2012 Works But It’s Not as Good as Ah-nold’s

Yesterday evening I finally had the chance to take in a viewing of the new Total Recall, or as some geeks are calling it, Total Recall 2012.  I went into this screening with an open mind, and a desire to be entertained, which I was, but not as much as I was when I saw Arnold’s version back in the early 90’s.  For all intents and purposes the plot of this movie is nearly identical to the original, except that Len Wiseman decided to tell it in a completely different way by following Phillip K. Dick’s 1966 short story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, much more closely than Verhoeven’s version from 1990.  To me this was the reboot’s biggest failure, but the film as a stand alone sci-fi flick works pretty well.  Please continue on to read our full review of the Colin Farrell starring Total Recall reboot to see if this is a movie for you to see.

Total Recall 2012

EB 7 out of 10 Buddhas

Minor spoilers ensue, but if you’ve seen the original you’ve pretty much seen the reboot as well.  Read at your own risk.

Like I mentioned above Total Recall 2012’s overall plot is exactly the same as the 1990 version except for one glaring omission.  There’s no f*cking Mars!!!!  Most of you probably already know this fact from watching and reading media about the reboot, but I did not.  This revelation was shocking to me, because I wholeheartedly believed that this new Total Recall would be an homage to the 1990 version.


Outside of the absence of the Red Planet setting everything else about Total Recall 2012 can be traced back to the original, albeit with an Earth setting.  I just found the futuristic Earth motif to be less interesting than a plot about a group of rebels fighting the system on a colonized Mars.  I never felt a sense of wonder at what was taking place on screen like I did as a young geek back in the 90’s, and I honestly blame the absence of an alien planet setting for the lack of “buy-in” on my part.

Recall’s Earth is more Coruscant-like than the original

Yes old 3 boobs appears and you get to see them, but the scene is rather weak and forgettable

The whole dominant corporation/mega-government versus the poor people theme just didn’t come off as something new in this movie.  That’s why I prefer the Martian theme from the first one.  It’s true that the original was still telling a story of David versus Goliath, but the alien setting just made it feel more fresh.  Total Recall 2012 honestly feels like just another futuristic thriller with some badass CGI effects, and a fantastic display of potential technologies that could one day be a reality.

Rather than having Martian rebels fighting against Cohaagen’s forces, Wiseman made him the Chancellor of the UFB (United Federation of Britain), which is the dominant government on Earth fighting with The Colony, which is the oppressed Earth population, or for all intents and purposes the Martian rebels from the original.  This scenario was much less exciting than the alien setting from the first, and I really feel like it muddled up the rather exciting tale that Total Recall has to tell.  I never cared for either side of the struggle, which is a result of this bland plot tactic.

Bryan “Walter White” Cranston plays Cohaagen in the reboot

Total Recall to me was more about the insane concept of the double agent scenario mixed in with the Rekall experiment.  I was much younger when I saw the first one, but I clearly remember having my mind blown throughout the entire film with all of its crazy plot twists and turns that constantly kept me guessing at who Doug Quaid really is.  Grant it that feeling of wonder would be impossible to capture again in a reboot (I already know the story Duh), but my wife saw this movie with me with no prior knowledge of the first, and she also never felt like there was a mystery surrounding the true identity of Quaid.

I blame this on the fact that Wiseman didn’t sell the whole Rekall scene well to setup the idea that Quaid may indeed just be trapped in his own mind.  The scene just felt rushed and lacked any sort of curiosity in regards to Quaid actually getting his mind implanted with the whole spy fantasy package.  To me it was too matter-of-fact-like, and never left any doubt about who Quaid really is.  Wiseman more or less pulls the covers back on the whole double agent secret identity thing before the action really even starts.  I was truly hoping to feel the sense of puzzlement that I first experienced in the original Total Recall, but unfortunately the reboot’s plot is slightly too dumbed down and overly explained to leave any doubt in your mind as to what is going on.

The Rekall scene is a little weak and not convincing enough to sell the whole mind trip deal

I think most of these issues can be blamed on Total Recall’s super fast pace.  There is about 15 minutes of setup, and then the next hour and a half is pure action.  Don’t get me wrong, I could watch gun fights and sh*t blowing up all day long with some kick-a*s future technology sprinkled in, but I also like to not know exactly what is going on in a mind bending spy thriller.  It’s almost like Wiseman was more concerned with the action of this film rather than telling a story that would make audiences care about the characters.  Everyone who has seen the original knows that the actual story is pretty solid, but the remake never imparted that feeling to me.

Again, this could be because I have prior knowledge of the overall story, but if the new Recall stuck more to the 1990 version’s style of storytelling, I really think it would have been much more exciting.  “It’s all about Mars Wiseman!  That and mutated stomach aliens name Kuato!”

Rather than Martian mutants Wisemen went for the whole Attack of the Clones motif with Robots – Barf!

Speaking of Kuato I honestly can’t even remember the name of the character that replaced his deformed looking a*s in Total Recall 2012.  That should speak volumes about the reboot’s inability to make an audience care about the characters on screen.  Kuato was such a mysterious character in the first one, which added to my feelings of wonder while I viewed it.  In the reboot Kuato doesn’t exist, and there’s no aliens or mutants either, so the character (honestly don’t remember his name but know he was played by Victor from Underworld) is of the throw away type.  This forgettable rebel leader could have just as easily not existed in the new Total Recall, and I wouldn’t have missed him one bit.

If you’ve made it this far you must be thinking that this is one of the worst movies of the summer, but that is not the case at all.  I mentioned in the opening that it’s actually a pretty good sci-fi movie full of some great special effects and cool technology.  That’s no bullish*t.  I would recommend at least seeing it to any geek looking for some entertainment.  I was just disappointed with its method of recounting the story, and would have much preferred it to be an actual homage to the 1990 original.

I must say that the cast in this reboot is top notch.  Farrell does a great job playing a clueless Quaid, and does pull off the whole super spy mantra quite well.  Although, he doesn’t get to showcase his acting skills very often, because like the rest of the cast, his character development gets lost in the frenetic pace of the movie.

Speaking of the supporting cast I have to mention the excellent performance of Kate Beckinsale, who plays Quaid’s “wife”.  Wiseman used his real life wife perfectly as the villain in this film, and her action movie skills were put on display perfectly.  She definitely has a much bigger role in this Recall than Sharon Stone had in the original, and that’s one change to this reboot that I won’t complain about.

Kate is one helluva bad girl in Total Recall 2012

Jessica Biel also did a bang up Job as Quaid’s girlfriend, but I can honestly say that I still don’t know that name of her character.  That’s not a result of me having the short term memory of an amoeba, but rather another side effect of the rebooted Recall’s lack of character development.  In the original Ah-nold actually asked for a secret girl and gave her a name, as we found out his spy chick did exist and their relationship seemed genuine.  In the reboot that development is scrapped, and Biel’s character’s ability to make the audience care for her suffers from it.

Walter White, I mean Bryan Cranston, also does a fine job as Cohaagen, but quite honestly he’s only in the film for a total of 10 minutes.  This lack of screen time and setup, almost makes him feel like the secondary bad guy to Beckinsale’s character, which is not the case.  I think Cranston deserved a bit more time on screen, because we all know how phenomenal this guy is at acting.

In the end I may make it sound like Total Recall 2012 sucked a big fat d*ck, but that really isn’t the case.  I have a biased view of the property considering I saw the 1990 version, and this reboot isn’t as good, but it’s still a solid movie going experience that I can recommend to sci-fi fans without hesitation.  I would have liked it to follow the Ah-nold version more closely, and I think the omission of the Mars setting is its biggest folly.

Wish I knew her name in the movie but regardless Biel looked great and passed as an action star

The electric pace is both an enjoyable experience due to the action, and a bummer due to its inability to properly develop the characters.  I loved the use of futuristic technology, which reminded me of what Minority Report did for motion controls and touch screens.  I felt like each actor did a fine job with the material given to them, and Beckinsale definitely steals the show.  For all of its pros and cons I’ve decided to give Total Recall 2012 an EB 7 out of 10 Buddhas.  It’s not as good as the original, but it’s still a solid geeky movie that’s worth a big screen viewing.  You’ve been needing to watch the original Recall again…


[#ff entbuddha] “Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”


Tags : ImpressionsRebootssci-fiTotal Recall
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.