Has Total Recall Been Totally Lobotomized?

Slate's Culture Blog
April 2 2012 11:15 AM

Trailer Critic: Total Recall

Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid in Total Recall.

Publicity still © Sony Pictures 2011.

As Bryan Curtis recently wrote in Slate, Mars has fallen out of our culture’s favor in recent years, after almost a century of fascination. Now, on the heels of the box office debacle that was Mars movie John Carter, we get a Total Recall that won’t even set foot on the Red Planet.

Forrest Wickman Forrest Wickman

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard) directs the new Recall, for the inaccurately named production company Original Film—both this adaptation and the 1990 Total Recall are based on the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”—with Colin Farrell filling Schwarzenegger’s hulking shoes. After a teaser that went up earlier this week, the full trailer debuted Sunday and is embedded below.


So what’s a Total Recall that doesn’t even get its ass to Mars? The tone this time around lacks previous director Paul Verhoeven’s trace of camp, opting instead for slick and seedy. And instead of a fight about natural resources on the desert planet, the 2012 Recall takes on the geopolitics of “Euroamerica” and “New Shanghai,” the warring powers of the East and the West.

But you don’t get that political stuff in the trailer. Instead, you get what appears to be the The Bourne Identity in the future. The award-winning effects of the original—among the last to be done primarily in analog—are still convincing, and its violence is still startling, so it’s discouraging to see them sell this remake on its action and effects alone.

Remakes are often dismissed offhand, but there are plenty of reasons to return to the story of Total Recall now. While it’s often giggled about as a goofy romp (it is), Total Recall tells exactly the kind of story that’s ripe for many interpretations and reinterpretations. (While copying the blaring “brAAHM” from Inception has overstayed its welcome, here it makes complete sense: They’re very similar movies.) However, while the original Total Recall (spoiler alert) may end ambiguously—has our hero really saved the world, or has he kept on dreaming and lost his mind?—there seems to be little doubt about what’s happened to its story: It’s been lobotomized.

Grade: C


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