Even though the original and the remake are vastly different in terms of plot, setting and societal "issues," there are still those common threads running through the film: the characters have the same names (for the most part), the whole idea of Rekall is the same, and there are various nods to the original throughout the movie, eliciting chuckles from the audience. But this might be where the movie goes wrong -- instead of making a clear break or being an homage, it's a little bit of both, but not enough either way. Strangely, that ambiguity falls in line with the dilemma of main character Hauser/Quaid (Colin Farrell), who's trying to figure out his identity. This year's Total Recall suffers from this same affliction; what, exactly, does it want to be?
It starts off on the same premise as the original, with a disillusioned Quaid trying to find meaning and purpose in his blue-collar life. The future world he lives in is a polluted cesspool, split into two habitable geographical factions: The United Federation of Britain (wealthy, clean) and The Colony (poor, dirty), and the two are connected by a gigantic elevator called The Fall. Every day Quaid travels on The Fall to get to his workplace, where he (conveniently) assembles Synths, the robot police force that maintains a stranglehold on the populace. He then ventures home to his beautiful wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who insists that Quaid's recurrent dreams of "something more, something important" are nothing more than that -- simple, stress-induced dreams.
In case you haven't had enough dichotomy, the world is also at war. A rebellion, led by the mysterious Matthias, is trying to guarantee more rights for The Colony, but the UFB, led by criminal mastermind Cohaagen (a deliciously evil, Tom Ford-suited Bryan Cranston), is hatching a secret plan to ensure that will never happen. Caught in the middle is poor, unsuspecting Quaid, who only wants to have a purpose.
In order to achieve his dreams he finally succumbs to all the ads he's seeing for Rekall, a place where you can have memories implanted so you can actually feel like you're a world-class athlete, rich and famous, or in Quaid's case, a double-agent spy who can change the world. Everything is turned on its head after the implantation, and it's here where the movie kicks it into high gear.
As an action film, this Total Recall makes the grade. It's fast-paced, there are a lot of pointing guns and jumping sequences, and everything feels frenetic. The issues of terrorism and big business are addressed, which makes it a relevant movie for the times. The fight scenes are great, particularly the ones between Lori and Melina (Jessica Biel); it's nice that the women in the movie actually fight with fists, kicks and fancy moves. Also on par are the special effects, which both dazzle and amuse. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the groan-worthy dialogue. Sometimes you need an action hero like Arnold Schwarzenegger to deliver these kinds of lines.
For a younger audience (read: an audience not old enough to know much about the original Total Recall and the appeal of Schwarzenegger), the 2012 version will be an adequate, entertaining summer blockbuster. For people who're fans of the original, it might be tough to separate your sweet memories of Mars from this gritty remake.
In a speech delivered by rebel leader Matthias, Quaid is told that "The past is a fabrication of our minds, but our hearts want to live in the present." I would say, with this Total Recall, it's the exact opposite.