Film Thoughts: Total Recall (2012)

I’m just going to be lazy and use the names Quaid and Hauser interchangeably.

1.
I go back and forth on whether Quaid’s double-identity is that important to the story. His trip to Rekall sets up the adventure, but is that much more than a McGuffin? Both the remake and original include enjoyable scenes where someone close to Quaid tries to convince him what’s happening is all in his mind. But is that really necessary? Without the questionable-identity angle, does the film still work? Does it just become a standard spy tale? Does the film get made without it? Does the audience closer identify with Quaid because he–briefly–is an everyman who aspires to have a more exciting life?

There’s a blueprint for an intelligent action film in Recall’s DNA, one that repeatedly questions the nature of reality–the difference between real and imaginary–and whether that difference matters. A sci-fi films is the place to explore that. With film we spend two hours actively choosing to believe in a world we know doesn’t exist. And given the amount of CGI used in modern sci-fi, what better place to question the nature of reality than in locations we can see but have never physically existed?

2.
Recall’s robots look great, but they’re rubbish. In combat, they’re marginally better than stormtroopers. The original Recall could’ve gotten away with having robots who could lose a fight to a human, because it was made in 1990. But a modern audience understands that any technology advanced enough to enforce justice would easily dispose of a human, even one as practically superhuman as Hauser/Quaid

3.
The CGI was, technically, very impressive. All those shots with CGI buildings, flying machines, robots, yet I never noticed any shaky effects.. But I never felt convinced by Recall’s world. There was no sense of it existing before I started watching. Nothing felt lived in. WMaybe because that world didnt actually exist. Maybe the real twist to Total Recall is that ‘Quaid’ is some truck driver from Ohio in the 2020 imagining both of his identies.

4.
Casting Colin Farrell as the lead in a potential blockbuster is a bold move. I’ve liked Farrell since Minority Report, where he went toe-to-toe with the Cruise Charisma Machine. But while he’s been successful as an actor, I don’t see him as the leading man in a blockbuster. That this film bombed financially suggests that Farrell may not get another chance in a similarly prominent role.

Bokeem Woodbine as co-star is likewise an unusual for such a big release.

5.
I enjoyed how the film played up Quaid’s marriage and his struggle to accept that Lori wasn’t his wife. Beckinsale played the demented wife well. There was a sense she was going beyond her job, and was the spurned wife who was out to get revenge of her cheating husband, one bullet at a time

6.
As is clear if you read anything on this site, I’m not a smart man. I’ve seen the original Recall a number of times. Only when watching the remake did I recognise that the story only begins because Quaid is a middle-aged man who’s bored of his routine, unremarkable life. He goes to Rekall because he’s sick of working his mundane job, and doing the same commute again and again. As someone who props himself between the glazed-eye people on the train every morning, and promptly becomes one of them, that theme was glaringly obviously. Maybe I just had to get to 36-years-old before I fully recognised it.

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