If you’ve read our earlier article on the origins of this film then you know the weight and expectation it carries. Having seen the film I can tell you that it lives up to the expectation and it doesn’t; you just have to ask yourself whether you are attached to classic sci-fi or whether you prefer the tropes of modern action films to discover which camp you will be in.
While the original Paul Verhoeven film left the truth of the main character’s reality up to the viewer, this film does not. An early dream sequence in one reality connects the character to the other, effectively removing any doubt that the high- octane twist fails to live up to the “twist” moniker — despite loads of high octane. This kills any deeper metaphysical hypothesis you might be stirring — essentially the film begs you not to raise your hand because your question has been asked and answered before you have reached the halfway marker.
True as it is that this story is closer to the Philip K Dick short story that inspired it, I rather enjoy a liberal dose of interpretation and expansion when it comes to adaptations of his works. It’s the ‘short’ story bit that people fail to recognize. Dick’s original was a brief episode in the realm of illusion and fantasy; an interesting concept yet one that does not necessarily pan out in a full feature film. Like other adaptations of Dick stories, director Len Wiseman has paraphrased the original work. The problem is he hasn’t done enough with it.
While his films are far from perfect and the humour can be borderline morose, Paul Verhoeven used his films to display a consistent and powerful personality. He wasn’t quite so masterful as Scorsese at doing exactly that, but his films are thought provoking and original. Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is anything but. It’s a thrill ride to be sure and anyone expecting stunts, kills and thrills will be more than satisfied but it is missing that ‘something’ deeper.
The cast does an commendable able job bringing a flat script to life, but are simply outnumbered, not by one another, but by the action sequences stuffed into the story. Moments of character development and emotional growth are rushed, it seems, in an effort to fit in two more dead guys and a blown up helicopter. We have seen other films such as Die Hard pull this off but this is a sci-fi film and that requires a certain amount of backstory and discovery and with Total Recall we are left wanting. The film needed more character and a slower pace or a setting and premise closer to home. As it stands the film struggles to make the drama real.