28 August 2012

Total Recall 2012: Futuristic Entertainment

I had been seeing the Total Recall teaser on television; but I had not really paid it any attention. So, when I finally decided to go see it in a cinema yesterday, I was not sure if it was a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic or a totally new movie. Well, now I can tell you that although both are of the sci-fi genre, that is where the similarity ends. This 2012 Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale starrer is an altogether different movie.

There is something cliché-ic to the story being set in a world that man himself has destroyed and made uninhabitable. In the movie, though, two stretches of territory are left where humans continue to survive.

One is called the United Federation of Britain and the other simply and intriguingly called ‘the Colony.’ To travel from one territory to another involves the ‘fall,’ a means of transport that is literally falling into the pits of the earth to cut travel time between two points.


It must be said that there is something of a Jason Bourne to Farrell’s character Quaid. The entire story is premised on Quaid being something of an operative who had his memory erased.
Although set in the future, in a way the story of Total Recall mirrors the present world order of the big nations enjoying power and privileges that small and impoverished nations can only dream of. Total Recall has simplified this order by reducing the nations of the world into just two.

Naturally, UFB or the big and dominant nation in the movie wants so much more power and control than it already has; and, of course, at the expense of the colony. This relationship is the source of the story’s conflict.

It is between these two worlds that Farrell’s character has been cast. The movie begins with the character as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in a humanoid-manufacturing company who undertakes the daily ‘fall’ to work in a facility based in UFB.

It turns out that he is no factory worker at all; and neither is he really Quaid. This is as far as I will go in telling the story or I will be a poor sport and spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the movie.

Despite the political undertones, I am not for one moment suggesting that Total Recall offers much in the way of a profound cerebral or philosophical challenge. On the contrary, the story is remarkably simple and easy to follow.


I understand that Total Recall is a big-budget movie; and it shows. The sets along with the miniature models must have cost well into the millions of dollars. The skyway grid, for one, was quite spectacularly designed.
Total Recall, after all, is a sci-fi action movie. Its biggest come-on will not be depth but instead its computer-generated effects. The action is not bad either, with some terrific fight scenes in tight spaces.

The movie probably takes a while to get started. While the pacing for the first quarter of an hour is not necessarily slow, it is still nonetheless somewhat yawn-inducing. Definitely not the sort of movie that grips you right from the moment the title stills are done away with.

Once the movie gets started, however, there is simply no stopping. The car chase along highways in the sky is quite electrifying. I have, perhaps, seen better car chases before; but Total Recall must be the only one with cars that don’t have wheels but are instead magnetically levitated along floating highways.

The technology may still be years into the future; but the concept has already been featured in NGC documentaries. This is one sci-fi movie which is premised on technologies that are expected to one day evolve into reality.

So are the holographic computer monitors, although I’m sure I’d seen those in other movies before.

The phone built right into the palm of the hand is probably taking sci-fi a bit too far forward; on the other hand, you never know where technology will go. As a concept, I think that it is actually cute. Imagine never losing your phone even if speaking through your palm does seem rather silly.

I understand that Total Recall is a big-budget movie; and it shows. The sets along with the miniature models must have cost well into the millions of dollars. The skyway grid, for one, was quite spectacularly designed.

There was also the city at the Colony which really looked quite elaborate, conveying the feel of an overpopulated locality that maximises space by building up instead of laterally. There are even elevated walkways for pedestrians to move from one side of the street to another.

It must be said that there is something of a Jason Bourne to Farrell’s character Quaid. The entire story is premised on Quaid being something of an operative who had his memory erased. A visit to a facility which used chemical injections to create false memories triggers a search for his true identity. The name of the facility is Rekall.

Beckinsale stars in the movie as something of a villain. She is supposed to be Quaid’s wife; but that is quickly unveiled as among the plot’s complications. As in the Underworld series, Beckinsale does some really complicated fight scenes without seemingly misplacing a hair.

To conclude, I personally don’t think that Total Recall will win an Oscar for Best Story. Since I am a sci-fi and technology fan, I must however admit that I found the movie quite entertaining.

The computer generated effects are visually stimulating and the car chase innovative. The fight scenes, I felt, approximate those of the Bourne series not only in how these were choreographed but also in camera angles that put the audience right in there where it happens.

Not bad entertainment at all for just over a hundred bucks!

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