I must preface this review by stating that I am a big fan of the original 1990 Total Recall. It is my favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger film (I know, not that stiff of competition), one of my favourite Paul Verhoeven works, it was on my best of the year list for that year, and is one of the better sci-fi films of the period. With that said, my reaction to this remake, directed by Len Wiseman (director of the first two Underworld films, and producer on the third and fourth) and replacing the Governator with Colin Farrell, is a straight forward, meh. It's not the worst thing I have seen lately, but it is a far cry from Verhoeven's sometimes under-appreciated version.
Based on Philip K. Dick's 1966 short story, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," Total Recall is the story of Douglas Quaid, a frustrated blue collar guy, who in his desire to escape the bland conformity of the totalitarianism that is his world, goes to Rekall, a place that promises virtual reality/fantasy vacations that will live forever in your memories. Of course everything explodes when certain hidden memories inside of Quaid suddenly burst to the surface. At this point, the film becomes a series of near non-stop chase and action sequences. As far as such a thing goes, the action in this film is done rather well, playing somewhere between Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and the Bourne movies, and manages to give, even with a feeling of been there done that, a pretty fun ride throughout. That is until the end, when, instead of repeating the ending of the 1990 film, or perhaps coming up with a different one all their own, the door slams shut on everything and we are left with what could be construed as the weakest of all options possible.
As far as the adaptation goes, neither Verhoeven's nor Wiseman's version are all that faithful of a rendition (the former, taking place mostly on Mars, being somewhat more in line with Dick's story), but this newer edition is definitely the least interesting of the two. We get a few aside references to the 1990 version, one playing out as a red herring, another a three breasted blast from the past, but mostly it is a different tale for a different day. Showing a future Earth devastated by warfare, and left uninhabitable, save for The United Federation of Britain and Australia, known here as The Colony, Farrell's reluctant hero must fight a corrupt government, led by Brian Cranston, and a veritable army of robots that seem to be stolen from George Lucas' intellectual property trash cans, to save what is left of the world. We also get Jessica Biel as a fellow freedom fighter and Kate Beckinsale, who also happens to be the director's wife, taking over the original's Sharon Stone role, as Quaid's wife-cum-maniacal assassin (who incidentally survives more near deaths than either Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees) - each going kick-ass womano y womano on each other for the fate of Farrell's Quaid. Now who wouldn't want these two fighting over you? Too bad it is in such an unremarkable movie as this.