Big Mike’s 2 Cents: Total Recall (Remake)

I’ll keep this spoiler free.

Some people hate the entire notion of a movie remake. Or they say a certain amount of time needs to transpire before the global audience of moviegoers can emotionally prepare for the confrontation of a story retold. I’m not one of those people.

Re-imagined or reinterpreted source material offers unique perspectives into the creative process. I like hearing a band cover another band’s tune. I dig seeing multiple interpretations of a Shakespearean play. I’m inspired by reading a creative team’s successful take on the origin of Superman.

Sometimes the remakes can surprise us, sometimes they’re tired, and sometimes they fail, but they are almost always enlightening. I root for the success of a remake. A remake can breathe new life into something forgotten. I want to see something bad turned into something good or something good turned into something phenomenal.


I went in to the new Total Recall with an open mind. I hoped the film would build on the successes of the original and offer us something with less camp and more sophistication. I was pretty young when I first saw the original Total Recall, and it made quite an impression on me. It was big-time science fiction with over-the-top violence and a clever plot.

The new movie opens with a brief motion graphics presentation, setting up the highly implausible conditions for the film’s futuristic world. Following the presentation, I wanted to raise my hand and fire a few questions, but I tried to just accept the premise and sit back to enjoy the film.

I would have liked a few dozen less Bay/ Abrams-patented lens flares, but overall, I enjoyed the design of the world and the aesthetic of the film. There were a few clever nods and winks to the original film and a few not-so-clever ones. As the film progressed, I held on to hope the minor fumbles would be redeemed in the third act.

Then everything fell apart.

I don’t understand the motivations behind the choices the filmmakers made. The remake paralleled the plot of the original until the third act; that’s when they threw out the baby with the bathwater.  In the third act, the problems revealed in the absurd setup, during the film’s opening, took center stage. All of the questions I had at the beginning started to become a distraction, which was only compounded by some funky character contradictions and sloppy plot holes. It wasn’t horrible, but it was disappointing.

I have yet to read the original Philip K. Dick short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. I think I’m going to hunt down a copy right now.

I recommend going back to watch the 1990 version of Total Recall. If you’re curious about the remake, I’d wait to catch it on cable.

-Big Mike