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TOTAL RECALL
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy
Director: Len Wiseman
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2012

Don’t mess with your mind, man. It ain’t worth it.”

Maybe I need my mind messed with.”

Film ***

The original Total Recall remains one of my all time favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. There were many qualities about it that stood out when compared to your average Arnold pic. It was cerebral, convoluted and you had to watch it more than once in order to be clear on everything…at least, that’s how it was with me.

And yet surprisingly enough, I didn’t have a negative reaction when I heard that a remake was in the works. For one thing, pretty much every movie that has aged 20 years and beyond is getting remade, so it’s not as if I was exactly surprised. But when I heard the cast that was involved and, especially, when I saw the first teaser trailer, I quickly thought to myself this might not be such a TOTAL waste of time after all. (See what I did there, huh?)

As it turns out, the 2012 remake of Total Recall does have a lot going for it. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard) has established a futuristic vision that is truly eye-popping, to say the least. While Paul Verhoeven’s original film remains admired for all of the practical effects used in portraying its futuristic setting, the visual beauty established by Wiseman is nothing short of beautiful…and I’d go so far to say that the visual effects team deserves an Oscar nomination for their work.

The cast is also a big bonus. Though many may squint at the notion of a non-action type like Colin Farrell filling in the shoes of Ah-nuld to be something of a downgrade, I’ve always been a huge fan of his and was more than intrigued by him being cast in such a role. I’ve always found him to be heavily underrated, so to see him get a big role like this was more than acceptable for me.

And as far as eye candy goes, we males are given the double pleasure of seeing both Kate Beckinsale AND Jessica Biel in the same movie! Even as one is evil and one is on the good side, that still is one hard decision for any guy to make. Not to mention we have Bryan Cranston, one of the best actors in the biz, playing a baddie!

Lastly, we have a story that isn’t directly ripping off the original movie. Although certain elements have been kept around, the Mars setting has been done away with. In this version, Earth has been reduced to two inhabitable territories following another World War. They are The United Federation of Britain and The Colony, which is located where Australia once was.

Everyday, residents of The Colony board a gravity elevator known as “The Fall” to travel over to The UFB for work detail. One such resident is Douglas Quaid (Farrell), has become increasingly hapless with this daily routine, and is much thirsty for something more out of life. His wife, Lori (Beckinsale), tells him he should just accept the life he has.

But Quaid finds himself tempted by that of Rekall, a service that provides memory implants and experiences directly to the brain. Despite getting mixed signals from co-workers about the place, Quaid proceeds anyway and gives Rekall a shot. But just before he receives his memory implant, the place is invaded by a SWAT team, which Quaid physically takes down in a heartbeat.

Very much shocked by his newly discovered fighting abilities, Quaid races home to tell Lori everything that has just happened. The tables turn on Quaid, yet again, when Lori gives a loving embrace that becomes anything but. It is revealed that Lori was never his wife, but paid to keep an eye on him after apparently given a memory implant he knew nothing of.

With Quaid now on the run, Lori soon finds out his true identity by way of Cohagen (Cranston), the reigning occupier of The Colony. The truth behind Quaid is directly tied to the existence of a group of rebels attempting to free The Colony from the corrupt hands that govern it. A member of this rebel army, Melina (Biel), soon rescues Quaid during an intense chase, and he quickly recognizes her from a series of dreams he’s been having.

The main reason this remake succeeds is that, even in the midst of upping the ante on chases, shootouts and visual effects (every penny of the huge budget is clearly on the screen), the convoluted aspects from Philip K. Dick’s story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, remain in tact. While not superior to Verhoeven’s film, we are still given plenty to think about both during and after the movie, which for a remake of a 23 year old movie is more than impressive.

Len Wiseman has certainly come a long way as a director. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the Underworld movies, but Live Free or Die Hard certainly illustrated that he does have huge action chomps, which are put to better-than-ever use this time around. During the proceedings, we are treated to a fast pace hover-car chase, an intensely fun cat and mouse pursuit through an elevator maze, and an awe-inspiring segment involving anti-gravity.

Now that I think about, I do believe Total Recall is the only worthy remake that 2012 had to offer, and there were definitely many released within that year! Though Paul Verhoeven’s original remains the superior version, this remake is successful in the way it mixes endless thrills with a most cerebral storyline. And again, being able to gaze at both Ms. Becksinsale and Ms. Biel in the same movie didn’t hurt, either!

Video ****

A movie like this was truly made for the Blu-ray experience! Sony’s transfer of this visual slam dunk of a movie is nothing short of astonishing from beginning to end! The futuristic landscapes and remarkable visual effects will astound you continuously thanks to the fantastic presentation! Skin tones are flawlessly rendered, color work is at 100% and black levels impress thoroughly as well! It’s exactly the kind of movie you will want to show off to friends on an HD TV, because their jaws will no doubt drop as a result!

Audio ***1/2

A bit odd only because for this release, Sony has provided a Dolby TrueHD mix…which they haven’t incorporated on any of their BD releases for some time. But that’s not to say we don’t get an explosive sound presentation, as all of the action sequences and special effects do play off quite remarkably. And the balance between dialogue delivery, music playback and the rest of the proceedings is top notch. I just always seem to notice a significant difference with a DTS HD track, but that might just be me.

Features ****

Sony deserves a high round of applause for basically illustrating precisely the very lineup of extras that deserve to go on a BD release, especially that of a big budget movie like this! The extras are spread over two discs.

On Disc One, we are treated to two versions of the movie: the Theatrical Cut and an Extended Cut, which runs about ten minutes longer and includes an alternate ending. A commentary track with director Len Wiseman is included but only with the Extended Cut. Rounding out Disc One is the highlight of the extras, which is a Picture-in-Picture presentation titled “Total Recall: Insight Mode”, which is heavily detailed with endless behind the scenes footage, interviews, pre-visuals and concept art. Just when it felt like the PIP feature seemed to be a dying trend in BD extras, here comes one of the best such presentations I’ve ever seen!

One Disc Two, we get a bellyful of featurettes, including “Science Fiction Vs. Science Fact”, “Designing The Fall”, “Total Action” and “Stepping Into Recall”. There’s also a Gag Reel and a playable game demo of God of War: Ascension, which can be played on PS3.

Summary:

While I was hooked into this remake of Total Recall before seeing it, I was nonetheless surprised that I found it successful. It won’t change my mind as to which version of the movie is better, but it can very much be enjoyed for its own distinctive qualities. If anything, it does qualify as one of the more worthwhile remakes of recent memory!

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