In defense of the 2012 Total Recall reboot

As far as reboots go, 2012’s Total Recall is criminally under-appreciated and should be revered as an exceptional adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s work.

Reboots get a bad rap for a lot of stupid reasons. It’s true not every attempt at reviving a classic comes to fruition as one would hope, but there are some that get the cold shoulder for merely being the new guy. It’s the cool thing to do to stand by the original, making people feel rebellious by sticking to their guns and standing side by side with the past. 2012’s Total Recall is without a shadow of a doubt a victim of this unfair treatment.

Nobody wants to see the accomplishments of something that they fell in love with when it was in its prime get eclipsed by some shiny new copycat. The Oscar-nominated original is looked upon as a classic for being way ahead of its time and showcasing some groundbreaking effects work. It also features memorable performances from Michael Ironside, Sharon Stone and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The 1990 film is terrific, but the 2012 retelling is bigger and better in a variety of inarguable ways. Not only does the reboot do enough to distance itself from the ’90s classic, but it also proves several times over that it is a visually stunning action-packed thrill ride with fantastic performances that should be appreciated as an outstanding addition to the sci-fi genre.

While the original takes place on Mars, the reimagining takes place entirely on Earth. The world is split in two, the Colony, where the lower class dwells in overcrowded slums, and the United Federation of Britain (or UFB) where the elite and privileged reside. The rest of the plot is much like the original in the same way every Batman movie keeps essential plot elements for fans to recognize.

The incredible, brilliantly realized world-building is very reminiscent of other adaptations from the renowned sci-fi author. The area where the Rekall facility is located looks a lot like Blade Runner and other elements, like the car chase scene, resemble the beautiful aesthetics of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. There’s no arguing the Total Recall reboot is much nicer on the eyes compared to the original.

What really helps sell the breathtaking production design is the genuinely excellent visual effects work. From the buildings to the cars to the technology, everything is a sleek update on what was introduced in the first Total Recall. The weaponry and robot designs are some of the best in the entire genre, and it’s a shame all of that gets overlooked simply because another version came out first.

The visuals aren’t the only thing about the upgrade that makes Total Recall 2.0 a superb science fiction endeavor. While the action was impressive for the 90s, it pales in comparison to what the reboot offers. The fight and chase sequences are exhilarating, and the stunt work is first-class.

The narrative is much more fast-paced than the ’90s adaptation, which, if embraced without unnecessary bias, is a solid improvement as well as more on par with what modern audiences expect. The suspense is also significantly kicked up a notch resulting in a high octane, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride that keeps viewers on the edge of their seat until the credits roll.

One bold change is Kate Beckinsale’s Lori has a much more significant role in the reboot. In the original Ironside’s character Richter chases after the protagonist, but this time it’s Beckinsale’s Lori who leads the hunt for Quaid and the resistance. Beckinsale’s scene-stealing turn brings much more to the part and adds prominent value to the film overall. Stone’s lack of screen time seemed like a missed opportunity in the ’90s version, a mistake director Len Wiseman’s take does not make this time around.

Colin Farrell’s performance also deserves substantial praise. He is, in terms of range, a much better actor than Schwarzenegger. He has just enough action chops to pull off Douglas Quaid as more of a James Bond, Jason Bourne-esque character than coming off as another one-and-done Harry Tasker, John Matrix or Dutch.

There are several James Bond films and multiple iterations of Batman on the big screen. Why can’t audiences embrace Douglas Quaid the way? The science-fiction spy has a sharply written backstory, and given the advancement in technology allows for a next-level spy franchise, the likes of which the world has never seen. The rebooted installment proves the potential this could have had if the public didn’t fell the need to be cool for school when it came to another Total Recall movie.

The Len Wiseman directed reboot isn’t without its flaws but should not be looked upon as a complete failure. Most of this disdain comes from a poorly handheld release strategy and nothing more. Total Recall 2.0 definitely deserves a second chance, and if doing so, choose the Extended Director’s Cut over the less than stellar theatrical version.

It may not change your reality but will leave you with a better memory of the film than you had before.