Mini Review

Total Recall (2012)

Last Watch Date - August 14, 2023
Total Times Watched - Once


There's a difficulty here for me in separating out this Total Recall from the version released in 1990. Not only because of the source inspiration or that it has a bunch of callbacks to that version, but also because Total Recall '90 was a movie I watched SO MANY TIMES as a kid and continue to enjoy to this day. It's schlocky and cheesy and oh so good. Know that I tried my hardest to see this as its own thing. I failed, but I did try! Warning: this is going to get spoiler-y

Let's start with some of the positives of this movie. The acting is good! It doesn't feel like a goofy sci-fi action movie from the 80s or 90s (this may be a negative depending on who you are). The set design is pretty nice, mixing somewhat tropey "cyberpunk distopia" with some sleek futurism. The casting felt pretty good as well. I was a big fan of Harry. I don't think you can cast that role any better. 

For plot points, it kinda-sorta mirrors '90, though the plot itself is different at its core. Gone is Mars, but we still get the central group of characters doing more or less the same thing. This is really what makes the movie inextricably linked to '90 for me. As much as I tried to think "this is its own thing," they really wanted me to be reminded of '90 as often as possible. Quaid dreams of Melina. He wakes up to Lori, who wants him to forget that stuff and steer clear of Rekall. His buddy Harry agrees it's a bad idea. He does it anyway. Oh no! He's really a secret agent! Now he's on the warpath and trying to figure out who he really is. He meets up with Melina in real life. They start the "who is he" path. Kuato lives! Wait, sorry, I mean Matthias. Until he doesn't. There's no reactor to start, but a way to defeat Cohaagen all the same. But really, he's a double agent and he doesn't even know it! gasp .. Yeah, this is the same plot in different dressing.

To mention a couple of the callbacks, you see a three-breasted woman and a lookalike of the "two weeks" lady. The three-breasted woman makes NO sense here, where at least on Mars there were a bunch of mutants. I don't understand why they included it here at all. The two weeks lady was both a callback and a red herring as he was someone else in this scene. 

The weirdest thing to me in this version is the focus on only two inhabitable areas in the whole world. And those places being in the UK and Australia of all places. These people are able to drill a tunnel through the earth between those two places but can't figure out how to clean up any of the surface? Not to mention the literal army of robots that don't require clean air that can do much of this work for you. It requires too much of a leap to go along with and because of that, it's ultimately unsatisfying to watch. 

But let me also complain about Lori. She's almost a robot on her own in this movie. Sharon Stone played that role as well as you could. She was sweet, menacing, sexy, and deadly all wrapped into one. But she was also human and she paid for overstepping with her life in a reasonable area of the movie. In THIS movie, Lori escapes from more sticky situations than -- you know I could go with some gross stuff here so let's just forget that. The point is that Lori is more unbelievable than anything else in this movie. Not only should she have died 100 times, but why would she care so much about this guy? It makes no sense. 

So here I am, looking back on this movie and scratching my head. What am I supposed to think about this? Are there people who genuinely love this movie the way I love '90? I find it hard to believe.


If you want to see a cool action sci-fi movie named Total Recall, do yourself a favor and watch the one from 1990. The violence is way better, the action is better, there is humor in it, and it has a stomach mutant. I mean, come on.

4 Robots out of 10