Total Recall (2012)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched the 1990 version of Total Recall, and yet it was still obvious to me that the 2012 version was the same in plot but different in setting. The setting change was particularly jarring. It is bizarre to me that Mars does not enter into the 2012 movie at all – Australia stands in, which is not really an even trade.  No offense, Australia, but a destination (/colony) I can reach by airplane is not nearly as futuristic-feeling as a colony on another planet. Also, is the fahero_EB20120801REVIEWS120739999ARct they refer to Australia as “the Colony” in Total Recall a little too close to home?

As with all remakes, I waited for the 2012 Total Recall to justify its existence. And like a lot of remakes, it never did. The Total Recall remake is more serious and more down to earth than the original, and both of those are bad things. The original stands above, not just because it did everything first (including the three boobed prostitute) but because it did everything better (including giving a reason why there would be a three boobed prostitute).

The original is campy and dumb and fun. The remake is muted and sterile and dull. The difference between the two is exactly the difference between 80s Arnold (no last name needed) and Colin Farrell (no time period needed since to say he peaked would wrongly imply he was ever much good). No one with any sense would choose Farrell over 80s Arnold as an action hero, and likewise no one should watch 2012 Total Recall when 1990 Total Recall is either in your basement/garage or the basement/garage of a friend, gathering dust with hundreds of other DVDs.

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33 thoughts on “Total Recall (2012)

    1. Sean Post author

      You’ve got me there. Dumb was the wrong word because it does a good job of keeping us guessing about what is real and what is not, right up to the end.

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  1. J.

    Yeah, I genuinely thought this was dreadful. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but I figured it would have been at least a bit entertaining. Nope. How wrong I was.

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    1. Sean Post author

      We might not, honestly! Of Arnold’s 80s and 90s films, I might only have had the Terminators in my collection (only 1 and 2 of course, the rest about as good as 2012 Total Recall).

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  2. Johanne

    Hi, Sean –
    I agree with your analysis (excerpt that I agree with others that the Ahnold original is a classic and not dumb – but other than that, I certainly agree with all your statements about the 2012 and Colin Farrell never peaking! 🙂 We were just discussing this movie in a Sci-Fi discussion list that I’m on on “groups.io”. Would I have your permission to reproduce your piece there? I think others besides myself would enjoy it, and I will give your blog and you credit. 🙂

    Johanne T.

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    1. Sean Post author

      I concede the original is not dumb, I should have picked a better word. You definitely have my permission to reproduce this in your discussion. Thanks for asking!

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      1. jltournier1

        Thanks, Sean! And glad you on second thought agree about the quality of the Arnold original! I”m glad both are available on Netflix, so we can easily compare them! 🙂 Johanne

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    1. Sean Post author

      It may have been closer to the story, that’s a good point. Having never read it I can’t say for sure, but a skim of the internet suggests that Mars factors into the story, so I’m not sure why they removed it from the movie. Also, it seems neither film is super close to the story since there is some kind of alien invasion involved.

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      1. Tales from the Neon Beach

        I’ve not read it myself either. I just thought I heard something around the time of its release as everybody was saying you can’t remake total recall. I don’t think they wanted to associate the new film with the Arnie version. I need to go revisit it though because it did have some decent moments, it’s not a patch of the original though.

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  3. Christopher

    I can’t remember the exact quote but in the original when Arnold is being strapped into the machine, before they’ve started. a tech in the background says something like “Clouds on Mars. That’ll be a hoot!”
    It’s so subtle it’s easy to miss but does give away that the whole adventure is a dream, leaving open the question of whether he’s eternally trapped in a fantasy.
    Yeah, the original is dumb, campy fun with heavy philosophical undertones.

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    1. Sean Post author

      That’s right – I think the quote might be “Blue Sky on Mars” because that’s what I thought the original story was titled (when actually it’s called “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”). And you’re right, the original does leave open that everything was a dream, and I think the ending suggests it was. The 2012 one also tried at that suggestion but failed like it did with everything else.

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  4. Lloyd Marken

    As an Australian I take no offense, this movie wasn’t great. In Colin’s defence he does some great stuff when its indie. Every time he takes a bit out of blockbusters he has a spot of bad luck.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Jay reminded me that Farrell was good in the Lobster – I had forgotten he was in that, and had to agree it redeems him to have been involved in that madcap film.

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      1. Lloyd Marken

        He was coming off In Bruges in this and after Total Recall I was like, this guy just has to avoid blockbusters and I think he’s come to the same opinion.

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  5. dbmoviesblog

    I also agree. Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the films that defined the craziness/gore of the cinema entertainment of the early 1990s. It was so good because it was what it was – Arnold dominating, the unbelievable mutant, gore elements, and other the crazy moments, etc. If the 2012 film thought it was all down to the plot and the success can be replicated, they were so wrong.

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