Total Recall

Originally adapted by director Paul Verhoeven in 1990, author Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi short story We Can Remember It … Read More


This weekend marks the release of “Total Recall.” No, they’re not re-releasing the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic from 1990. Instead, Colin Farrell is starring in a reboot remake re-imagining of the original.

Die-hard fans have already been skeptical of the new version, and whether it could match the creativity displayed in the Paul Verhoeven-directed flick. Unfortunately, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Colin and crew to prove them wrong.

So just how unique is the new “Total Recall”? I watched both versions mere hours apart and broke down the similarities and differences between them. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

What do Both Version of “Total Recall” Have in Common?

  • Both movies take place in the year 2084, and society is still separated into two groups: grungy working class and a totalitarian upper class.
  • There is still a rebellion — led by a mysterious figure — that is trying to bring equality to the working class, and they are still misrepresented as a terrorist organization by society’s corporate overlords.
  • Doug Quaid is still dissatisfied with his factory-job life, and he’s still plagued by a recurring dream involving a beautiful woman. Once again, he sneaks away to Rekall, in hopes of getting artificial memories of a more exciting life. And once again it turns out that his fantasy of being a secret agent is actually a deeply repressed reality.
  • Quaid’s wife Lori is still an agent assigned to keep tabs on him (and she still tries to kill her fake husband).
  • Quaid goes on a wild goose chase identical to the original, where he receives cryptic phone calls from mysterious allies, removes a tracking bug hidden in his body, locates safety deposit boxes in his name and gets video clues from a past version of himself.
  • Quaid continues to rely on instinctual gun skills, fake passports, artificial faces and the dream woman to help him avoid death at every corner.
  • Quaid is still the same unwitting double agent in a massive corporate conspiracy designed to exterminate the downtrodden.
  • Once again, there is a woman with three breasts.

What Is Unique About the 2012 Version?

  • Mars doesn’t come into play at all. Instead, Earth’s air supply has gotten so toxic that there are only two remaining inhabitable places: the United Federation of Britain and the Colony. The Colony is basically treated like Mars though; they’re on the verge of being wiped out by the Federation, who are desperate to steal the Colony’s real estate.
  • There are no mutants. Everyone is just boring, ordinary-looking humans… well, ordinary in the sense that when Quaid and Lori wake up in the morning, they are the chiseled, perfectly-styled Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale.
  • Since there are no mutants, that means there is no Kuato. Instead, the leader of the Resistance is some guy named Matthias, who’s just a regular human without psychic powers.
  • Remember Quaid’s friend Harry, the fat, bald, blue-collar guy who tells him not to go to Rekall? That part is played by the handsome, buff Bokeem Woodbine. Remember Dr. Edgemar, the fat, wormy spokesman for Rekall who messes with Quaid’s mind by telling him that its all a dream? That part is also played by the handsome, buff Bokeem Woodbine.
  • Remember Michael Ironside’s character of Richter, the right-hand man to Cohaagen, who has a personal axe to grind with Quaid and would rather kill him than capture him? That part is gone. Instead, Kate Beckinsale basically acts like Michael Ironside — instead of Sharon Stone — as she just keeps trying to kill Quaid.
  • The fake face that Quaid uses is a gruff Asian man and not an obese woman with an unnerving smile.
  • Quaid doesn’t use a hologram duplicate to trick people who are shooting at him.
  • The cars can fly.
  • There is no character of Benny, the wise-cracking, two-timing taxi driver.
  • There are no make-up or animatronic effects; instead there is a lot of CGI.
  • Replace all the fistfights with flying car pursuits and elevator shaft chases.
  • All the evil henchmen are robots. None of them wear big glasses.
  • The United Federation looks like something out of “Minority Report.” The Colony looks like something out of “Blade Runner.” (The electronic score also sounds like something out of “Blade Runner.”)
  • There is actually a pretty clever gag, involving Obama.
  • The tracking bug is in Quaid’s hand, not his head, so we don’t get to see Colin Farrell grimace as he pulls a weird, futuristic gadget out of his nose.
  • There is a lot more jumping.
  • They don’t use the phrase “total recall” at all during the film.
  • There are no JohhnyCabs. (Come on!)
  • Unlike the original, you know what’s going to happen in each scene.

What Was Unique About the 1990 Version?

  • There’s a lot more satire and dark humor regarding the future of American culture and consumerism.
  • It’s a lot bloodier.
  • Melina, the dream woman, doesn’t know about Quaid’s memory wiping, so she can’t just state exposition when they finally meet each other.
  • The three-breasted woman has a much larger part.
  • Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

    “Total Recall” is well-crafted, high energy sci-fi. Like all stories inspired by Philip K. Dick, it deals with intriguing ideas. It never touched me emotionally, though, the way the 1990 film did, <a href=”″ target=”_hplink”>and strictly speaking, isn’t necessary</a>.

  • Scott Tobias (AV Club)

    Its only evident passion is <a href=”,83268/” target=”_hplink”>for excessive lens flares</a>.

  • Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

    The talented and fiercely physical Biel’s musculature is more <a href=”,0,3689551.column” target=”_hplink”>expressive than most of the dialogue</a>.

  • A.A. Dowd (Time Out Chicago)

    More exciting than Verhoeven fans might expect, Wiseman’s Total reboot <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>won’t betray your fond memories of its iconic predecessor</a>.

  • Alison Willmore (Movieline)

    Yes, there is <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>a triple-breasted hooker in Len Wiseman’s Total Recall remake</a>.

  • John Semley (Slant Magazine)

    Len Wiseman’s Total Recall’s a trifling mess, <a href=”″ target=”_hplink”>as superfluous as a third breast</a>.

  • Bill Goodykoontz (Arizona Republic)

    It’s big and it’s loud, <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>but ultimately not much more than that</a>.

  • Drew McWeeny (HitFix)

    This movie is a reaction to the original as much as it’s a remake, and because of that, <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>I think it manages to carve out its own identity</a>.

  • Justin Chang (Variety)

    Crazy new gadgets, vigorous action sequences and a thorough production-design makeover <a href=”″ target=”_hplink”>aren’t enough to keep Total Recall from feeling like a near-total redundancy</a>.

  • Jordan Hoffman (

    Like a novelty cover band, Wiseman’s “Total Recall” [goes] through a checklist of <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>”things you have to do if you do a ‘Total Recall.'”</a>

  • Edward Douglas (

    What the film lacks in originality, <a href=”″ target=”_hplink”>it makes up for with some of the grittiest slam-bang action scenes you’re likely to see this summer</a>.

  • John Hartl (Seattle Times)

    Wisemen’s film is a soulless mess, reminiscent of the unwatchable “Matrix” sequels, <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>while Verhoeven’s movie remains a dazzling carnival</a>.

  • Roger Moore (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

    Despite all the effects, the action and the showcase performance created for his wife, Kate Beckinsale, <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>director Len Wiseman never lets us forget that he’s no Paul Verhoeven</a>.