The first question, of course, is: Why? Why take a film that has barely aged a day since its release in 1990 and subject it to the CGI remake treatment? The second, equally pressing, question is: Who? What director worth his stripes would even attempt such a folly, and who could he persuade to be in it?
To be fair, ‘Total Recall’ isn’t the unmitigated disaster many had predicted. Its future world is nicely detailed, if deeply derivative (rain, neon, Chinese people on bikes), the action sequences occasionally spark, and the central conceit of an economically and socially divided Earth linked by a lift passing through the planet’s core is interesting enough to almost – almost – begin to justify the project.
But the positives end there. As Doug Quaid, the seemingly ordinary Joe who finds out he’s really a double-agent super spy, Colin Farrell manages to be even less convincing than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The women in his life, especially Kate Beckinsale in the badass Sharon Stone role, are beyond dull, while poor Bill Nighy is relegated to a few portentous lines before being unceremoniously knocked off.
But the real culprit here is director Len Wiseman. There’s no denying his eye for a surprising angle and an unusual location – there’s a chase sequence set in and around a series of thundering cuboid elevators that could have been truly special. But the editing is so confusing and the action so logic- and consequence-free that it swiftly becomes almost unwatchable. The big showcase finale, as Bryan Cranston leads his robot troops into battle, is crushingly tedious: lights flash, explosions blare, everyone yells and it’s nigh-on impossible to tell what’s going on. ‘Total Recall’ is Hollywood at its worst: pointless, witless, and so very unnecessary.