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Total Recall

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language.

Reviewed by: Russell Emory

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Sci-Fi Action Adventure Thriller Remake
2 hr. 1 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 3, 2012 (wide—3,400+ theaters)
DVD: December 18, 2012
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures

false, implanted memories

lies / deceptions

truth / reality

MUTATIONS—Can genetic mutations produce positive changes in living creatures? Answer

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Featuring: Colin FarrellDoug Quaid/Hauser
Kate BeckinsaleLori
Bryan CranstonVilos Cohaagen
Jessica BielMelina
Bill NighyMatthias Lair
Ethan Hawke
John ChoMcClane
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Director: Len Wiseman—“Live Free or Die Hard,” “Underworld: Awakening,” “Underworld: Evolution,” “Underworld”
Producer: Total Recall
Original Film
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Distributor: Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

“Is it real. Is it recall.”

I have heard many people make the statement that Hollywood is running out of original ideas. If you were to look at the slate of upcoming movies and see the absurd number of book adaptations, sequels, and reboots, one would have to agree. This would bring us to Hollywood’s most recent reboot offering, “Total Recall.” But wait! Not only is “Total Recall” a reboot of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, but it is based on the Philip K. Dick short Story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” While Hollywood has been making films of PKD’s work for years (“Minority Report,” “Paycheck,” “Adjustment Bureau,” and “Blade Runner”) this is the first reboot of a PKD inspired work.

The world in “Total Recall” is divided into two nation states: The United Federation of Britain, and the Colony. The UFB encompasses the British Isles and most of Western Europe, while the Colony is the continent of Australia. Citizens of the UFB and the Colony travel to each location via a super-massive gravity elevator called “The Fall.” “The Fall” travels through the center and core of the Earth in a span of about twenty minutes.

Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker from the Colony. Every day he travels via “The Fall” to work in the UFB, building peacekeeper robots. Doug is becoming very bored with his life and is having violent nightmares featuring a mysterious woman (Jessica Biel) who is not his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Trying to escape his boredom, Doug frequents an establishment that specializes in implanting false memories into people’s brains called Rekall. Doug wants to have memories of being a spy. While there, some of Doug’s memories are accessed, and the proprietor McClane (John Cho) accuses Doug of being a real spy. The establishment is raided, and Doug begins to act instinctively and takes out the armed soldiers. Doug returns home to find that his wife is not his wife, and his life is not his life.

Morally speaking, this movie leaves the viewer wondering if the MPAA has relaxed its rules regarding PG-13 ratings. There is a two to five second glimpse of a topless three breasted woman. The s-word is spoken almost 40 times in the feature, as well as the Lord’s name used as an explicative almost 12 times (G-D and J-C). The f-word is uttered once, and a combination of a-hole and SOB almost 10 times. The combination of brief nudity, language, and non-stop action violence makes one wonder if R would have been more of an appropriate rating.

The movie postures itself a bit when there is a lull between the action and chase scenes characters are breaking into philosophical soliloquies about identity and perception. There is no mention in the film of God or gods, so it lends itself to humanist philosophies more so in the realm of secular Humanism, rather than the religious branch. Many conversations in the movie hearken back to the 1999 film “The Matrix,” although not as thought provoking or well acted.

If you insist on seeing this movie, I do warn that the scene where Doug goes to ReKall in the “red light district” of the Colony and is propositioned by the three breasted woman is quick, but it is still there. Also, I do warn that the profanity is excessive. The chase and fight scenes are intense and very well executed and choreographed. Although, the actors seem to be posing after every fight or stunt sequence, which this reviewer found almost cheesy.

While the stunt work and special effects are top notch, it does not make up for lack of story and character development. Doug is a fairly well developed character, but his relationship with Melina (Jessica Biel) is hollow. There is no chemistry between them, and it is a real question as to whether it is Farrell and Biel’s fault or the writers. Overall, there is just a subpar performance by all actors involved.

I am hesitant to recommend this movie, due many factors, but taking out the amoral material, it’s just not that good of a movie. The actors are hollow, there is little character development, and there is no connection between the actors on screen. All the special effects and action sequences in the world can’t make up for what this movie lacks. If you absolutely have to see this movie, wait till it comes on basic cable, at least that way the nudity and a good majority of the profanity will be edited out.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I really enjoyed this as a fun sci-fi action movie. The effects were really cool, and Colin Farrell was likable. The one brief scene of female nudity was completely unnecessary and dumb. Aside from that, my only complaint would be the fact that Bill Nighy’s character was killed off so quickly. He looked like a cool dude, but they only gave him one scene!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Kadie Jo, age 20 (USA)
Positive—I just wanted to say that I watched the first “Total Recall” with Arnold and that movie was filled with more lust driven scenes and profanity than this movie. Yes, there are those scenes that are unnecessary, and I turned my head, also, when they came up. But truthfully, this version of “Total Recall” has less cursing and profanity than the first version. This movie, first of all, is not based in anyway, shape or form on a Christian worldview, and the book it’s based on would not either. So coming from that perspective, it is not bad for a movie based in a worldview system. But I do have to say that there’s no real reason for the continued use of the S-word or other words, just Hollywood trying to make it seem more intense then it really is.

The violence, though, would be natural, since it’s a spy thriller and people tend to actually die when they work for the CIA or Homeland Security or even NCIS (which is a organization of the Navy). My view on this is turn your head when you know that the scenes that should be avoided are coming, but also know that this is not based at all on a Christian perspective or worldview (the author of the book is obviously not a Christian).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Joseph, age 41 (USA)
Positive—This movie kept me at the edge of my seat. I was intrigued by the turn of events after the Rekall scene and onwards. Who would’ve thought… ? I was wowed by Kate Beckinsale’s role and think she played it well, even though her persistence annoyed me somewhat, lol (trying not to give too much away). The action was necessary for the genre, well played out and without offensive gory violence.

My concerns from a Christian’s perspective would be the bad language, which Hollywood seems to have as the norm now and which seems to be actively promoted in today’s world. I also agree that the nude scene of the three breasted lady, like most nude scenes in today’s movies, was completely unnecessary. All-in-all, I would recommend “Total Recall” for anyone who enjoys the thrill of action.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Emmanuel, age 29 (Cameroon)
Neutral—I saw this movie after reading the main review (good to know when to look away). I agree that the cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain were excessive and unnecessary. The movie was a fairly standard sci-fi/fantasy B movie. It was entertaining, and the story somewhat interesting with a few twists along the way—a lot of action and certainly not boring. I think that this movie can be enjoyed if you don’t focus on the cursing (lighter than some movies, but still unneeded) and don’t over think it. This was an okay movie for a slow movie weekend, not great, but not terrible either.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
John, age 38 (USA)
Neutral—Saw this with my husband yesterday. While it kept us entertained and was a fairly interesting story and better than the original {in my opinion; my husband hasn’t seen the original yet}, it wasn’t really special. The language was overused, and the three breasted woman was just, well, not needed. The action scenes were cool, but the flashing lights hurt my eyes. I liked how the characters interacted and such. The twits held my attention like a movie in this genre hasn’t in awhile. By the way, it wasn’t all that original, but I wasn’t expecting it to be, because when Hollywood isn’t producing anything original, why expect it to?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Elaine Dalton, age 19 (USA)
Negative—Two plus hours of prolonged chase scenes through CGI landscapes filled with continuous shooting exchanges with his wife and an endless supply of clone droids. Sort of like watching someone else play a video game for hours. A lot of action, but boring. The constant drizzle in New Shanghai and flying cars reminded me of “Blade Runner.” “Blade Runner” + “Attack of the Clones” effects. Only a thin remnant of the basic plot—a man goes to a company called Rekall to get a chemically induced spy-themed memory/trip, that goes bad. Is it live or is it Rekall memory?

If I hadn’t seen the original movie, I would think there was very little plot and wonder why he is approached by a three-breasted prostitute. The original had human mutants on Mars persecuted by a megalomaniac, but this version has only workers at a colony. So kind of just thrown in. Not an imaginative remake, basically hours of computer generated chases and shooting. Several gd, s, f, and Jesus’s name misused.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Tori, age 40+ (USA)
Negative—I agree with Mr. Emory’s reviewbut he was too generous with this movie. There are much better and more fun ways to waste your money than supporting Hollyweird’s stuff like this. Usually with movies that are marginal, I recommend you wait “til the DVD. I don’t even feel that this film warrants that much of your resources. I guess if you want a glimpse of a three breasted woman, you’ll not be disappointed, but this brief scene was completely unnecessary and should have been cut. Compared to more pleasing natural anatomy, I found this disgusting. This movie would have been stupendous had amateurs been filming, but I’m sick and tired of the pros putting this sort of thing on the (expensive) screen. Who can blame if we continue to support them, though. They couldn’t even come up with an original title. Skip this one unless you feel that you just have to see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1½
Bob, age 48 (USA)
Negative—I found this movie a real let down compared to most films I’ve seen in the past. I was expecting a innocent sci-fi like “Terminator Salvation,” but what I got was unnecessary filth and several uses of the Lord’s name in vain. If you want to honor the Lord and to not be a hypocrite, do not watch this movie. Instead, save your money and stay at home, either reading the Bible or watching a wholesome movie with your family.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
Alan, age 20 (Ireland)

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