Follow TV Tropes


Film / Total Recall (2012)

Go To

A remake of Total Recall (1990), loosely based on Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, and John Cho.

Douglas "Doug" Quaid (Farrell) is a factory worker suffering from violent nightmares who is deeply unsatisfied with his current life. As a solution, he visits a corporation called Rekall, which can implant artificial memories of a life he never lived. The procedure triggers what he believes are latent skills and memories from a life that was erased, leaving him unsure who he is and what side of the conflict he's really on.

The film has less gore and gruesome imagery than the original, but also takes itself more seriously.


Total Recall provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Unlike the original movie, this Hauser truly did turn against Cohaagen.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: In the original Total Recall, there was a perfectly legitimate explanation why Hauser had to have his memory erased and take on the Quaid persona, because Quato, the leader of the resistance was a mutant who could read minds, and could easily detect an undercover spy therefore. But in the remake, the leader is just some standard normal guy without any mind reading ability, thus eliminating the need to erase his memory, and making the whole premise of the film rather faulty.
  • Adapted Out: Benny the taxi cab driver is eliminated from this adaptation.
  • Advertised Extra: The three-breasted prostitute is back, and in one of the trailers, with some Adaptational Attractiveness thrown in.
  • Advertisement:
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: A variant with flying cars and massive skyscrapers.
  • After the End: Following a series of wars, the only parts of the world not rendered a biohazard wasteland are the United Federation of Britain (a chunk of Europe controlled by Britain) and the Colony (Australia).
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Doug is a factory worker ground down by life. His previous personality? Not so much.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • "The Fall", a massive elevator that runs through the earth between Europe and Australia, is capable of making said run in just over fifteen minutes (which means a minimum average speed of ~32,000 miles per hour). However, the heroes have no problem breathing, moving, climbing outside the train and fighting on top of it. Even more implausible is the idea that it has been built through the center of the Earth, most of which is liquid/semi-liquid magma and thousands of degrees Celsius. How does one build something that can withstand that kind of temperature and resist being crushed by the entire mass of the Earth? Almost as if to make this even worse, the movie explicitly states in the opening that "The Fall" is the only means possible to travel between Europe and Australia. Somehow it's possible to achieve an engineering miracle like building an elevator through the center of the Earth, but it's become impossible to fly or sail across the Earth (despite the movie showing that traveling and living through these dead zones is still possible).
    • The Earth has been stated to be mostly uninhabitable due to global chemical warfare. If this were true, then air currents would have inevitably carried these gasses across the habitable zones at some point. Not to mention, chemical weapons degrade at incredibly quick rates, and the idea of these zones being uninhabitable for so long is ludicrous.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Mathias' base is apparently located in the "dead-zone" of London, an uninhabitable area made deadly toxic during the wars that no one visits and is only accessible via disused tube tunnels. The problem is that the presence of the Telecom Tower reveals this location to be only about 1.5 miles max from Big Ben, which is seen to still stand (albeit over-shadowed by massive floating skyscrapers) in the habitable zone.
    • No part of England or Australia are antipodes of each other.note  This means a tunnel straight through the Earth from either origin would come out the other side into the ocean floor. But if one wants to suppose the Fall isn't a perfectly straight tunnel, then the only Hand Wave given as to how the whole thing works is shot.
  • Asian and Nerdy: The Rekall boss and head technician are Asian. Justified as the place is actually in a Chinese ghetto, complete with signs in Mandarin.
  • A-Team Firing: Semi-averted by the Synth soldiers. With the exception of Cohaagen's custom bodyguard, none of the synthetic soldiers seem to have much in the way of targeting programs and they always miss the heroes. They do shoot at least a half dozen innocent people on accident though.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: This version of Cohaagen is an ex-military General Ripper turned politician, who's not afraid to lead from the front and can actually hold his own rather well in a fight.
  • Battle Couple: When Lori turns against Quaid.
  • Betty and Veronica: Lori's the Veronica to Melina's Betty.
  • Big Bad: Chancellor Cohaagen.
  • Bizarrchitecture: All the major cities on Earth appear to have been relocated to the two habitable zones left and stacked on top of each other.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, for the most part, but played straight with Lori's six-shot revolver.
  • The Brute: Cohaagen's black-painted custom Synth bodyguard, who's seen capturing Doug in the opening flashback and the one he fights brutally during the final fight.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: In Doug's first fight with the Federal Police, he grabs one of the troopers and holds him as a shield while he shoots the rest of the squad. Justified in that the troopers are wearing body armor. Lori utilizes a variation of this trope with her synth detail by hiding behind the very resilient Ridiculously Human Robots during firefights.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Lori picks up the disguise device.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Expanding his role from the original film, Hammond (Hauser's old friend who contacts him after his recall) not only tells Quaid where to go get some Hidden Supplies as in the original (where he does so and then disappears), but infiltrates the soldiers that stay behind in the Resistance stronghold to restore Hauser's memories and saves Quaid (and gets shot for it).
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • A fairly neat example in the final fight, Hauser's elite hand-to-hand combat moves prove utterly useless against Cohaagen's Synth bodyguard. However, Quaid's training as a factory worker allows him to disassemble the Synth's power supply and shut it down.
    • His ability to stay calm and act methodically during a gravity switch due to frequent Fall trips also comes in handy.
  • The Chessmaster: Cohaagen. He performs terrorism and blames the Resistance for it, and manages to amass and send an invasion army to the Colony as well as annihilate said Resistance with Quaid acting as an unwilling mole. The whole thing would have gone well except Quaid sneaked into the Fall elevator in a Roaring Rampage of Rescue.
  • Composite Character: This version of Lori is a mix between Sharon Stone's Lori (ruthless secret agent posing as caring wife), and Michael Ironside's Richter (Ax-Crazy way above and beyond the requirements of the job).
  • Contrived Coincidence: London is a huge metropolis as it is today. What has become of it in the movie is orders of magnitude larger, yet of all the places Doug and Melina could've dropped off the suspension freeway during the car chase, they happen to do so close enough to Hauser's apartment that he can carry her there no problem.
    • Possibly justified, as a significant portion of London appears to be uninhabitable, and what is habitable is very tightly-packed.
  • Cool Guns:
    • The police all carry TDI Vectors, compact .45ACP submachineguns whose engineering mostly eliminates muzzle rise.
    • And the Chiappa Rhino (think the successor to the Mateba Autorevolver) is heavily used by the police and Lori.
  • Crapsack World: The colony, especially in contrast to the United Federation of Britain. However, at least it's livable, unlike the other parts of the world which can no longer be safely inhabited.
  • Cyberpunk: Takes place in a Crapsack World in a grimy underbelly of society and the heroes go against a government conspiracy? Yes.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: Dubstep specifically, with a song by producer duo Foreign Beggars playing over a scene Doug walking through the town square.
  • Darker and Edgier: The more fantastical elements from the original are nonexistent, it's After the End with only two places on Earth where people can live, yet still maintains a large degree of Bloodless Carnage.
  • Dark Action Girl: Doug's "wife", Lori, much to his surprise.
  • Deadly Hug: Lori to Quaid, after he tells her he's been to Rekall.
  • Death by Adaptation: McClane, the rest of the Rekall staff and Hammond.
  • Designated Girl Fight: When the villains catch up to the heroes in a confined space, an elevator, they split off into pairs. One is Quaid verus a Robot the other is his love interest and former wife.
  • Digging to China: The Fall, a giant gravity train running through the Earth.
  • The Dragon: Lori more or less fills the role, due to being the most seen UFB agent.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Lori doesn't participate at all in the final fight, and ends up outliving Cohaagen by a couple of scenes. Then she decides to make one final attempt at killing Quaid and gets killed for her trouble.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Two or more depending on how you count.
    • There's a fight sequence halfway through the film that takes place in and around a 3D "turbolift" system.
    • The climax takes place on the seventy-story through-Earth "Fall" elevator, and features a zero-gravity gunfight.
  • Evil Brit: Lori. The UFB in general seems to be playing this trope, with many other UFB personnel being British and their capital being London.
  • Evil Old Folks: Cohaagen puts up a surprisingly good fight against Quaid.
  • False Flag Operation: Cohaagen engineers a series of bombings that he blames on the Resistance, in order to justify building more and more Synthetics, until he has enough to mount a full-scale invasion of the Colony.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Doug reads an Ian Fleming novel on the Fall. He later opts for the secret agent package at Rekall.
    • Everything the Rekall boss says about the Rekall "secret agent experience".
  • Futuristic Superhighway: The United Federation of Britain depicts London with an additional metropolis built on stilts above it, with a multi-layered system of roads threaded around. Ascending and descending between tiers seems to be via special elevators, and the cars can either float slightly above the surface of the roadways or hover suspended from the underside, doubling the capacity. This is in addition to the normal roads below and FutureCopters around.
  • Gambit Roulette: A lot of Cohaagen and Hauser's master plan comes across as overly complicated and dependent on luck, although a large part of this is due to the gambit being triggered prematurely by Quaid's visit to Rekall.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lori's taunt to Melina about her sexual past with Quaid is the impetus for their subsequent fight.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: Lori impersonates Melina in the last scene, only for Doug to notice that she's missing the bullet wound scar on her hand.
  • Keystone Army: Cohaagen's Synth army apparently has a global shutdown code which is the big secret stored in Quaid's head that the Resistance needs. However, it turns out there is no global shutdown code; it was all a ruse by Cohaagen and Hauser to entrap the leader of the Resistance.
  • Leave Him to Me: In the finale, Cohaagen decides to confront Quaid himself.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Synthetics. The movie is somewhat original in that they're used more as bulletproof Elite Mooks rather than guilt-free disposable cannon fodder.
  • Mind Screw: Averted. Imagine if the last scene had been Quaid waking up in Rekall with them asking, "So, how was it?"
  • Neck Lift: One of the Synthetics reaches a bit higher and picks up Quaid by the head.
  • The Mole: Quaid/Hauser, though it's not that simple. While Hauser, the original, is the one who engineered the "mindwipe" plan in the first place and was thus a double agent, Quaid joins the resistance both out of agreeing with their cause, and because they aren't the ones shooting at him.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • A number of them; the three-breasted hooker, "I don't know, I just work here", the "two weeks" woman, the severed arm scene.
    • Like the original film, they cast an actor who had previously been best known for playing hapless Sitcom Dads to be the ruthless Big Bad, and both played horrible people shortly before this movie was made.
    • Doug mentioning that he'd like to go to Mars.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Sadly, this adaptation is missing most of the ambiguity on whether the events actually happened, except for Hauser/Quaid noticing the mark tattoed on his skin between his arm and forearm during his visit to Rekall was missing and a single glance at a billboard for Rekall right before the end.
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: The resistance all wear gas masks when outside their sealed base in the "dead-zone" of London, an uninhabitable wasteland made toxic from the use of chemical and biological weapons.
  • Race Lift: The three-breasted woman.
    • McClane was white in the original, but is Asian here.
  • Rare Guns: The KRISS Vector submachine gun is the standard weapon wielded by all synthetic forces and many of Cohaagen's human soldiers. Lori also makes use of it on occasion. It's likely the gun was chosen because it looks futuristic enough to fit in well with the setting. Its kick-ass report certainly didn't hurt as well.
  • The Remake: Of Total Recall (1990).
  • La Résistance: So cleverly called "the Resistance".
  • President Evil: Chancellor Cohaagen.
  • Recoil Boost: How else would you move around in zero gravity?
  • Red Light District: Here, it is quite diverse — there's an android, the three-breasted woman, aliens, and even humans!
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The synth troopers not only look and move disturbingly human-like (what probably comes down to motion capture for their animations), they even frequently act like humans in ways and situations where they really shouldn't. They stop in the middle of firefights to look annoyed when they got hit, going as far as giving the offender a slow, menacing Death Glare before resuming their attacks. Their marksman skills also leave a lot to be desired for machines whose main purpose is to shoot guns. Finally, the synth that discovers Quaid's bomb in the Fall really gives off an Oh, Crap! impression before his unscheduled disassembly, which is quite a feat for a robot whose "face" is nothing more than a flat helmet-like visor displaying its combat status.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Schizo Tech: They can drill a huge tunnel through the center of the earth, but somehow they can't get a couple thousand troops to Australia the old-fashioned way.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Quaid eventually sides with the Resistance partly after seeing how bad they have it, and also because the UFB police and soldiers are constantly shooting at him.
  • Shout-Out: Blade Runner (the design of the cities), I, Robot (the Hauser hologram telling Quaid to "please rephrase the question, my responses are limited"), Ghost in the Shell (the successor to the Mateba revolver used by Togusa).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The three-breasted hooker.
    • That's actually up for debate, given that she's right next to Quaid when Cohaagen's troops storm Mathias' hideout and shoot everyone in sight. Once the dust settles, all that's left standing is Quaid, Melina and Mathias, and it's not exactly likely that Cohaagen's goons missed or overlooked our favourite hooker at that point.
  • Spent Shells Shower: The zero-g scenes have shells drifting around slowly as the character fire. Given the Vector's insane rate of fire, it's not surprising that many other scenes involving them also include lots of brass flying about; the police assault on Rekall is a good example.
  • Spotting the Thread: Quaid realizes Melina isn't herself at the end because she doesn't have the bullet scar on her hand.
  • Stun Guns: Guns that shoot glowing rope that wraps around/incapacitates the target and drags them back towards the guns holder.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Lampshaded by Lori when she reveals her true nature to Quaid, asking if he really thought a girl like her would ever really be married to a guy like him (although Colin Farrell is hardly ugly, and it's more along the lines of Quaid's status as a low-level factory worker coupled with living in a dump of an apartment).
  • Used Future
  • Villain Respect: Cohaagen has a deep respect for Quaid and is extremely reluctant to kill him.
  • Waif-Fu: Averted with Lori. Despite her She-Fu skills, she still gets roughed up and bruised in her fights with Quaid.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Cohaagen's motive for exterminating the population of The Colony is the crippling overpopulation issues facing the United Federation of Britain.
  • Wham Line: "Your name is Carl Hauser."
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
    • Averted. Cohaagen personally shoots Matthias almost immediately after capturing him.
    • Played straight by Lori, who practically has Quaid's life in her hand near the end, but chooses to disguise herself as Melina and then wakes Quaid up just to mess with him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Doug fights back when Lori tries to kill him.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Resistance are viewed by the public as terrorists after a bombing in a public transit unit. However, the Resistance aren't really terrorists, and Cohaagen was responsible for the bombing.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: