Total Recall (2012)

One would think that a remake of the quirky, yet somehow charming science fiction thriller, Total Recall, starring Arnold Swarzeneggar, could be most certainly improved upon given the technology of today. Without a doubt this is the case regarding the special effects in Len Wiseman’s new version of Total Recall, starring Colin Ferrell and Kate Beckinsale. It is a beautiful film taking place in an engrossing futuristic setting that hosts a plethora of engaging action sequences. It makes the special effects of the first film seem primitive and even somewhat goofy. However, where Wiseman excels in the visual aspects, he lacks in the emotional elements, along with reasonable character development throughout the film. It is a much more serious film than its predecessor, and with the ultimate focus on the action there is little room for reflection on the most intriguing themes.

There are very few important differences between the two movies, and though I am sure many other websites and blogs have already explored all the comparisons and contrasts, we will keep it to a minimum here. The plot is essentially the same. Douglas Quaid (Colin Ferrell) finds his monotonous life to be less than satisfying as he is haunted by dreams at night of a different life with a different girl other than his beautiful wife he has, and during the daytime he longs for something more. Quaid is intrigued with Total Rekall, a company (or lounge in this version) that will implant memories of a more adventurous life. It appears that just before he is injected the storm trooper-like soldiers come in and from that moment on Quaid spends the rest of the movie fighting his wife, the oppressive regime led by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), while trying to understand who he is, and what is real.

It is a fast-pace action flick that plays it safe in turning up the volume and not letting the characters slow down to process the implications of their conflict, specifically Quaid. There are multiple homages to the original, but without Mars and all the weird creatures there lacks much of the humor, charm, and quirkiness. The actors do a fine job and it is a good looking film, but given the potential depth of the concepts that were simply toyed with it, I believe it would have been much more rewarding film to have had them explored more.

Colin Ferrell and Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall

“I don’t remember who I was, but I know who I am”

One of the most important themes in the film is finding one’s identity. During Quaid’s day in and day out routine, there is this longing inside of him that he was made for something more. Then, when he visits Rekall, Quaid has to figure out who he really is in light of the present turn of events (i.e. his supposed wife of seven years trying to kill him) and what the facts reveal about his past. When those facts are revealed, Quaid struggles to reconcile the old man with the new.

The more he finds out about his past the more he fights to not become that man. In one of the last scenes, Quaid is strapped down in a Rekall chair in order to receive the old memories of Howser, the man he once was. Like the original, he gets away before that happens. Personally, I wondered if it would have been more powerful and intriguing for Quaid to have gone through the whole process of having his memories restored as Howser, but still maintain the moral fiber that had been revealed in the character of Quaid. However, even if it was through brute force, the main character was victorious in fighting becoming the monster he used to be.

As I was watching this film with the main character’s personal struggle with identity I thought about the Apostle Paul. Before he became an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he was the biggest threat to the Church as a persecutor of Christians. Paul, on several occasions throughout Scripture, mentions his past as a murderer. In one of the places he says, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judge me faithful, appointing me to service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” (1 Timothy 1:12-13) For this Paul also says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) I have heard many people say that they have sinned too much, or have lived a certain lifestyle that is beyond redemption to become a Christian. Paul rejects this argument saying, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16) In other words, if Christ would save a murderer of Christians like Paul, he would save anyone.

In one of the last fight scenes (there are many of them), between Quaid and Cohaagen, Cohaagen is talking the usual bad guy trash talk as he gets the upper hand and says, “You don’t even remember who you were yet you fight for something you don’t even believe in.” To this Quaid says, “I know who I am and I know why I fight.” This confidence in his identity was crucial to why he fought and even how he fought.

It is true for all of us as well. Knowing our identity forms how we live. However, we let our past define us and shape us, telling us, reminding us that we are no good, dead in our trespasses. Satan often tries to accuse us of all the sins that have already been paid for by Christ. What is crucial for those who have truly committed to following Christ, is that we must believe that in Christ we are made new. Paul, who used to persecute Christians, says to the church at Corinth, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold , the new has come.” (1 Corinthians 5:17)  This is good news to remember whenever we are confused about our identity in Christ.

The in Christ in this passage is the most important element. For Paul and for us, our new identity must be found in Christ. For when we die with Christ, we are raised with Christ, and like Him we walk in newness of life.

“The Fall enslaves us all”

I won’t discuss this in too much depth, but there was a very small part of the story in Total Recall that I found fascinating, especially as a Christian. There are two inhabitable lands in the futuristic world of the movie: Great Britain and the “colony,” which is Australia. The people of the oppressed colony have to “commute” to Great Britain in order to work every day. They do this through a transportation system that apparently goes through the core of the Earth to the other side of the world. This transportation system is called, “The Fall,” which makes sense when you see how it works.

The leader of the resistance comes up with a trendy slogan to criticize the colony’s dependence upon Great Britain. The slogan says, “The Fall enslaves us all.” Of course my ears perked up when I heard this, and made me reflect upon the truth of that statement, even if it was basically unrelated to the movie. When Adam and Eve first disobeyed God in the Garden, it sent shockwaves throughout the universe, affecting and infecting not only man but all creation. Creation still groans waiting for redemption. And man feels the effects of the fall every day through death, decay, and our depravity. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

However, like the end of Total Recall, the Fall will be totally destroyed, and man and creation will be redeemed. I thought the imagery of Revelation would be fitting to describe the beauty of God’s ultimate restoration:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:1-7 ESV)

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