Why are Total Recall's memory merchants shooting up an Asian day spa?

Yesterday at Comic-Con, we saw early footage from the Total Recall remake, which took us inside Rekall, the company that sells exciting memory vacations. Amidst the stone lion-dogs and Buddha heads, John Cho will happily supply you with fake memories — or reignite your real ones.

Should you be looking forward to this remake, or trembling with indignation? Here's the lowdown.


Colin Farrell takes on Arnold Schwarzenegger's one-time role as Douglas Quaid, a man who finds himself confused and dissatisfied with his life. In search of something more fulfilling, he visits Rekall, a company that offers virtual vacations through implanted memories.

Because Total Recall is still filming, director Len Wiseman had little footage to share with the Comic-Con audience. In fact, the last few seconds of the footage he showed was still sketchily animated.


The footage is an early scene in the movie, when Quaid enters the Rekall offices. Rekall has evidently moved since the future of 1985, and it now finds its home inside a generically luxurious Asian-themed spa. Behind windows decorated with translucent pictures of koi, women receive massages. The receptionist wears a dress with a mandarin collar, and the main room is filled with shiny red accents and stone statuary. "Remember to have a good time," the receptionist chirps as she hands Quaid off to McClane (a bleach-blond John Cho). McClane asks Quaid what he'd like to experience — a few weeks as a superhero? some time as a secret agent? When Quaid sits comfortably in the implant chair — where he could just as easily have been getting a pedicure and a memory implant, McClane warns him that no details from his implant can be true to his own life.


As the implant process begins, we see a bit of Total Recall's idea of user interface: buttons and data appear as light projected in the air. Naturally, things go awry, and McClane quickly realizes that Quaid is, in fact, a spy.


And that's when the troops storm the Rekall spa and kill everyone, except for Quaid, who suddenly has awesome people-killing skills, which his uses to quickly dispatch the troops. But a second unit arrives moments later, a tall, robotic-looking figure among their number. The troops then fire an "Eyeball" into the room, a projectile that releases tiny cameras, which, in turn cling to every surface in the room (by far the coolest idea the footage has to offer). They spot Quaid, and as the troops charge the room, Quaid collects grenades from the dead soldiers, then hides behind a wall as the grenade pile explodes. He takes advantage of the confusion to leap into a pit in the floor. The pit is covered by a grate, which Quaid dislodges with a few healthy jumps, and he is outside, looking down on an impossibly tall city.

It's difficult to judge the tenor of a film from a few minutes of unfinished footage, but there was a worryingly generic slickness to this Recall's future. It seems that Wiseman and Co. have sucked out the personality and crazy visuals that made the original so memorable, and it's not yet clear what they're offering in their stead.


Jessica Biel plays Melina (played by Rachel Ticotin in the original), the anti-government resistance worker who allies herself with Quaid. Kate Beckinsale steps into the Sharon Stone role of Quaid's more-than-meets-the-eye wife Lori. And Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston plays world leader Vilos Cohaagen. Cranston was clearly the panel's fan favorite, and spoke a bit about his character:

I wanted to instill a sense of compassion and earnestness to him and a believability for why people would follow his word. He believes that what he is doing is for the greater good, and I think that's what makes him scary.


Cranston also said that, after watching his Breaking Bad character go from being a relatively good person to a bad one, "I get to celebrate badness in Total Recall."

Share This Story

Get our newsletter