Total Recall (2012)



Remake is better looking, less violent, less thoughtful.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: July 31, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although set in a bleak future, Total Recall has an old theme: people with power and money trying to control and/or destroy those without. A few brave individuals stand up against these difficult odds, and the main character must learn to trust others. There's also a message about the fact that who you were matters less than who you are/who you become.

Positive role models

In this remake, Quaid is more admirable than he was in the original. He does a great deal of fighting, but it's mainly in self-defense. (He doesn't relish violence.) He has a great challenge to overcome: He wants to choose the greater good, but he can't remember anything, and everyone he thinks he can trust gives him different information.


The original movie's R-rated graphic violence has been toned down somewhat; though this version still has wall-to-wall martial arts-style fighting, nothing seems extra bloody, gratuitous, or mean. There are futuristic guns and other weapons, and characters are shot and killed. There are bloody wounds, but not a huge amount of gore. Characters fight with a knife, and one gets stabbed. Quaid must painfully slice a "phone" out of the palm of his hand with a chunk of broken glass (this is more implied than shown).


Repeating a joke from the first movie, an alien prostitute opens her coat and reveals three naked breasts. Quaid encounters her in a kind of "red light" district that hints of prostitution and "pleasure robots." Quaid kisses two women, one his "fake" wife and the other his "real" girlfriend. He wakes up in bed next to the wife, and they're both scantily clad. There's some slight innuendo as they begin to seduce one another, but they're interrupted.


One use of "f--k," plus very frequent use of "s--t." Other words include "a--hole," "goddamn," "ass," "d--k," "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bitch," plus "oh my God" and "Jesus Christ" (as exclamations).


A character grabs a Heineken beer from the refrigerator.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Quaid grabs a beer from his fridge, but he doesn't open it. Instead he goes to a bar and drinks beer with his buddy, who gets comically drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Total Recall is a remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's popular 1990 sci-fi movie; both are based on a short story by cult author Philip K. Dick. The original, R-rated movie has gratuitous, shocking violence, which was sometimes played for laughs; this PG-13-rated version features more streamlined, martial arts-style fighting, with less blood -- though weapons are pulled, and characters do die. One sex-related joke from the original is repeated (an alien prostitute flashes her three naked breasts), and a married couple is scantily clad in bed. Language includes one "f--k" and many "s--t"s, plus other words like "a--hole" and "bitch." Characters drink beer in one scene, and a supporting character gets comically drunk. Teen sci-fi fans will be interested, but the movie seems destined for a short shelf life compared to the original.

What's the story?

A century in the future, the world has been rendered mostly uninhabitable. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works on an assembly line, building police sentry robots for a huge corporation. At home, he has recurring dreams about trying to escape with a mysterious girl (Jessica Biel). He decides to go to "Rekall," a company that specializes in implanting "memories." But as soon as he's hooked up to the machine, sentries attack, and Quaid finds himself fighting them off. He discovers that he's really "Hauser," a talented and deadly secret agent. Before long, he's involved in a life-or-death chase as he tries to figure out which side to fight for: the government or the "terrorists" who threaten to rise up and take over.

Is it any good?


Paul Verhoeven's original 1990 Total Recall was cartoonish, with over-the-top violence; Len Wiseman's remake improves on it in many ways, though in other ways, it's slightly inferior. To start, Farrell is much better suited to convey Quaid/Hauser's intense emotional ordeal than Arnold Schwarzenegger was. And Wiseman creates a great-looking universe that combines previous Philip K. Dick adaptations: the rainy, mash-up feel of Blade Runner and the high-tech computer age of Minority Report. The overall look is smoother.

The martial arts action in this take on TOTAL RECALL is more streamlined and less mean and crude than in the Verhoeven version, but it's arguably less fun as well. And though the newer movie feels current in terms of its themes of corporate greed and the "Occupy" movement, it also irons out any of Dick's original sci-fi ideas, and it doesn't seem to have a particularly good reason to exist. If only we could have combined the best parts of both!

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Total Recall's violence. Was it exciting or disturbing? How does it compare to the violence in the original movie?

  • Is Quaid a good role model? How does he know he's doing the right thing if he doesn't know what's going on? What does he use as his moral guide?

  • What does Total Recall have to say about our future? Which concepts in it are realistic? Which are fantasy?

  • Does this remake have any new ideas/messages that weren't conveyed in the original? Why do you think they decided to make a new version?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 3, 2012
DVD release date:December 18, 2012
Cast:Bryan Cranston, Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale
Director:Len Wiseman
Studio:Columbia Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Book characters, Space and aliens
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language

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Kid, 11 years old August 5, 2012

Best Movie ever but...

It was the best movie i have ever seen, but there were some things wrong with it. There was a lot of sh words there was one f word, its also really scary!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byKatenallie August 4, 2012

Same old, same old

Just what movie goers need, another remake. There was no reason to make this film other then to show what CGI can do. The original story was fine. We all know what's going to happen so there is no real reason to go over the same matereial and make some changes that don't enhance the original story. Of course, if fast moving vehicles and explosions and other violence are your cup of tea then enjoy the show. But I think you should at least rent the original so you know the remake wasn't necessary and you could have spent your money on something more interesting.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Kid, 12 years old August 4, 2012

Total Recall (2012)

This was a good movie, but not great. The violence was frequent but was mainly martial arts.. There was a scene where a prostitute revealed her three naked breasts, but if you blink you could've missed it. There was semi-frequent language and alcohol. This had a dark tone, much like that of "The Dark Knight Rises", with rebellion being a big topic. so overall, this was good and worth seeing, but had a few minor problems.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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