One entry on our Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 list that seems to surprise a number of people is Total Recall: a film that’s part reboot of the popular 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi action romp, part re-interpretation of the original Philip K. Dick short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”.

For more insight on why the film (arguably) has the potential to be something more memorable than yet another Hollywood remake that pales in comparison to the original, you need look no further than the newly-released official synopsis – and word from costar Kate Beckinsale (click here for our Kate Beckinsale photo gallery), about her “altered” role in the film.

First things first: here is the official synopsis for the new Total Recall (courtesy of Sony Pictures):

Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he’s got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life – real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.

So, yeah, in many ways, the new Total Recall‘s plot sounds similar to director Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 Schwarzenegger vehicle – with some big exceptions, including how the setting is restricted solely to Earth, rather than taking place in part on Mars, and what producer Neil Moritz describes as “a great twist” to the plot that (apparently) neither Dick’s source material nor Verhoeven’s movie had.

However, the big element that isn’t touched on in the above synopsis relates to how the new Total Recall‘s primary screenwriter, Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Ultraviolet, Street Kings) is focusing more on the existential themes present in Dick’s original story. Those sci-fi philosophical elements were present in the 1990 version, but played second fiddle to the Schwarzenegger action movie trademarks, such as the cheesy one-liners and mindless gratuitous violence.

Similarly, the new Total Recall should benefit from having the lead role played by Farrell, who has re-invented himself as more of a capable character actor in recent years (see: Cassandra’s Dream, In Bruges, The Way Back, etc.). Likewise, the supporting cast includes always-solid actors such as Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy, along with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel – who are both best at playing kick-ass ladies, as is the case here.

Kate Beckinsale plays a deadly villainess in 'Total Recall'

Beckinsale spoke with Collider at the beginning of this year about both the upcoming Underworld Awakening and her role in Total Recall, which reunites the actress with her husband/director Len Wiseman. Here’s what she had to say about her role as Douglas Quaid’s wife (ie. Lori) in the latter project:

“It’s going really great, and everyone’s very excited about it.  I suppose the thing is, Sharon Stone’s interpretation of Lori [in the 1990 ‘Total Recall’] is safe because my character is more… It is Lori, but it’s an amalgamation of Lori and Richter.  So I guess one of the differences about our movie as opposed to their movie is in that period of time they needed her to have a right hand man.  I am the right hand man and Lori at the same time.  So it’s a little bit more of an amalgamation of a couple of parts… And then for me there was a lot of… I mean, I’m beating everyone up.  Fighting with Colin [Farrell], fighting with Jessica [Biel].  The fight with Jessica is going to be great.  I like the fact that it’s a proper fight.  It’s not two girls, and one of them, the shoulder is ripped off, and the bra comes out.  It’s not like one of those stupid girl fights.  It’s a proper fight.”

To sum it all up: there are some excellent ingredients being mixed together in the new Total Recall, including that of a more interesting (and intimidating) villainess played by Beckinsale, excellent acting talent filling important roles, and a plot that aims to better mix brains with futuristic set pieces and gritty action. If all those elements are used appropriately, then we could end up getting a quality sci-fi film on a par with, say, the Farrell-starring Minority Report. Sounds good enough for now, by our count.

We will see how it all turns out when Total Recall arrives in U.S. theaters on August 3rd, 2012.

Source: Sony Pictures, Collider