We don't remember all that much about the original Total Recall. It was the '90s, a decade when our brains were dominated by Ronnie's Rap and Rock Me Amadeus. Oh wait, that was the '80s! No matter, the point is that a lot of B sci-fi movies have flowed under the bridge since 1990, when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone starred in Total Recall, a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick's story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." Yep, 22 years, and the catchphrase "Consider that a divorce" still resonates. If memory doesn't serve, check out this trailer below:

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the flick won an Academy Award for special effects that now seem cheesy by our standards. In preparation for the big-budget reboot that opens this weekend, we rewatched the original, and made it about halfway through before giving up. It's probably more engaging when you don't know the premise: a bored construction worker (Schwarzenegger) in the future becomes obsessed with traveling to a subjugated Mars colony, where revolution simmers. Unable to afford it, he seeks out a company that uses memory implants to give its clients simulated vacations. But something goes very wrong, and our bewildered hero tumbles down an espionage rabbithole that he (and we) are never quite sure is real or a dream.

The reboot, starring Colin Farrell, is generally faithful to the original, down to the famous three-breasted hooker, the slipper double-agent narrative, and the fun face-disguising technology. It's also similar in the woodenness of the performances—Farrell is a much better actor than Schwarzenegger, but he's your basic stoic everyman here, which is what the role calls for, so whatever. Kate Beckinsale, who plays his wife, is no more nor less memorable than Sharon Stone was in the same role, but Jessica Biel, surprisingly, is an edgy and vivacious improvement over Rachel Ticotin. And toward the end, you do get a welcome infusion of the magnificent Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston, but we're not seeing Total Recall for the acting, are we?

Where Total Recall 2012 improves over its predecessor is in its relentlessly suspenseful action chase sequences and, obviously, in the special effects. Director Len Wiseman ( Live Free or Die Hard) hurries us along like an easily distracted herd of cattle, prodding the narrative forward with barely a moment to catch your breath. That's fine, because Total Recall's metaphysical pretensions are purely pedestrian, and the reboot's plot asks you to suspend a heroic amount of disbelief. This is a movie wherein tens of thousands of people shuttle daily between Australia and Great Britain via a tunnel that passes absurdly close to the earth's core, delivering the working class to totalitarian England in just 17 minutes.

But for all its modern improvements, the new Total Recall could have benefited from some of the kitschy appeal of the original, with its animatronic cab drivers and weird rubber aliens. And the first half hour, before all the shooting starts, is borderline dull and dreary (though we had to laugh when Farrell complains about his "dump" of a flat—with its balcony that's bigger than our entire apartment). Ultimately, the two movies can both be filed away with a shrug in the same B-movie folder—stylistically different but both equally middling. The better comparison might be between this Total Recall and its fundamentally bleak contemporary Dark Knight Rises. Despite all of Total Recall's violence and explosions, it feels like lighthearted escapist fare next to Christopher Nolan's ponderous nightmare. It's worth seeing once, for old time's sake.