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Set during an unspecified future era, Douglas Quaid (Arnold
Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker who longs for a trip to Mars.
His wife, Lori (Sharon Stone) isn't so keen on it--she'd prefer a trip
to Saturn, or a space cruise. Riding on the subway one day, Quaid
notices a television advertisement for a company named Rekall, which
specializes in memory implants of vacations. Quaid checks into it as an
alternate means of having a "Mars vacation". While at Rekall, he
chooses an alternate personality upgrade of a secret agent. However,
while undergoing the procedure, something goes wrong. He learns that
his Quaid identity was a memory implant and he really _is_ a secret
agent. Now that he has his real memory back, he's on the run and he
escapes to Mars. But why is everyone after him?
Total Recall, based on "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale", a short story from 1974 by Philip K. Dick (and novelized in conjunction with the film production by Piers Anthony), had a laborious history getting to the silver screen. Tens of drafts were written. Production companies were attached then went out of business. Many directors and stars were attached who either changed their minds or who were dropped. Luckily, Arnold Schwarzenegger talked Carolco into picking up the project for him, with Paul Verhoeven--who'd already proved his mettle on the similarly toned RoboCop (1987)--on board as director, because this is an excellent film.
While Total Recall certainly has influences, including "The Martian Chronicles" (1980), Dune (1984) and the first major film based on a Philip K. Dick work, Blade Runner (1982), it's more notable for the films that it has influenced in subsequent years, including The Fifth Element (1997) and many of the "rubber reality" films such as Abre los ojos (1997)/Vanilla Sky (2001) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999). It's also yet another film on the very long list that have had various elements "adapted" into part of The Matrix (1999)--most explicitly here, the "bug" that Quaid has to remove from his body with a high-tech machine and the possibility of "waking up" from a particular reality by taking "the red pill".
Although it's easy to interpret Total Recall in a very straightforward manner, so that the bulk of what we're seeing at any particular moment and the bulk of the dialogue are the literal reality, very convincing arguments can be made that the majority of the film is a depiction of Quaid's memory implant while in the "patient's chair" at Rekall. And those certainly aren't the only two interpretations possible.
What matters more than thinking one has a "right answer", though, is the deeply captivating story that provokes our interpretations and the amount of fun we have getting there. Verhoeven and the scriptwriting team, which included Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the writing team behind the Alien films (beginning with Alien, 1979), never let us go very long without another plot twist, most of which force a reinterpretation of the material that went before. The twists occur about once per every ten minutes, if not more frequently.
The film is notable for its special effects by Rob Bottin, which were far ahead of their time, and its fantastic production and art design, which manage to make us feel both that we're experiencing a vicarious trip to a "future grunge" Mars and an almost "Doctor Who" (1963)-ish absurdly artificial reality, complete with supersaturated red skies, ala Frank R. Paul's illustrated covers for the Amazing Stories fiction magazine.
Some locations in Mexico were used for the film, including some subway shots on Mars, and actual commercial sign age was incorporated into the film. There's a lot of fun to be had noticing all of the cultural differences and similarities that the future era of the film will bring. Verhoeven delights in subtle glimpses of various symbols and accoutrement's. His view of the future is one full of corruption, commercialism and decadence. He doesn't have much confidence in a "bright new world" as humans spread out to new territory.
Verhoeven is basically extending the way things are now to the future; it's as if he sees our state as indicative of human nature, so that as long as we're humans, people are going to be taking advantage of one another, trying to control one another, engaging in behavior that's a conflict between desires and societal mores, but also helping out each other when the going gets tough. In these respects, Total Recall has culture-satirical similarities to later films such as Starship Troopers (1997), which isn't surprising given that Verhoeven directed both films. It's notable that Total Recall's future is not quite as bleak as Starship Trooper's.
But the film is hardly less violent. Verhoeven's initial cut was given an X by the MPAA for violence. A number of scenes had to have small edits, most of which have thankfully been restored on at least one special edition DVD. The violence here is a lot more small scale and personal than Starship Troopers. In terms of the visceral, Total Recall often rides a gray area somewhere between action and horror. While the action isn't as explosive as many Schwarzenegger films, the suspense never resolves until the end. This is an amazing thrill ride of a film.
I've seen TOTAL RECALL many times over the years and I'm never failed
to be impressed with it . Some people dislike it and I feel I must
defend the movie
" Confused plot " - Sorry but I managed to understand the complex plot first time I saw the movie and was impressed that Hollywood had merged a high concept plot with a FX laden extravaganza , such a pity this didn't lead to more thoughtful action adventures . If you want to see a confused plot try watching a James Bond movie from the 1980s
" The violence " - Yeah this is a violent movie for sure but I do wish people would educate themselves to the work of directors before they criticize . Paul Verhoeven had previously made FLESH AND BLOOD and ROBOCOP so a futuristic adventure by Verhoeven that was awarded an 18 certificate isn't going to be confused with an episode of the teletubbies
What I liked from Verhoeven's directing is that he's made everything so recognizable , nothing is ridiculously futuristic looking and we see the characters wearing clothes that wouldn't look out of place in the 1980s . Verhoeven also brings little satirical stabs to the proceedings as he did with ROBOCOP and it's a great shame we see less and less of this European director working for Hollywood
Verhoeven even gets a good performance from Big Arnie , okay this body builder was never in danger of winning an Oscar but Arnie doesn't send himself up and nor do his wise cracks like in his other blockbusters but he does make for an affable - Though violent - hero . Michael Ironside gives the most memorable performance which considering he spends most of the movie running around with a gun is no small achievement .
One interesting thing I noticed about TOTAL RECALL after seeing it again last night is that it's unapologetic on being on the side of the rebels who are waging a war against the greedy Mars company . Anyone believe that if it was made today the rebels/terrorists would be the bad guys ?
Anyway this is along with the original TERMINATOR the best movie starring Arnie though most of the credit for this movie belongs to the screenwriters and director and it's a great pity Hollywood is reluctant to mix a high concept SF plot with a crowd pleasing action adventure
Total Recall is without doubt Arnold Schwarzenegger's best movie since The
Arnold fits perfectly in the role of Doug Quaid (definitely his best acting
in a movie to date) the confused construction worker and Ronny Cox provides
his usual evil plotting arch bad-guy.
The impressive visual effects are worth the movie's $100million price tag,
and Paul Verhoeven proved that, as with Robocop and Starship Troopers,
sci-fi is where he does his best work.
What does spoil films like these, however, are people who cannot grasp the concept of Science FICTION, and refuse to suspend their belief for 2 hours(a vital part of enjoying these movies). Movies like this don't work without the overplayed violence, cheesy one-liners and stunning effects. Take away any of these elements and you no longer have a sci-fi action movie.
Chill out, check out and enjoy...
The worker Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) dreams on Mars for
many consecutive nights. He invites his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) to
spend vacation on Mars, but she does not agree, since the planet ruled
by the tyrant Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), who sells oxygen for the
population, is facing resistance movement and terrorist acts leaded by
the mutant Kuato. Douglas decides to go to the Rekall Company to
implant virtual vacation memories of Mars for his own satisfaction,
using a special program with the identity of a secret agent. While in
the process, something goes wrong and Douglas becomes aggressive, and
the process is interrupted. While returning home, the life of Douglas
turns upside down, and he travels to the red planet trying to disclose
who he is.
Today I have watched "Total Recall" at least for the tenth time, now on DVD. Again, I found it an excellent sci-fi film with non-stop action. The story has many twists, and the screenplay has no flaws, being very attractive. This was the first movie that the beauty of the unknown Sharon Stone (in 1990) called my attention. Arnold Schwarzenegger is great performing a dubious hero, and Michael Ironside is the perfect villain. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "O Vingador do Futuro" ("The Avenger of the Future")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
TOTAL ACTION! TOTAL SCI-FI! TOTAL SCHWARZENEGGER!
That's right, 12 years after its release this movie stands the test of time. Maybe not quite as good as Schwarzenegger's other blockbuster Terminator 2, but pretty close.
Some people say the effects are dated, but I disagree. Dated is super intelligent talking computers with monochrome, low resolution monitors. The effects here aren't revolutionary by today's standards, but they certainly aren't cheap or tacky looking. Except maybe the plasticine faces, but they are good for a laugh!
I've seen this movie over 100 times and I will continue to enjoy it for years to come. It's got the perfect blend of science fiction, action, mystery and special effects. It's actually a thinking man's action movie, not just mindless carnage. You still wonder till this day, was it a dream or reality? Every time you watch it you'll notice a different nuance or clue hinting one way or the other.
For the memory of a lifetime, Recall Recall Recall!
One of the best mind trips ever, I could only wish this movies was made ten years later. Even for 1990, this film had some of the most imaginative make-up I've ever seen in a movie. While it had Paul Verhoeven's classic shallowness, the film really touched new ground not only with science fiction but also with special effects. Talk a good few years for a director, he not only changed sci-fi with Robocop, he did it again with Total Recall. Verhoeven will never, ever win an Oscar for best director, but his movies will at least be entertaining in most respects.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story 'We'll Remember It For You Wholesale' in the Hollywood makeover 'Total Recall.' And a darn good makeover it is.
Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, who is having a serious identity crisis. He lives in the future. In the future, people have the ability to live on Mars. Well, guess who wants to go to Mars? Unfortunately, Douglas' wife (Sharon Stone) is not too happy about that idea, and wants to stay on Earth. So, what's a guy to do if his wife doesn't want to move? Get a memory implant, of course! Using the latest technology, memories can be implanted in your brain in a matter of moments. You choose the destination, identity (spy, civilian, etc.) and Total Rekall (yes, Total Rekall) will install it for you.
Warned by his friends not to get the implant, Quaid does so anyway. But something goes terribly wrong. Soon, his wife, friends and co-workers are all trying to kill him.but why? The answer may kill him.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is perfect for the role of Quaid. People can argue all they want about how bad an actor he is, but you can't say that after seeing this movie. He pulls the film's acting and stunts off with ease, all the while spitting out his catchy one-liners ('Consider this a divorce!').
Sharon Stone is probably at her best here, seeing that her career went mainly down-the-drain from here on (okay, she won - or was nominated - for an Oscar for 'Casino.' This movie made her).
Paul Verhoven directs this film, and there are no arguments that this is his finest work - by far. He was the director who went on to make such 'critically acclaimed' (*guffaw*) films such as 'Showgirls' and 'Hollow Man.' His only other film that was remotely good was 'Basic Instinct,' but this is still ten times better (Sharon Stone would not have starred in that film if not for 'Total Recall' - Verhoven said so himself.).
The special effects in this movie are excellent; supposedly, they spent millions and millions on the fake Mars sets, and I bet they're glad it paid off.
I recently bought the 'Total Recall' Limited Edition DVD with a newly remastered digital makeover, Dolby Digital 5.1, behind-the-scenes documentary(s), a commentary by Verhoven and Schwarzenegger, and much, much more. If you can find one now (it was limited edition so it might be off the market, now) I would recommend picking a copy up. It was fourteen dollars, and it definitely packed a punch for that much (no, I'm not a salesman!)
'Total Recall' stands as Arnold's most 'thought-provoking' film and best conspiracy-type thriller. In fact, it is one of the best sci-fi/futuristic thrillers ever.
Many people do not realize that 'Minority Report' with Tom Cruise is actually a sequel to this film, and Verhoven and Schwarzenegger had talked about making it for a long time, but now, it looks like the deal is off. There is still a sequel in talks, however, not based on a story by Dick. Supposedly, the company (Miramax, was it?) wants Arnold, Stone and Verhoven back. Oh well. I, for one, am looking forward to it (though I don't understand how Stone is coming back.prequel?)
Anyway, I'm getting off the subject. 'Total Recall' is a good movie, and a darn good one at that. It provides everything we want - and more - in a movie.
4.5/5 stars - maybe I'm overrating it. However, I feel it deserves that many stars.
In 2020, Douglas feels he needs a break from the day to day life and goes to
Total Recall where memories are planted in your head to make you think you
are someone else for a while a holiday in your head if you will. However
before he can be injected he begins to have flashbacks and suddenly finds
that people are trying to kill him and that somehow he must get to Mars to
uncover the reasons. However what is truth and what is fake and is the
whole thing really happening or not?
Based on a Phillip K. Dick story this was always going to be intelligent however it's surprising that Verhoeven manages to keep that core well. The plot allows his excessive violence but is also a great story that more than holds the interest with twists and turns and neither Douglas or us fully knowing what's going on. The action is great even 10 or so years on, and the tension just stays solid throughout.
Schwarzenegger does his usual invincible muscles stuff and looks happy blasting crowds, but he is also OK in other areas too. Tictin is good but never repeated this success for herself. The baddies (or maybe not?) are the best roles solid baddies like Ironside and Cox are just as good as they were in other similar roles and Sharon Stone is good as Douglas' wife.
Overall this continues Verhoeven's trend of making ultra-violence and clever plots and satire work well together (Robocop, Starship Troopers and this) as opposed to his trend of making trash! Everything about this film works well whether it be the action or the acting or the plot a surprisingly nice package for a violent action movie!
Total Recall has little, if any,by way of passing itself as being
'art'. It is, but more in the sense of it being pop-art, of the
director Paul Verhoven paying tribute in visuals to the story by
Phillip K. Dick. And it's also one of the more exciting and quotable of
those shameless examples of how to do an action film. In this case,
however, because it is a P.K. Dick-based story there are some good
social bits made in the process. If it isn't as astute or consistent as
Blade Runner or Minority Report, it's probably more due to it having to
be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger than it being a full-on
thought-provoking work of science fiction on film. But this does rank
up high with the other works of the star, as he is in a complex
situation in the film- his mind is scrambled, at first, and everything
he thought was right as dickens is not. So he's told by 'himself' on a
screen he happened to save for himself that he has to get to mars to
find out the truth.
There is plenty of good action sequences, but it is more about Verhoven's knack at getting this popularized view of Mars just a little subverted, a little stranger. Some of my favorite scenes involved Scwarzenegger's mishaps and turns of fate as the story and his character took turns. For example, in the scene when Arnold's character wants to get his memory wiped off to Mars and then he flips out in the chair, this is a very entertaining scene in being very ridiculous (try to listen to what he says, or don't as its near unintelligible) as well as following a darker trek in the story. In fact, much of the film works on the strengths of both director and star by having it not too over the top to have some belief in what is going on, but that expectations aren't limited to what might happen as Arnold's character in on Mars uncovering the conspiracy around his messed-up memory.
Featuring a sultry Sharon Stone in a great supporting role (another memorable scene comes with her demise, as usual quotable to the bone), as well as a memorable climax involving the arid Mars air and a certain outrageous reaction to it, I recommend Total Recall for genre fans and even those who might be wary of it being a 'Hollywood' take on Dick. It's not great, and per usual PKD fans might scoff at the faithfulness to the source, but it's better than some of the lesser adaptations of the author. Just go in for a good time and it stands up over time (err, 16 years).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Total Recall works for most of it's length as a convoluted Hitchcockian science fiction thriller. It's only at the denouement that things become...despite an indulgence in sadism that would offend delicate sensibilities...cartoonish and unrealistic (e.g., exposure to the Martian environment would in truth be a swift race between suffocation and freezing to death). While as a whole the film has flaws--things that tend to ruin the suspension of disbelief--that aren't easy to overlook, there are a number of individual scenes that I particularly cherish, rewarding repeat viewings. There is, for instance, Doug (Schwarzenegger) Quaid's visit to Rekall, Inc., and the salesman's pitch that slyly reveals the entire plot of the movie beforehand. Another is the encounter in the Martian hotel room where the possibility Doug is unwittingly undergoing a dream--in the form of synthesized memories--is brought up, and another set of predictions particularly covering the third act is expounded. Lastly, the scene in which the villainous mastermind (Ronny Cox) reveals his stunning machinations qualifies as a mindbender. One more note: it's appears that almost every significant character in the film is not who he seems to be at first glance. Some other items in the movie's favor is the musical soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith and spectacular special effects. Again, Total Recall is not greater than the sum of its parts, has patent absurdities that insult intelligence, and bloody violence. Still, it remains Arnold Schwarzenegger's strongest...and most thoughtful...film.
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