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*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To call Total Recall an intellectual action film would be going too
far. After all, this is a film with a three-titted whore, a midget
hooker and a body count only Harold Shipman could dream of. Plus it has
Arnie one-liners and tons and tons of blood. But despite all this,
buried underneath the sleazy, bloodstained exterior there's a smart
film trying to get out. Issues of reality and identity are all dealt
with. But they're never dealt with at the expense of someone getting
their head blown off.
Watching it back, it's quite pleasing to remember just how violent action films used to be. Here you have men getting spiked in the neck, people getting axed and a man getting a pole of some sort shoved through his face. And that's just in one scene! The violence here is bloody and over the top, and in my opinion, much better for it. I mean, action films these days have become rather sanitised. There's just a feeling that you've seen it all before. But how many times do you get to see a man have his arms ripped off as he dangles from a lift? And how many times do you get to see that and have Arnie toss the arms away while delivering a quip? Only once.
And then there's the bit where Michael Ironside shoots the three-titted whore in the back. Beautiful! I mean, this is meant to be a bad, bad man. And what better way to generate loathing (and secret admiration) than have him shoot a mutant hooker while her back is turned.
But one of the most delightful bits of insane violence is when the midget whore stabs Ironside's lackey. You have to ask yourself whether you're shrooming your tits off. But no, it happens and then the midget stands on top of the bar and opens fire with a machine gun. Verhoeven is clearly a twisted man mental, but I can't help but admire him.
Also worthy of praise is the shootout on the subway. Arnie is fleeing from the bad guys and tries to haul ass up the escalators. But more bad guys appear at the top. As everyone starts shooting, an innocent person gets killed in the crossfire. Arnie then uses the bloke as a human shield he gets penetrated more times than a pretty boy in a prison shower and tosses the piece of meat into the path of the bad guys below. I can't help but salute the complete utter lack of sentiment.
I also salute the fight between Arnie and Sharon Stone. I mean, usually fights between women and men in action films are death yeah, I can believe than an anorexic model can hurt a man double her size but it at least keeps things relatively believable by having Stone hit Arnie a couple of times in his brain (his testicles). But what makes it a joy is that after the fight, Stone tries to buy some time by offering to tie herself up and let Arnie have his way with her. You know, for old times sake. It's something of a surprise that Der Gropenfuhrer doesn't take her up on her generous offer, but Arnie does knock her out which is even better.
And there's another bit of violence that cracks me up. The evil mutant Benny, in some sort of digging machine, is attacking Arnie. Arnie then grabs a huge drill and rams it through the side of the vehicle while screaming "Screw you!" at the top of his lungs. It's one of the few bits of possible homoeroticism in a film that is remarkably ungay for an Arnie flick.
But there is another little bit of possible gayness in the film. Just take the relationship between Hauser (Arnie's evil alter-ego) and Cohaagen (Ronny Cox). They hug enthusiastically in a video message and then Cohaagen has a big strop when he finally realises that Hauser isn't coming back he kicks a tank of goldfish over. It seems like he's lost more than a friend.
But Ronny Cox is excellent in the film. Sure he's basically playing the same character he played in RoboCop, but he always makes an excellent villain. And I love the scene where he's going to have Quaid turned back into Hauser and have Melina 'fixed'. His dialogue with Arnie is wonderful. "You get to f*** her every night, that's right. She's going to be Hauser's babe." And then when asked what to do with all the people that are suffocating because he's cut off the air, he replies, "F*** 'em." That's a proper movie villain.
However, I don't think the film is in the same class as RoboCop. For one, Total Recall now looks rather dated (look at the 'futuristic' cars) while RoboCop seems pretty timeless, and plus the balance between smarts and action is a bit more even in RoboCop.
But that's not to say that Total Recall is a dumb film. One of the obvious pleasures is trying to work out whether the whole thing is a dream or not. After all, when Quaid goes to Rekall to have his 'ego trip' everything the salesman says in his pitch actually happens the whole plot is given away in one scene. And then at the end you have a white out rather than a fade to black. This could suggest that Quaid is waking up or even being lobotomised. But although it's something that's pleasing to think about, the film is more concerned about action than ideas. And so that makes the film a minor success rather an overwhelming success like RoboCop.
Danish director, Paul Verhoeven, released his first American film in
1987; this was RoboCop, an action film which has since become situated
in a league of its own. Not only was it a hit in the Western world, but
a global box-office bragger and a critically acclaimed triumph.
Subsequent to the success, Verhoeven was chosen to direct a film
adapted from a novella by Philip K. Dick ("We Can Remember It for you
Wholesale") and turned it into the 1990 action classic, Total Recall.
Two surprisingly intelligent action films made in succession allowed
Verhoeven to become an established film-maker, who was at liberty to
take the content of mainstream films distinctly further.
Arnold Schwarzenegger took leading-man once again for Total Recall, just like the majority of films he starred in during the '80s and '90s. As with The Terminator, Predator and even Commando; his artificial and easy-to-mock acting went centre stage once again. Even though Schwarzenegger is far from being named a great actor, he is certainly situated as one of the most likable and satisfying (from a Blockbuster standpoint). His deadened approach is what makes his roles so true their form, and he is nearly always playing characters with seemingly robotic personalities. Growing up watching "Arnie actioners" is something I have always treasured, which is why his films are cherished memories and also the reason for making re-watches such an electrifying event.
Fusing reality with delusion (in what is essentially a case of identity crisis) is the core theme of Total Recall. Recurring -the now too-close-to-home- ideas of technological corruption reluctantly controlling a man's livelihood is hardly a topic which lacks the option of philosophical debate. In fact, for the action/science-fiction genre Verhoeven works wonders in making what seems to be a relatively stable, easy-going mainstream archetype into something which speaks out on politics and technology. Indeed, with the rapid increase and reliability on technology there is no doubt that us consumers will eventually resort to purchasing faulty, radioactive brain implants. Sadly, I am not joking, as I do believe that the foreseeable future of technology's control over our lives is inevitable.
Total Recall worked wonders for special-effects and make-up during the beginning of the '90s. Lifelike mutants and grand set-pieces, including architecture resembling art-deco and prefabricated design drove the film's ambiance. As with most action films the average shot length (ASL) is visibly short, but is acceptable for a film of its kind and works adequately when put in conjunction with the ultra-violent fight scenes. Villains are stereotypical, heroes sprout graciously eccentric one-liners ("Consider it a divorce!") and the array of characters are befuddling, but these are mere reasons why Total Recall is a cinematic product of its time, which still foreshadowed future possibilities.
If you are a person who takes everything far too seriously, then Total Recall is not appropriate viewing. However, if you are prepared to have an open-mind and realise that action films can still be clever (in this case due to a fantastically wrapped screenplay) you are likely to acquire a barrel of rip-roaring violence and furtive intellect. All too regularly is the film misconstrued as a meaningless American blockbuster, something it actually refrains from potentially becoming.
When TOTAL RECALL was released back in 1990, it signaled the end of an
era: the end of intelligent science fiction films made in Hollywood. No
more ANDROMEDA STRAIN, no more BLADE RUNNER, no more DUNE. The science
fiction genre was dumbed down considerably by this Paul "subtle as a
sledgehammer" Verhoeven directed project based on a story by Philip K
Dick. It's well reported how the script was changed considerably to
suit Ah-nuld's limitations as an actor. What a good actor could have
done with the original story's intriguing plot points were quickly
re-written once Ah-nuld was attached to the project. I read the article
in CINEFANTASTIQUE about the tumultuous life of the screenplay and the
many changes they made to the storyline. The article was disheartening.
Plot points and fascinating ideas found in the original screenplay were
eliminated and replaced by gore, gore, gore and stupid one liners, and
a very mean-spirited tone. The repetitious use of gratuitous violence
was exploited brilliantly by Verhoeven to prompt the story with some
"life" because he was aware Ah-nuld could not act. In fact, almost
every actor in TOTAL RECALL cannot act. I've never seen such a
collection of bad acting from so many actors in a single film, with
Rachel Ticotin winning the award for worst pseudo-action female star
Things are made worse by the complete lack of vision from the director: the papier-mâché look of the sets and the Mars environment, with the uber cheesy mutants living there made the film look like a $80 million TROMA film. But the thing that killed this film was the complete lack of logic which clashed with the science fiction aspects of the story: because this is an action film, made for people who believe Ah-nuld can kill 100 bad guys with one bullet, the action goes on as if everything took place on earth, in your average city. Everyone starts shooting all over the enclosed Mars environment with ordinary guns and bullets. The bad guys shoot bullets into (breakable) windows and there goes the carefully controlled environment. Brilliant work, guys. You're jeopardizing your own life. This movie is so dumb, it's unbelievable. Verhoeven pandered to the lowest common denominator just to please action film fans and, IMO, he permanently lost his "author" tag with the ugly TOTAL WRECK-ALL.
The only good thing in this film is Jerry Goldsmith's score. It's powerful and evocative. I just wish this excellent score was attached to a good movie.
Total Recall is a fast paced sci-fi action movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way from beginning to end. For a movie released in the early 1990's, it has some very spectacular make-up effects, visual effects and special effects. This movie is sort of similar to Paul Verhoeven's other films. It is violent, bloody, it has some sexuality/nudity and some profanity. This movie has dark humour. Paul Verhoeven really knows how to use visual and special effects and dark humour whenever he is shooting a scene in his movies. This is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best films, along with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Predator. Total Recall is also one Verhoeven's best movies to date. This movie is worth a watch.
I have to make a confession that I have a serious lack of knowledge
concerning the workings of revered science fiction author, Philip K.
Dick. However, I do know that three of his workings have been turned
into some of the greatest science fiction action set-pieces of the last
21 years. The first was Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner," which was
released in 1982 and is the obvious best Philip K. Dick adaptation
ever. The most recent was last year's "Minority Report," which starred
Tom Cruise and was directed by Steven Spielberg. Somewhere in between
there, was Arnold Schwarzenegger's action epic, "Total Recall," which
was released in 1990 and was directed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven
(RoboCop, Starship Troopers).
"Recall" (adapted from Dick's short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale") starred Schwarzenegger in the role of Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who goes to a place that sells you fake memories and Quaid opts for an implant of the planet Mars. However, a mishap occurs during the implantation and it is discovered that Quaid is actually a secret agent. Quaid's journey then concerns him having to leave Earth and returning to Mars to find his true identity.
If "Total Recall" is the least successful of the "Big Three" ("Recall," "Minority Report," "Blade Runner"), then it is at least the most inventive. The movie has such a wondrous vision of future Earth and a production design that no one can beat. Paul Verhoeven injects his usual gratuitous bloodshed here (a number of scenes were edited to remove excessive violence), while also carefully planting little bits of social satire. The Oscar-winning special effects are another one of the great highlights of this film, too. Though dated, they still look pretty convincing, even today 13 years later after this films release.
The year is 2084 , it is the future , technology has flourished, and
humans have successfully colonized on the planet Mars . A factory
worker (Arnold Schwarzenegger though Christopher Reeve was offered, but
turned down ,Jeff Bridges, Matthew Broderick and Richard Dreyfuss were
each considered and role posteriorly interpreted by Colin Farrell in
recent remake) happily married to Lori (Sharon Stone , subsequently
acted by Kate Beckinsale in remake directed by his husband Len Wiseman)
, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall - a company
that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they
would like to have led - goes wrong and he finds himself on the run .
When Douglas Quaid goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet
Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to
the planet for real, or does he? . They stole his mind, now he wants it
back . Quaid finds himself thrust into the midst of a global conspiracy
to find it out , as he goes to Mars where is helped by Melina (Rachel
Ticotin , ulteriorly played by Jessica Biel) .
This exciting picture is based on a short story titled "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick that was inspiration to screen story by Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon , but director Verhooven replaced the satirical humor with extreme violence , in the original screenplay, dark humor was much more prevalent. The flick packs thrills , chills , plot twists and noisy action from start to finish . It's a roller-coaster ride until the massive final of the picture . It also displays lots of strong scenes , blood , gore and violence , the original cut of the movie was given an X-rating by the MPAA for excessive violence , some was trimmed and different camera angles were used in some of the more over the top scenes and the movie was then re-rated R . Acceptable acting by Schwarzenegger , he said that he felt this helped the story even more, giving a much stronger contrast to it by turning a character who is otherwise powerful physically into a character that becomes vulnerable after having his mind stolen . Good support cast such as Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen , Michael Ironside as Richter , Marshall Bell as George/Kuato and Mel Johnson Jr. as Benny . Impressive production design , the subway scenes were filmed in the Mexico City subway system , the miniatures used for shots showing Martian geography were based on Martian photographs . Excellent special effects , it was one of the last major Hollywood blockbusters to make large-scale use of miniature effects as opposed to CGI, and at the same time, it was also one of the first major Hollywood blockbusters to use CGI , mainly for the scenes involving the X-Ray scanner , and have it look "photo-real". Paul Verhoeven and special effects supervisor Rob Bottin had had constant disagreements during the making of RoboCop, so it seemed unlikely that the two men would ever cooperate again. However, when they saw how good Robocop had turned out, they changed their minds, and Verhoeven gave Bottin full freedom to make his own Martian creature designs . Furthermore , rousing and thrilling musical score by the great composer Jerry Goldsmith , today become a classic soundtrack. However he had said that he had received some criticism about the movie's score that "the movie had no theme", to which he strongly disagreed, stating that the movie did in fact have a theme, but it wasn't the kind of theme that "people left the theaters whistling after". The motion picture was compellingly directed by Verhoeven , though seven filmmakers were considered for and even hired to direct the movie, including Richard Rush, Bruce Beresford , Lewis Teague was also under consideration to direct around this time and David Cronenberg who had even written a few drafts of the script before Paul took over the project.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS
If I had to rank the ten best science-fiction movies made in the nineties, Total Recall would appear. Not only, is it one of the best science-fiction movies of the last decade but it's also one of the most original movies ever made. The film-maker, Paul Verhoeven made a masterstroke. His movie is a studied mix of science-fiction, horror, and detective film. It's of course based on a rich but complicated screenplay. Indeed, during the movie it's nearly impossible to distinguish dream from reality and to define Schwarzenegger's state of mind. The screenplay is also skilled because it aims at getting the spectator lost by leading him towards wrong tracks. Moreover, Verhoeven made of Mars, a dangerous and dreadful planet where you have to mistrust everyone and where everything can happen, especially the unexpected.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays with conviction his role of a worker in search of his real identity. Little by little, we're quite sure that he puts himself in the place of an hero who must release Mars in the grip of the dictator Cohaagen.
The movie is also worth seeing for its outstanding special effects and its fantastic sceneries. It's also a well-regulated movie between the (bloody) action sequences and moments that encourage reflection.
At last, Verhoeven showed feats because he succeeds in sustaining the interest of the spectator during all the movie in spite of its difficult story. Besides, you follow the movie with a great interest hoping that Verhoeven will give us a rational explanation about Scwarzenegger's state of mind. But it's not really the case. In spite of an "happy end", the film-maker is careful not to reveal the truth. So, doubt about dream or reality remains.
At the end, this is indisputably Verhoeven's best movie and Schwarzenegger's best performance to date
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Arnie is Doug Quaid, a simple construction worker who is bored with his
uneventful life and wishes to be more and to do something meaningful.
He's fascinated with going to Mars and meeting the mysterious woman of
his dreams (that would be Melina) despite the civil war brewing withing
the colonies. His wife Lori (Sharon Stone, looking gorgeous) is
appalled with all things Martian and quickly nixes that idea. The only
way Quaid is going to come close to the red planet is if he takes a
Rekall vacation, a company that literally offers you a 'dream' vacation
memory implant. Quaid wishes to go as a secret agent and all seems well
until they send him to sleep.
As soon as he's unconscious Quaid seems to wake up in a rage, claiming his name is not Quaid but Hauser. And it's not just the dream going wrong since the Rekall technicians have not even implanted the dream yet. Blacking out again and waking up in a cab, Quaid has totally no recollection of anything that has happened and is confused to find his life turned upside down. His wife and colleagues are trying to kill him, dozens of armed henchmen are after him, he seems to have acquired lethal killing skills from nowhere and he apparently has some unfinished business back on Mars, despite the fact that he's never been there. Or has he?
Once on Mars for real (or is it?) he finds himself involved with the beautiful Melina (Rachel Ticotin, even prettier than Sharon Stone), the underground resistance and battling their arch-nemesis Vilos Cohaagen, a bureaucrat who has the entire planet under his control. It seems that Hauser was Cohaagen's right hand man and left clues for the fabricated Quaid persona to topple Cohaagen's regime.
Total Recall is certainly one of Arnie's and Verhoeven's most imaginative and creative movies. The Mars town of Venusville is basically Amsterdam's Red Light District with booze, drugs and sex everywhere, the violence is so ridiculously over-the-top that one cannot help but laugh at it (despite a lot of the gorier bits being censored by the evil MPAA), the vision of the future is incongruously bleak but colorful and fanciful yet primitive. The contrasts between Earth and Mars are similar to Western and Third World comparisons.
The visual effects, if slightly dated, are simply amazing. Jerry Goldsmith's awesome score is, at once, atmospheric and action-packed. The set-pieces, especially Quaids vision of the alien furnaces, are just ludicrously entertaining and the 'is it a dream or is it real' premise puts such a wonderfully surreal twist on the whole thing. Sci-Fi has never been so outrageous. What do you expect with mad genius Dutchman directing? And I do believe that it IS real.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I never met Phil Dick, but I did correspond with him 40 years ago. This
was well after he not only believed in parallel realities and truths as
he had all his crazy life. He had chosen to simultaneously live in as
many of them as he could reach. From these folded places, he wrote
stories with woven realities.
It was important to him that Deckard could be a replicant, and be more real than those not born immaculately. And with the story on which this was based, it was essential that there be three possibilities, each as likely and "truthful" as the others. Indeed, the possibility that they ALL are is what made this writer important.
But alas, there are three people involved, among the dimmest in their respective trades. Piers Antony adapted the story. A well known science fiction writer of the time, he wrote stories for kids. Fantasy things that "made sense," instead of what is required here: real things that do not make sense, or rather make quantum sense.
No one needs to say much about how Arnie turns a picture into animated furniture. Mildly more interesting is the shape of the trainwreck that is Paul Verhoeven. He may be a charming man, and seems charming in person. He surely seems to sell tickets. But he seems obsessed with making sense of a story. Here, there is one truth; Arnie's character discovers it and triumphs as a result. Gone is the scintillating ambiguity of Dick's creation.
Verhoeven, if you don't know, at this time somehow inveigled himself into the Jesus Seminar as full, voting member! The Jesus Seminar was a response to the mess that the New Testament presents, having contradictory theology added over time to serve various agendas. The seminar attempted to use best scholarship to discover in this battleground the truth of the historical Jesus, a laudable goal. The method was to collect scholars real scholars and vote.
Verhoeven somehow became a voting member, his presence as a "scholar" allowing ammunition for all sorts of critics. Just take the part of the story where this man was so obsessed with finding the single truth amidst ambiguities that he pulled strings to participate, even at the cost of jeopardizing the enterprise.
He did that here as well.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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