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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Doug Quaid is having vivid dreams about Mars. He goes to Rekall, a
company that sells fake memory implants, but has a psychotic reaction
to the treatment. Suddenly, he is being attacked and assisted on all
sides by secret-agents, his wife turns out to be an imposter and he
seems to hold the key to some great secret buried in an ancient Martian
mine. Is he really a spy, or is he suffering from a massive paranoid
fantasy delusion ?
Reportedly the most expensive film ever made at the time, Total Recall is a mind-bending, bone-crunching action thriller set in some vague future, with a great script by Dan O'Bannon and producer Ronald Shusett. In some ways it's a formulaic picture, with the predictable car-chases, fights and impossible escapes every ten minutes, but in others it's a wildly disorienting alternate reality, as Doug is forced to question his own existence. In one of the best scenes, the villains attempt (and almost succeed) to convince Doug he's living in an elaborate hallucination, before resorting to more traditional methods. Even the familiar elements are terrific, due to the futuristic setting (infuriating computerised minicabs, a tricky hologram, a fabulous Martian colony base) and Rob Bottin's gleefully twisted comic-book mutations, which include a fake head within another fake head and a pivotal character who lives in the stomach of another. Big Arnie does his usual likable bluster in the lead, but the best performances are the husband and wife of Stone as a sharp-suited villainess and Ironside as an implacable but uninformed henchman, with Cox managing to be even more vicious than he was in Verhoeven's preceding Robocop. Also noteworthy are Eric Brevig's marvellous visual effects, with some pioneering digital work (the nail-painter, the swooping shots through the huge secret generator), and a top-notch rousing score by Jerry Goldsmith that blasts everything along with booming brass and cracking percussion. Following the success of The Terminator, Schwarzenegger made six big-budget science-fiction films, all of which are good but none of which are quite as good, but this one is topper excessive entertainment and probably the best of the runners-up. Based on the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, by the highly influential science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Total Recall, is a fine film and must rank highly for every Arnie Fan.
With more story to chew on than a lot of Arnie flicks, this film is a
lot more than your average action movie.
Quaid (Schwarzenegger) takes a trip to Recall, where you can have a holiday implanted in your mind, and take a vacation from yourself too. When Quaid asks for holiday on Mars as a Secret agent, he begins a psychotic episode before the trip is implanted, and it turns out he really is a secret agent and he is involved in a major conspiracy and has had his memory erased. Or at least that's how it appears?
The great thing about the film is it lets you decide for yourself if it really was a dream, or was Quaid really there?
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is on TV in the UK on some sort of cycle, and I end up seeing parts of it every two months or so, and every time you see it you pick out new things. I think this was the third time I'd seen the start; they really didn't want him to go to Mars, did they? Fifteen years on the effects don't really look that dated, which is a bit of surprise. In honesty it doesn't use too many bar the mutant freakshow and the comic head-expanding at the end, but it's hard to recall other sci-fi's from the early nineties that haven't aged terribly. The storyline doesn't have a lot of depth and isn't going to inspire a new generation of science fiction writers, and the acting isn't particularly subtle, but it's great. After all, it's Arnie. He beats people up, some things explode, drops in a few hammed up one liners, and he keeps us entertained. What more can you ask for?
The premise, a man plagued by memories and unsure whether they are real or
false could have made for an intelligent, thought provoking, tense
and indeed it did some six years later in Terry Gilliam's 'Twelve
Unfortunately here the idea is wasted, reduced to a run-of-the-mill
actioner, used entirely as a vehicle for the once popular Arnie. There are
dozen running gun battles, but each is exactly the same as the next.
Anything that can explode must explode. Anything that can erupt in a spray
of blood must explode in a spray of blood.
In it's defence, Arnie hasn't made a film in the same league as this since Terminator 2, and it introduced a seductive Sharon Stone ('If you don't trust me you can tie me up') to a wide audience, giving us a taster of what she and Verhoven could do a year later in 'Basic Instinct'. Perfect if you - like the customers at Rekall inc. - have had a labotomy.
How Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to become one of Hollywood's best paid stars
is even more of mystery than his subsequent ascent up the political ladder.
On the basis of his performance in 'Total Recall', he can't act, his mastery
of the English language is limited, he's not even conventionally handsome
and, most bizarrely for a star of action films, he runs like a man with a
war wound. Paul Verhoeven's film is a comedy thriller made in the late
1980s but set in a future that looks like... well, actually it looks
remarkably like the 1980s, with plenty of concrete, advertising, big hair
and a portable computer the size of a suitcase. Given the film's massive
budget, the failure to convey any sense of the vast otherness of space is a
particular disappointment. '2001: A Space Odyssey' did better in this
respect over 20 years earlier; the feel of 'Total Recall's vision is more
akin to that of 'Star Trek'.
The holey plot is based on some interesting ideas that have since been re-used in films like (obviously) 'The Matrix' but also David Fincher's 'The Game': what is reality, and how can we tell? but both those films were far better executed than this. Meanwhile, the (intentional) "comedy" is provided by a prostitute with three breasts, Arnie swearing (something which happens a lot) and by an endless sequence of comic-book fight scenes that are neither convincing, exciting or funny (unless one happens to regard Sharon Stone kicking Arnie in the balls as inherently hilarious: one really needs to do so to enjoy this film, as this also happens on numerous occasions). The unintentional comedy derives from Arnie's performance.
If anyone ever re-makes this film, I advise them to save money by hiring a block of wood instead of Schwarzenegger: they'll probably get a better performance out of it. Instead, they should hire instead a decent scriptwriter and a director/designer with some imagination. In it's current incarnation, it's really not good, and as an actor, Arnie makes a damn fine politician.
Bright representative of the time when the movie was worth it to go just because there is removed Arnold Schwarzenegger! But not only he made a contribution to this film. From Actresses clearly distinguished Sharon stone, and the villains are also well looked. And at this time, when Paul Verhoeven did a very exciting movie. In this case, it's a great Thriller, which constantly thinking how can rotate the plot. Technically everything is fine, many technical aspects are very well thought out, well, how was it possible that time... Such films may be revised from time to time. And this movie never gets old, unlike remakes, which every year more and more...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of all the science-fiction novelists of the 20th century, few have been
as prolific or influential on modern fiction and film as Philip K.
Dick. The author of 44 novels and 121 short stories, Dick explored the
possibility of reality being a vast illusion subjective to man's
perceptions. Dick, heavily influenced by Carl Jung, utilized his
concepts of collective unconscious and group projection frequently.
Plans to bring Dick's 1966 short story "We Can Remember It for You
Wholesale" surfaced when Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett (the writers
of Alien) bought the rights to the story. The project languished in
development hell until legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis took
interest in it in the mid-1980s, though it was similarly shelved when
another De Laurentiis science-fiction picture, "Dune," flopped
spectacularly. The project's potential was finally realized when, after
the collapse of De Laurentiis's company, action star Arnold
Schwarzenegger prompted Carolco Pictures to purchase the film rights
for $3 million. Schwarzenegger immediately recruited director Paul
Verhoeven, whose film Robocop Schwarzenegger greatly admired, to head
the project. A partnership between Paul Verhoeven and Arnold
Schwarzenegger is hardly a recipe for sophistication and wit, but could
they produce something beyond the "big, dumb action movie" that
Schwarzenegger built his reputation on? Surprisingly, yes. And they did
so by bringing the themes built into Dick's work to the forefront.
In some undisclosed future, Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) is an average Joe with a beautiful wife (Sharon Stone) and a job as a construction worker who dreams of visiting Mars. Unable to afford the trip, he visits the Rekall company, which implants a vivid memory of a vacation into clients' heads for a modest fee. Things become complicated when Quaid's dream vacation, which involves him working as a secret agent on Mars, turns out to already be real, buried deep inside his mind. Turns out that Douglas Quaid is a completely fictionalized identity implanted into the brain of secret agent "Hauser." His wife Lori is not even his real wife: she is actually the lover of Richter (Michael Ironside), the man who is leading the team that is now trying to exterminate him. Left with a suitcase full of money, a few gadgets, and a video message from Hauser telling him to "get his ass to Mars," Quaid sets out to bring down his former boss Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) and figure out just who the hell he is.
The most troubling aspect of the story is the casting of Schwarzenegger as an "average" man. Take Die Hard: the film was originally conceived as a vehicle for Schwarzenegger. By casting Bruce Willis as John McClane instead, the film gained a whole new dynamic, and Die Hard became a story of an average man foiling a terrorist plot, rather than joining the ranks of other mediocre superhero action star flicks. With Total Recall, the reverse is true: the story was originally conceived with the intent of having a more "ordinary" everyday man in the lead. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than having the Herculean Schwarzenegger in the part. It's a testament to Schwarzenegger, however, that the film didn't devolve into another action flick: having unsuccessfully vied for the role when the project was still being headed by De Laurentiis, he was determined to make the film something special. He exercised a great deal of creative control during the entire production, persuading the studio to adhere to Verhoeven's vision when necessary. To his credit, Schwarzenegger does try his best to flesh out a new type of character for himself; it's simply unfortunate that his thick Austrian accent and incredible physique prevent him from flexing any sort of acting chops.
Schwarzenegger's presence does not ruin the film, thanks to the slick direction of Verhoeven and a screenplay that makes use of the themes of Dick's work. In fact, Total Recall may be the best expression of Dick's work I've ever seen put to celluloid. The best example of this takes place during one of the film's most memorable scenes. Quaid is visited by Dr. Edgemar, the inventor of Rekall, and Lori at his hideout on Mars. Edgemar tells Quaid that everything he has been experiencing so far is a part of the "trip" that he paid for, and that he isn't even on Mars at all: he is really just back at Rekall headquarters. The "vacation" Quaid paid for, Edgemar says, has gone wrong, and Quaid's experiences are all a part of paranoid delusions taking place within his mind. When Quaid dismisses this, Edgemar responds with what is possibly the most amazing example of meta ever committed to film:
"What's bullshit, Mr. Quaid? That you're having a paranoid episode triggered by acute neurochemical trauma? Or that you're really an invincible secret agent from Mars who's the victim of an interplanetary conspiracy to make him think he's a lowly construction worker?"
The audience is forced to question the truth as well: despite the fact that we are not part of the events on screen, we are still susceptible to the same illusions that any of the characters are.
This represents one of the reasons I love Paul Verhoeven as a director: despite the fact that his films come across on the surface as pointless exercises in extreme violence, there is substance behind it all. In Starship Troopers limbs came off left and right, but the message that "war makes fascists of us all" was clear throughout. In Robocop, the violence never superseded the various critiques of capitalism and corruption. With Total Recall, the concept of the very nature of reality as subject to question exists even as a midget prostitute stabs a man in the groin. With this film I am allowed to revel in the extreme violence and action that puts it in the category of "big, dumb action movie" while, at the same time, I can appreciate the deeper psychological questions inspired by Dick.
Many of Phillip K. Dick's stories have been adapted into films and a
number of them been turned into excellent films. One of them is the
1990 version of Total Recall, a gruesome violent, entertaining sci-fi
action flick with plenty of substance.
In the future Dennis Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is construction worker on Earth, longing for more and having recurring dreams of being on Mars with a brunette woman. When he watches an advert for Rekall, a company that can implant memories into people. But the worst happens when during the Rekall process Quaid freaks out and it is discovered his memory has been wiped. Even worst many people are out to kill Quaid, including his wife, Lori (Sharon Stone), his co-worker (Robert Costanzo) and a man called Ritchter (Michael Ironside). Quaid has to go to Mars to discover the truth about his identity as Mars is in the middle of a violence Civil War.
Total Recall was directed by Paul Verhoeven and he is a man with a reputation for making action films with substance. That is certainly the cast with Total Recall and it worked on a number of levels: it is a mystery about who Quaid really is and as a futuristic spy flick, a bleak sci-fi film which acts as a criticism of big corporations and exploiting native people or the underclass and the health effects on them to simply being a gore-fest. Verhoeven is great the world building, showing the political situation of Mars.
Total Recall is brutally violent and it is a shame that this type of film is no longer made. There are great action sequences that are bloody, with people getting shot to pieces and has excellent gun battles and fight scenes. There is a great use of practical effects during the film whilst also using some early CGI which surprisingly holds up today.
Schwarzenegger is not the best actor but he has screen presence and he can deliver a one-line. When the material is there to back Schwarzenegger up there is no stopping him. Schwarzenegger was also supported by a fine cast, including Ronny Cox and Ironside in villainous roles, Stone in one of her best roles and Rachel Ticotin was very good as both the love interest and a woman of action.
Jerry Goldsmith supplied an iconic score for the film with a memorial theme.
Total Recall is a classic sci-fi that has aged very well. It is successful both on an action level and on a more thematic and intelligent level. It is to me the best Arnie film outside the Terminator series.
Total recall came out in 1990 and was another hit for it's leading man Arnold Schwarzenegger. Again Schwarzenegger choose to enter the world of science fiction coupled with action as he had previous success with The Terminator, The Running Man, and Predator. Arnold sort out the services of the impressive Dutch Director Paul Verhoeven whom had success with 1987's Robocop. Verhoeven was not a science fiction director, however his greatest films have all been set in the science fiction genre.The great thing about Verhoeven as a director is he always asks questions of his audience, and makes them think about the message he is putting across in all his films. His films do use excessive graphic content and nudity, so he is not for everyone. It is almost like comic book violence at times. The 80s action films audience expected graphic violence, as we entered the 90s action films would steadily use less graphic violence Total Recall is set in the future and is about the character Douglas Quiad (Schwarzenegger) or is it? Quaid is a construction worker who keeps dreaming of mars. He can not convince his wife, played by the very sexy Sharon Stone to go on holiday to mars. So Quiad takes matters into his own hands and goes for a implanted memory of a holiday to mars. As Quiad awakes he thinks that people are coming to kill him, but is he just living his implanted memory or not? Does he really have a previous life and his identity as Douglas Quaid is just a set up. As like most of the science fiction films around at this time for example Terminator 2, it is filled with original ideas and makes it a intelligent plot line and can be thought of as deeply as the viewer feels necessary or just enjoyed as a action film. Action films these days seem to have lost the plot when it comes to over use of cgi at the expense of a good story. Total Recall is good thinking man's science fiction film and is highly recommended, kudos to the film makers and Arnold Schwarzenegger for making this film possible as a large budgeted film with star backing.
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