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*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Predator" and "Terminator" are good. "Commando" is funny and cool.
"RoboCop" is great. But this one is a turkey, neither cool nor funny,
neither good nor ultimately bad. It pretends to be something valuable.
But such elements as the fighting between the main hero and his "wife"
with "picturesque" martial arts moves, stupid taxi service with that
cheap talking driver-doll that tries to joke, bits of action without
proper "set piece" as a big macho is running, jumping, and killing some
mutants and security guards, while trying to save the planet (is it a
video-game? then where is the joystick?), pretentious performance and
dialogues backed up by violence (remember the evil character shooting a
lady in the bar just to show them who's the boss and his face
expressions), too many trash-talking characters - especially mutants -
making it all look hectic like some crowd scenes of "Star Wars" are
ruining it, at least to me. Even a greatly executed (visually) scene
with the talking female cyber-mask, which blows the whole place off,
cannot save it all. When I witness such things, I am not interested in
the plot. It is just another eye-candy from Hollywood - it can be
mind-blowing (and perhaps it really is) but I don't care what happens
next. If you can appreciate all those super-entertaining details, then
it is possibly a movie for you. I cannot. "What a waste of everything"
is the only phrase that comes to my mind.
Just one parallel to mention here. Does anybody remember the PD shoot-out scene in "Terminator" or any shooting scene in "RoboCop"? The backgrounds for those scenes were overwhelming. The shootouts looked real and serious. They were kind of "fortissimo". And even after repeated viewing I watch them with some sort of awe. And what do we have here? It all looks like a cheap "catch-me-if-you-can" game that just goes on and on till the finale. Cannot call any separate action scene even "mezzo-forte".
Maybe I'm completely wrong and it is just the choice of effects, actors, and one-liners, which are to blame.
Anyhow, I do not want to recall this "Total Recall" because it does not worth it. The only reason I type this comment is that I disagree with the film's high rating. It is to be 5 out of 10 at most. "RoboCop" (1987) is worth a thousandth buy (great job, Mr Paul Verhoeven) while "Total Recall" is not worth even a second look (can't believe it is the same Mr Paul Verhoeven behind this production).
3 out of 10 (to watch once is more than enough). Thanks for attention.
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.
* and 1/2 stars out of ****
I like Arnold Schwarzenegger and his movies. He may never win an Oscar, but he knows how to crank out entertaining cinema, with thrilling action films like the Terminator movies, True Lies, and even End of Days. I, however do not like director Paul Verhoeven, who has the tendency to take good ideas and screw them up. Total Recall is a film full of intriguing, and even marvelous, ideas. It's only unfortunate that nothing too significant is done with these ideas.
Memories. It's an intriguing concept because it seems to define who we are. Without them, we just wouldn't be ourselves. This is the backdrop of Total Recall, which is probably a far better setup than the film deserves. Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker who lives a seemingly happy life far in the future. He has a lovely wife (Sharon Stone) and a good home.
But, lately, he's been having dreams about a dark-haired woman (Rachel Ticotin), with the both of them on the planet Mars, which is currently turmoil because of a megalomaniac (Ronny Cox). Then, Quaid decides to go to Rekall, Inc., a company that lets you experience a fantasy world. His recent dreams have compelled him to go through with this fanatasy. But just as he's about to begin the "vacation", something goes wrong and he's thrown out of the building.
More problems begin to occur as everybody Quaid knows seems to be after him, even his wife. He eventually begins to believe that all his memories are false, and his search for his true identity leads him to Mars and the dark-haired woman of his dreams.
Yes, the plot sounds interesting, and the added mercenaries that are after him seem like it would give them a pace that speeds along, but it really doesn't. After a very absorbing first half hour, everything starts to go downhill from there. The action scenes simply aren't exciting, just gory and gruesome, something typical of Verhoeven. Sometimes, the choreography can even get downright laughable. Thinking of that, I am reminded of the endless kicks to the crotch that Stone delivers to Schwarzenegger, which looks more goofy than anything else. Now, Verhoeven can direct superb action scenes (i.e. Starship Troopers) but his work here is rather lackluster, as is his handling with the script.
The reasons behind the lack of excitement could lie in the fact that Schwarzenegger never really seems all that scared. He initially tries that, but as soon as the film sets on Mars, he acts very cocky, like he could take on anybody. His reaction to what's going on around is far from believable, and it might actually have been a better idea to bring somebody in less physically imposing (which reminds me of the upcoming film Impostor, which sounds similar in plot and stars the splendid Gary Sinise, a perfect actor for the role needed).
The worst part is, there's an unpredictable plot twist that seems to pop up every half hour that perks your interest up and leads you to believe the film will get better. It doesn't. After the momentary jolt of surprise (I did really enjoy the last twist, which is quite shocking), everything falls back down to Earth (or is it Mars?), and the boredom sets in again.
The set design and special effects can be impressive, but everything starts to look hazy and unpleasant after a while. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it could be the choice of color shades the director chose to shoot the film with.
The performances don't really amount to much of anything. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays himself again, but a little less convincingly than usual. Sharon Stone is sexy and seductive as Quaid's deadly wife, but she's not given much more to do other than shout, show cleavage, and kick Scwarzenegger around. Rachel Ticotin is simply awful, and I would have prefered if her role had been switched around with Stone.
Mars is a fascinating planet that always looks like it's harboring some sort of secret. Total Recall has that element in its script, but it doesn't do anything significant with it. As a matter of fact, just slight changes around and I don't think this film would even need the Mars setting. As it is, the best film about this red planet is still Brian De Palma's underrated Mission to Mars.
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.
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.
When a man (Arnold Schwarzenegger) 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?
One could consider "Total Recall" part of a Philip K. Dick trilogy: Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. With A Scanner Darkly and Paycheck (among others) creating an extended trilogy (you know, like Douglas Adams did). Total Recall is easily worthy of standing beside Blade Runner. And even as a stand-alone sci-fi film, it ranks as one of the better ones of the 1990s, if not all time.
One of the great things about Total Recall is the ambiguous nature of the story. Is it a dream? A brain embolism? Reality? Any of these has evidence to support it and also to contradict it. And this is a strength for the movie.
There is a certain absurdity with the special effects -- eyes bulging and whatnot when the people lose oxygen. In real life you would simply die in space, not explode. But at the same time this was somewhat amusing and a bit comical so it can be overlooked. Besides, coming from Rob Bottin ("The Thing"), the focus should be on the strengths of the makeup and effects and not the possible shortfalls.
The casting was great. Arnold was a great choice, and no one else could be Quaid. Kurt Russell, Stallone, Swayze... these guys are great but not right for this part. And Sharon Stone was looking her best for this movie, and since her role seemed to be the sexpot wife who does little more than exercise and seduce her husband, that is a big endorsement.
Clearly the best character was Benny the Cab Driver, played by Mel Johnson, Jr in his only notable role. He stole the scenes he was in with great comic timing and an interesting back-story. I was quite interested by how he went from being what could have been a minor background role to a primary figure in the overall plot. Exquisite.
I guess I simply must recommend you see this movie. If you have not seen Blade Runner, watch that first. If you have not seen Minority Report, watch this first. But either way, be sure that you put this movie somewhere high on your to-do list.
OK, I love TOTAL RECALL.
I read the short story by Phillip K. Dick (We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) 'way before the movie.
I was in an OSHA HAZWOPER training class that used clips from the movie to illustrate numerous life-threatening hazards. COOL.
TOTAL RECALL is a movie with two BIG stars (Arnold and Sharon) before they were BIG, Paul Vanhoevan as director, and story inspired by Phillip K. Dick.
The production has a lot more "look" to it than you would expect from the period, pre-computer graphics.
TOTAL RECALL continue to echo today.
I just watched a SOUTH PARK with a reference: "Quaid, start the generators."
Philip K. Dick also inspired BLADE RUNNER, again one of my 5 favorite SF movies.
Of course, I own a copy!
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