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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!
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.
this is of course, one of arnold's best typical kind of films, contains
of violence, lots of good one liners, beautiful women, and arnold saves
at another level, it presents an interesting hollywood narrative that is rare as most hollywood films simply go on to say the system works or that the system is fine but individuals mess it up. the film presents rebels who are of course labelled as 'terrorists' by the media and the state (reminds me slightly of the situation in Chechnya and Central America in the 80's). However, through the course of the film we learn that the corporate presumably american interests are corrupt and evil and that the rebels are actually fighting for something meaningful. Bringing the atmosphere of Mars back so that the people can have freedom from Coohagen. In the end, the rebels suffer some defeat but achieve their victory, uncomprimised.
This narrative is quite radical for hollywood and I found it to be quite impressive. Much more than the conclusion of the Matrix Trilogy which basically concluded that social forces cannot achieve ultimate victory, and that the system eventually remains in place and that comprimise can only be achieved. This film is perhaps saying that dissent and rebellion can achieve something and make the world better. Something that is rarely a meaning in Hollywood films.
However, on another level, as someone else commented earlier, this could be all a dream as small hints were dropped throughout the film. In the end such ideas are just fantasies and unattainable, perhaps some recuperation could be existing there. Meaning that the film remains fail-safe in that the status-quo is maintained. In that case, quite sad.
Even in that case, it presents an interesting point of view that is not always present in Hollywood films. Perhaps critical thought can occur from watching these films, about, say corporate power? I'm definitely looking for the next film by Paul Verhoeven to see what social commentary is contained.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
All in all, this is really one of the strangest films out there, in my
opinion. On one hand, it is obviously a Schwarzenegger star vehicle,
directed by the characteristically over-the-top Paul Verhoeven, a
ludicrous gore-fest featuring no shortage of cheap thrills. On the
other hand, it is a seriously conceptual science fiction trip, and
however much it may depart from the Phillip K. Dick source material on
which it is based, it still is a genuinely good, thoughtful story at
It opens with a beautiful, mysterious scene on Mars, but soon finds itself back on Earth, with Arnold and his crazy reptilian facial expressions, going 21st-century schizoid man on any number of enemies that he finds coming out of the woodwork to get him. Along the way, there is a lot of (obviously fake) blood, a lot of people dying dramatically, a lot of product placement, and plenty of shameless exploitation of all sorts of things.
But somehow, it never becomes disposable. From the word go, Schwarzenegger's title character is one worth caring about, and as the overall plot gradually reveals itself, one can easily become quite engrossed in it. This is not a film without real emotion. There is plenty of drama, a truly big, epic climax and a surprisingly artistic final frame.
There are two specific elements in TOTAL RECALL that I think bear mentioning. First, the excellent visual depictions of the planet Mars. I am referring to the *exteriors* where, whatever the filmmaking techniques used, a very evocative picture is painted of another world, both romantic and bleak at the same time.
The second thing is the performance of Rachel Ticotin. Her depiction of the character Melina makes this film far better and more watchable that it would have been otherwise. I cannot overstate that. I found myself looking her up to see what else she had acted in. In a film full of performances that are effective but most of them laughable nonetheless, Ticotin is really, seriously believable. For me, she is the heart. (Not Sharon Stone.)
I do not know how much I actually like this film. But it is an undeniably entertaining watch, with some interesting ideas about the future and no lack of visual craziness. It is far more violent than I had anticipated, so definitely not for everyone. Also, it is a bit dated when viewed in the present (2013), but not nearly so much as many other films from its era. I give it 6.5 out of 10.
This motion picture was surely, in my opinion, inspired by short story
"Total recall" by Phillip K. Dick. I have read it and I can tell that
the movie has only caught up the general idea from there. There is the
retold short story:
Douglas Quaid is a simple worker (his wife is his wife, not an undercover agent, as in movie) who is obsessed about going on Mars (because this some time after his wife leaves him for good). Knowing he is a poor man and trying to do something about it, he goes to "Total Recall" , a company for artificial voyages. There he talks with Mc.... (as in movie, appears that names have been taken literally); before he talks to receptionist (we are told she is blonde => white , not black , as in movie). Things goes wrong; he is discovered, under narcosis, as past agent of Interplan (as he wished to be in the dream voyage to be implanted in his memory) and the guys at Total Recall put him in a taxi. He wakes in cab , finds half of money owed for imaginary voyage in his pocket and soon begin to remember what happened at Total Recall; then he asks and get all the money he has payed (of course is angry and frustrated). On way home he starts to remember that he was a real agent; at home 2 armed officers (one of them has a ear device that let him hear Quaid's thoughts; the Interplan had implanted a living creature in Quaid's brain who can transmit thoughts). Douglas Quaid soon increasingly remembers all that happened on Mars and his past training and abilities, officer want to kill him, does not succeed (Quaid already knew how to fight) and Quaid escapes outside. After some conversation in his mind with someone from Interplan (through that living device in his brain), he (catching at his last chance of survival) decides to go to an Interplan facility and let their specialists study him to see if a false memory could be implanted over his yearning wish to go to Mars (if none could be found, he agrees that must be killed); a fantasy dating from his child times is found and they choose that. He is taken to Total Recall to proceed (receptionist is described as having her naked big bosoms dyed in orange) and here , examining his memory , they found that the fantasy (in childhood he saw an alien spaceship landing in front of him, the only who could see them; that ship had beings as big as mice, but bound to conquer Earth; that ship was only first, more thousand will follow; after a discussion with alien beings, they were touched and decided not to invade Earth as long as he lives) was real and Quaid, as he says proudly, is the most important human being on Earth. The short story ends with the advice to the Interplan not to kill him; otherwise the alien invasion would begin, bringing destruction to all Earth civilization.
From director Paul Verhoeven comes this wildly over-the-top futuristic thriller about a construction worker (Schwarzenegger) who discovers that his entire life has been artificially "implanted." Once he realizes who he is, he sets out on a dangerous mission to Mars to try and reclaim his identity while eluding the deadly spies who are in hot pursuit. Dynamite sci-fi action movie has remarkable, mind-blowing special effects, endless and intriguing plot twists, violent, pumped-up action scenes, and more than enough innovative ideas. As a thrill ride it's simply excellent, and arguably one of Arnold's most entertaining films. ***½
This could have been yet another great Philip K. Dick story turned into a movie (Blade Runner). However at the critical moment this movie fails. After doing a good job setting up Quaid's motivation to go to Mars and getting the characters together; the movie does a great job of throwing in a killer plot twist. However it is as this plot twist is being resolved that the movie loses it creditability. Once the Alien air-making machine is put into action realism would dictate that every structure on the planet would be leveled. Just imagine the effect of taking a structure built to handle the near vacuum of the Martian atmosphere and suddenly hitting it with 15 lbs per square inch of weight. The Alien machine, to work properly in the movie would take several weeks to create a Martian atmosphere. And that means that Quaid dies after being sucked out of the airshaft. Even if we look at that scene, think of the incredible damage that would have been done to Quaid's body. He would never be the same. What saddens me is these are small plot points that could have been dealt with properly had the director and screenwriter taken some time to do so. Had they done so, this would be an undeniable instant Sci-Fi classic, instead of a good movie with a hoaky ending.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie has awesome one-liners, memorable scenes, characters you
hate or cheer for, wonderful sets and lots of creatively thought out
Some points i liked: At the beginning of the movie, the fooling around between Quaid and his fake wife is kind of how it goes in real life. This and other presentations of social interaction is implemented well in Total Recall.
They even had the balls to put things in that movie that require more than meets the eye, like the presentation of the psychics: They certainly don't look like that in real life, but some ways of how they do things are presented. Just an example...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You've gotta admire the scriptwriters, they tailored the script to
Arnold's greatest strength, that of destroying everything in his path.
Look closely. Arnold never *creates* anything. The personality implant? Cohaagen had it done. The mask, the money, the guy with the suitcase? Cohaagen again. The resistance? Kuato organized it. The oxygen reactor? Aliens built it.
The script sets up these plot elements like so many dominoes in a row, so that Arnie can come along and knock them down.
Don't like the new implanted personality? Kill the techs at Rekall. Got a smart-aleck robo-cabbie? Rip him off his pedestal and blow up the cab. Benny trying to grind you to a pulp? Perforate the bastard with a drill. Richter being a pain in the ass? Guillotine his arms on an elevator.
No creativity is required of Arnie. Just death and destruction -- what Arnold does best. A brilliant script.
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