I love a good Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. In matter of fact, I love a bad one, too. Sometimes those are even better. The Terminator, Predator, True Lies, heck, even Kindergarten Cop, Jingle All the Way and Eraser (guiltiest pleasure ever). However, one of his films I unintentionally avoided is the cult favorite, Total Recall. I’m not sure I haven’t seen this movie yet, but with this weekend’s remake of the film being released (which I’ll be seeing because of Kate Beckinsale), I finally had an excuse to watch it.
Are You With Us? Total Recall
By Ryan Mazie
July 30, 2012
Inspired by the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall stars Ah-nuld as Douglas Quaid, a construction worker on Earth in the year 2084 who has dreams of visiting Mars. Because hey, it’s 2084, so obviously space travel is a thing by then. Another thing invented by then is Rekall. Rekall is a company that can implant memories of a dream vacation into your brain (or any memory for that matter; you can be a star athlete with a Playboy bunny girlfriend for a weekend in Jupiter) so you can have the joy of traveling without the hassle of packing, getting a crappy room, forgetting your wallet in the hotel, or any of that other vacation nonsense.
Undergoing the Rekall procedure, Quaid has a violent reaction. It turns out that his memory has already been Rekalled and he is a spy who got his memory wiped by thugs - or is this just the spy-setting Quaid asked for as a part of his Rekall?
The script doesn’t ask that question as often as you’d think, feeling no need to jerk the audience around. This gives you more of an invested stake for Quaid’s survival, understanding that these dangers are real and not an implanted memory. Sharon Stone plays Quaid’s wife - or is she a spy keeping tabs on him?
Michael Ironside (Top Gun) and Ronny Cox (RoboCop, Deliverance, Beverly Hills Cop) play the larger-than-life villains with even bigger guns. They have some cockamamie plan of blocking Mars of its air and killing its inhabitants, but it doesn’t really matter. All that we have to know is that they are bad and therefore must be killed. But first, Arnold must shoot, punch, stab, and hack his way through hundreds of henchmen to get to them.
Languishing in development hell since the ‘80s, the screenplay had many fingers touch it. The film is credited with six different writers (most notably Alien scripters Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon). Even David Cronenberg (who was attached to this project for over a year before throwing in the towel) is said to have made significant contributions to the film, yet remained without credit (i.e. the idea that the civilization of Mars are all disfigured mutants - or chicks with three boobs who don’t mind flashing them).
For an Arnold sci-fi film, the script is pretty tight. However, his strong accent and average delivery makes philosophical questions such as “If I am not me, then who the hell am I?” just as chuckle-worthy as his never-ending one-liners.
I can easily see how Colin Farrell in the lead of the remake could bring in the gravitas a bit more with the could-be thought-provoking material. But let’s be honest, that isn’t what we see a Schwarzenegger movie for. We see it for the action.
RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven helms the film, which is noted to be one of the last major pictures to use miniature models for its action set pieces instead of CGI. Verhoeven plays the movie as a sci-fi drama at first, before dumping never-ending buckets of blood at the halfway mark, turning Recall into a total action flick. Verhoeven keeps things frenetic but never chaotic, mixing humor with bloodshed for a thrill ride of a flick.
In fact, the violence was so brutal in the original cut that the movie was slapped with an “X” rating, forcing Verhoeven to cut scenes and use alternate takes to get the film down to an audience-friendly R-rating. However, while bloody compared to today, some of the inventive ways to take people’s lives in a free-for-all fight scene look kind of hokey. Call it desensitization, but the special effects in the film do not hold up. But with the employment of real sets that don’t lose value like those that are CGI, things still appear by-and-large futuristic.
Though riddled with plot holes, Total Recall is still with us. The idea of having memory implantations and themes of identity crisis are still relevant and Schwarzenegger is still an enduring star who is credible as a lead to even modern audiences. It’s strange, though, how not much of the cast outside of Arnold and Sharon Stone had much of a career. Even the second female lead, Rachel Ticotin (yep, name didn’t ring a bell for me either) went into obscurity just as quickly as her star rose.
Total Recall was given the thumbs up by critics, being among Schwarzenegger’s highest-rated films on Rotten Tomatoes, clocking in at 83% fresh. Most of the reviewers noted the film’s excessiveness in terms of plot, characters, action, blood, and just about everything else under the sun. However, sometimes too much is a good thing, and in the case of a sci-fi action film, it is better to go overboard.
With initial worry audiences wouldn’t show given a weak awareness rate less than a month before its June 1st release, Total Recall had the biggest opening weekend of 1990, earning $25.5 million. The film ended its run with $119.4 million ($223.8 million adjusted) with an additional $141.9 million from foreign coin, more than earning back its $65 million budget.
A sequel was in the works, containing elements from Dick’s other famous tale, Minority Report, but it never went to film for one reason or another.
The Total Recall remake released this upcoming weekend is nixing the trip to Mars element that made the original so trippy for a grittier, Earth-based drama (with plenty of action of course). But where’s the fun in that?
Not a perfect film, but a damn entertaining one, Total Recall is the perfect package of fun, humor, blood, sci-fi, action, and camp. While lacking in some departments, its overcompensation in all of the other ones keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The original was just recently released on Blu-Ray in what is being dubbed as the “Mind-Bending Edition” just in time to cash off of the remake (which is cashing off of the original – talk about a strange cycle). A fun two hours filled with things going boom, Total Recall is among one of Arnie’s most memorable hits. Memory implantation not required.
Verdict: With Us
7 out of 10