Are You With Us? Total Recall
By Ryan Mazie
July 30, 2012
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.
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.