Review: Total Recall Special Edition

by Nathan Stout of

Total Recall is one mess of a movie. Not a mess in the sense that it’s bad but that in the sense that you have a hard time figuring out what is actually happening. Is it all a memory from Rekall or did Rekall just open up the memories of double agent Hauser? There are so many misnomers that you spend the entire movie trying to figure it out.

In today’s movie market they won’t reveal that it might have been real or a dream until the end since all movies now a days are contractually required to have a twist (thanks M. Night Syamalan). This movie has you guessing from the get go. Before we begin let’s look at some of the cast. There is of course the ever popular Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his prime), the super hot Sharon Stone (in her prime too), and the greatest character actor EVAR: Michael Ironside (who I think has been in every movie ever made since the 60’s). A bunch of other actors and actresses as well as this guy who I think is Henry Rollins’ dad or something:

Total Recall is ‘inspired’ by Phillip K. Dick’s: We can remember It For You Wholesale. It was directed by Paul Verhoeven which is easy to recognize. He just has this over-the-top feel in all his movies. I feel that you could somehow edit most of his sci-fi movies together (Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) and make one movie that looks like it was originally made that way.

I’m sure you know the story by now but I will do a quick recap. Arnie is possibly having a delusion because of a botched memory implant or the memory implant procedure causes him to remember he was a top secret agent on Mars. He discovers his ‘other, top agent’ self was a bad guy and decided to be a good guy. He gets the girl and defeats the bad guys, the end. That’s SUPER condensed but it’s basically it. The cool stuff is all the mutants, alien artifacts, gunfire, triple breasted chicks and such thrown in for good measure.

The movie won an Oscar (if you can believe that) and several other awards (mostly for it’s effects). It has a pretty solid story and is fairly interesting. There are enough turns in the road to keep you guessing if he is just remembering some false memories he bought or he really was a super agent. Here are my ‘clues’ that it was all just apart of his Rekall Ego-Trip:

  • The technician says (in the background): ‘Blue skies on Mars, that’s new’.
  • The woman he describes before getting the implant then is shown on the screen is the actual face of Melina.
  • The salesman describes exactly what is going to happen.
  • The screen showing alien options shows the exact image of the alien artifacts that appear at the end of the movie.

The ‘clues’ that make me consider that he really is an agent who’s memory was erased are:

  • The emotional reactions of his friends and wife when he talks about Mars or implants (before the visit to the Rekall place).

It’s not much for the case that he really is an agent but the movie comes across that way and it’s never for certain. At some point you start double guessing and even rationalizing how it could be a memory or reality. This is what makes the movie engaging. It makes the audience think about what’s going on.

A few things I noted about the future portrayed in this film:

  • Curtis Mathis makes a comeback in the television market.
  • LCDs are replaced by clunky CRTs (LCDs must have not been fashionable).
  • Pepsi still exists in the future (so does Barq’s Rootbeer).
  • Sex is still very popular.
  • Quato looks like Chucky.
  • Glass used on Mars is not bullet proof for some reason.
  • Don’t mess with Arnie.

It’s a fun movie and there is action every couple of minutes (literally). The special effects are decent (for 1990) and I can always appreciate piratical effects over CGI any day (even bad effects). Verhoeven is a beg believer in BIG blood bags for bullet shots and when a shoot out occurs you are never disappointed.

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