Total Recall (1990) – Paul Verhoeven

Using the short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, as a springboard, this entry on the 1010 Sci-Fi Movie list, sees Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a secret agent on Mars, under Paul Verhoeven’s direction, who was last seen on the list for Robocop.

Bored with his construction job, and dreaming of a fantastic adventure on Mars with a strange woman, Douglas Quaid (Arnold) decides to visit Rekall, an outlet that specializes in memory vacations, against his wife Lori’s (Sharon Stone) wishes.

Moments after he’s in the chair, having paid the extra credits for the secret agent package, things appear to go wrong, and everything he believed turns out to be a lie, his wife is a minder there to make sure his memory scrub took place, and his workmates are trying to kill him.

Is it reality or is this all part of the dream that’s been implanted?

Receiving a message from himself, he learns he has to get Mars, take on the evil Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) and his right-hand man (the ever-cool Michael Ironside), save the planet, and get the girl.

total-recall-1990-06-gGotta be a dream right?

Apparently when he shot the film Verhoeven designed it so that either argument could be true, but having seen it a couple of times, I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s a dream, and poor Quaid is sitting somewhere being lobotomized.

Despite that downer side to it, it’s a fun flick, with some pretty sweet practical effects like mutants, and a number of Arnold heads as he is forced to pull a tracking device out of his brain, through his nose, or trying to breathe the atmosphere on Mars.

While he’s there, he hooks up with the resistance, a band of freedom fighters, trying to get rid of Cohaagen and his tight grip on the dome environments everyone is forced to live in, breathing the oxygen he supplies. The resistance is led by Kuato, a mutant carried around by George (the always recognizable and welcome Marshall Bell), and Quaid is brought to him by the lovely Melina (Rachel Ticotin), the very woman from Quaid’s dreams, which to him means that it all must be real, but to me, just helps prove he’s dreaming.

ironsideNo less than three times, through the course of the film, do those who exist in ‘reality’ tell you exactly how the story ends, supporting the dream theory, but it doesn’t make it any less bloody fun, and there’s a lot of that, as shoot-ups rip apart Mars’ structures, as Quaid goes hand to hand with Richter, and drills are used to murder, but it’s all ok, because there’s always a fun little quip to go with it afterwards.

It’s still a fun movie, and I am a huge fan of practical effects over CG, even if they don’t look exactly right, they still have a reality to them that CG still hasn’t quite caught yet. I’m a fan of CG being used to augment something, but I have always felt that if you can do it for real, do it.

Jerry Goldsmith scores this film, though it seems reminiscent of Basil Poledouris’ score for Conan…

What do you think? Dream? Reality? Practical effects or CG?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s