''If I am not me, then who the hell am I?''
When a man 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?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Douglas Quaid / Hauser
Total Recall, based on We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, a short story from 1974 by Philip K. Dick (and novelized in conjunction with the film production by Piers Anthony), had a laborious history getting to the silver screen. Tens of drafts were written. Production companies were attached then went out of business. Many directors and stars were attached who either changed their minds or who were dropped. Luckily, Arnold Schwarzenegger talked Carolco into picking up the project for him with Paul Verhoeven, who subsequently already proved his dazzling directorial talents on the similarly toned RoboCop(1987).
While Total Recall certainly has influences, including The Martian Chronicles(1980),Dune(1984) and the first major movie project based on a Philip K. Dick work, Blade Runner(1982), it's more notable for the films that it has influenced in subsequent years, including The Fifth Element(1997) and many of the "rubber reality" films such as Abre los ojos(1997),Vanilla Sky(2001) and The Thirteenth Floor(1999). It's also yet another film on the very long list that have had various elements "adapted" into part of The Matrix(1999), most explicitly here, the bug that Quaid has to remove from his body with a high-tech machine and the possibility of waking up from a particular reality by taking a red pill.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years then you probably know that with Director Paul Verhoeven (Black Book), nothing is not doable and he loves to show violence and sex to the extreme. This film is no exception, as the carnage is wonderfully graphic and oddly satisfying similar to Robocop, in terms of violent proceedings. We see people get their arms blown off and their necks snapped in delightful ways. Pleasingly, CGI isn't used to enhance the violence but rather to alternate with make up and prosthetics to achieve the gore factor. Uncertain on this, but I am under the impression, this was the last movie made before CGI overtook the industry, so everything we see in the movie is eclectically real. From the train stations on mars, the three breasted woman, and the mutant living inside a man was all done on set in the camera without any effect wizardry. It really draws you into the story and gives you this sense that this place has been around for an age, and we're just being given a rare insight into this world. The production designer deserves huge credit for the realistic look that attributes to the film in everyway.
''I'll be back!''
Most of the locations used, were successfully created, with the usage of expertly created miniatures and they look fantastical considering when Total Recall was created. It's not as impressive as the work that Alex Funke did on LOTR but it's still pretty successful, in the sense it still manages to hold it's own in todays film making world. The actors all are just perfectly cast in this movie, and while Schwarzenegger may be touted as the star in the movie, the real star is Michael Ironside. This is essentially Ironside doing what he does best which is playing the bad guy so brilliantly and also avoiding all the usual bad guy cliches like speaking with some accent or smoking in every scene. Sharon Stone essentially has a less dazzling role than the other players, but the little she does give every scene she partakes in, is greatly acted and fun to watch. Rachel Ticotin plays the other woman in Schwarzenegger's life and she does an amazing job of playing the woman that Schwarzenegger dreams of. She is smart, cute, and can kick your ass if she has to. Then there's Schwarzenegger who basically does what he does, in every movie which is to run, shoot, make a joke, then run and shoot some more. But you know what, that cliche formula works...So why change a good thing right?
A movie no matter how good or well written will be nothing without the support of great music and in this case, the late great Jerry Goldsmith provides a fantastic score that is just pleasing to the ears. Really adore the score he plays in the first 2 mins. of the picture alone, when we see Schwarzenegger walking around on mars. It's these weird dreamlike tones that makes you feel the same way that Schwarzenegger does, it helps us connect with what the character is feeling. The great piece he plays for when Quato tells Quaid to open his mind is without a question an epiphany of grandeur in the score. Usually action music consists of loud brass and strong drums but Goldsmith narrowly avoids that tired cliché and provides a smart intelligent score that enhances the movie at every turn. The great Howard Shore has been the only composer that I know so far that has written a decent action music for a movie and that was the amazing score he did for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The two composers seem to have a lot in common when it comes to music so someday I hope that Shore will reach that level of respect and admiration that Goldsmith has achieved.
This is NOT a family friendly sci-fi flick in the vein of Star Wars, it's rated 18 for a very good reason, so parents can hide the little ones and enjoy. If you want an adult sci-fi movie that doesn't require CGI or confusing dialog, then you'll be in heaven with this Philip K Dick adaptation.
''You are what you do. A man is defined by his actions, not his memory.''