With a remake horrifically hovering on the horizon, the original’s revamped Blu-Ray release gives us all a perfect opportunity to revisit this classic Hollywood blockbuster and see if it really was as good as we ‘recalled’ or if it ‘total-ly’ missed the mark.
Fans will be happy to hear that the movie still holds up in every way, with the director approved high definition restoration taken from the original negative, letting it look as good as it did in the cinemas way back when it was first released.
That release date was 1990, and by that time the two principle players behind this amazing movie – daring Dutch director Paul Verhoeven and the Austrian action super star Arnold Schwarzenegger – were on top of their respective games, culminating in their collaboration the totally terrific Total Recall.
By this point Arnie was a box office gold Adonis, wracking up hit after hit from action movies like Predator and Commando to science fiction films like Terminator and The Running Man. Even appearing in comedies like Twins, thus making him a hunky hulk of a household name.
Total Recall cemented his place at the top, coming just before one of his most well loved and famous movies Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but also, sadly, the slow decline of his career, which took place soon after as the ex-body builders bubble burst. The cause? A string of flops due to the sea change in cinema as it moved away from the overblown action movies that had proved so popular in the 80’s and early 90’s.
Verhoeven had made it big in the Netherlands and moved to Hollywood gaining immense acclaim with the satirical Sci-Fi rollercoaster ride that was Robocop.
Transferring his very own blend of ultra-violence, political and social comment and his eye for action to Total Recall, Verhoeven crafted an almost perfect action movie. It played to all Arnie’s strengths, creating a thrillingly entertaining and exciting blockbuster which surprisingly still delivers. even though it was made over two decades ago.
Set in 2084, Arnie is Douglas Quaid, a construction worker with a beautiful wife (played with aplomb by Sharon Stone). He seemingly has a perfect life, save for the nightly reoccurring nightmares which he suffers, which are always set on Mars – a place that he has never been to – and featuring a mysterious woman that he has never met.
He hears about a company named ‘Rekall’ who can implant memories of a virtual vacation in your mind and decides to take an imaginary trip, against the advice of his co-workers and wife.
Choosing a package as ‘a secret agent who discovers alien technology in the Martian colonies’ he gets ready for a fantasy holiday away from his humdrum life when all too suddenly the procedure goes horribly wrong. He awakes frantic, frenzied and feeling completely disorientated.
It appears someone had wiped Quaid’s mind once before and as fragments start to return to him he becomes desperate to find out the truth about his past and his future.
With an army of bad guys against him and unsure what is real or in his mind, he must follow his dreams and fight his way to Mars to uncover the truth about himself and what happened.
With the pacey plotline dealing with memories, identity and our own sense of self, and a super script laced with witty one liners ripe for Arnie to throw around like verbal hand grenades as he dispatches villains left, right and centre, Total Recall is a movie that does not stop once it gets going.
Total Recall’s futuristic world is very well realised with the robot driven Johnny Cabs, videophones, x-ray security screens and the colonisation of other planets. It all feels fully formed, helped along by some excellent effects. These effects, which won the movie many awards, still look spectacular mainly due to the use of live action techniques and huge sets rather than CGI and green screen (used by many other 90’s films which can now look dated).
Verhoeven is a great director of action, unafraid to show graphic violence and horror, unlike most Hollywood movies. This makes Total Recall a much more adult affair.
The violence is his trademark, and like Robocop before and Starship Troopers which came after, Verhoeven uses the brutality and bloodshed to highlight his own agenda, which here is ‘what makes someone a monster’? The physically grotesque yet peaceful mutants of Mars, fighting for equal rights are vilified, ill treated, gunned down and exploited by the greedy corporate machinations of Vilos Cohaagen played by Ronny Cox the real villain of the piece.
Total Recall really does have everything you want from a movie in terms of action, story and entertainment. This brilliant high definition release is packed with extras including a Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger commentary track, and all looks great on Blu-Ray making it all the more ridiculous that Hollywood felt that it needed to be remade.
Memory is a forgiving beast and often we recall things in a much better light than they once were. But believe me Total Recall really is as good as you remember.
Get Total Recall and then get your arse to Mars.