I thought, seeing as I have the remake on my to-watch list, I should give the original Total Recall a watch. I was not disappointed! Total Recall is everything you would expect from a 90’s sci-fi-action film starring Arnie. The acting isn’t the best, the gore is extravagant, the technology beautifully ‘futuristic’*and the plot is surprisingly complex – with lots of twists and turns: even I was surprised at points. The film seems to me a combination of The Fifth Element (1997) Inception (2010) and that bit in Minority Report (2002) where they are in that dream/fantasy hook-you-up-to-a-machine back-alley shop place – you know the one!
The basic premise of the film is that Doug (Arnie) has recurring dreams of a life on Mars (there IS a mining colony on Mars – so it isn’t that weird) and after seeing an advert for the ‘Recall’ clinic – a place where they can implant memories of the ultimate holiday experience – he visits them with the hope of having implanted the memories of a once-in-a-lifetime Mars holiday, complete with secret spy-mission and hot bond girl. Something goes wrong and the holiday is not implanted, but people start coming after him, trying to kill him and he discovers that his memories might not actually be his memories, but an implant. Much shooting and killing and blood ensues.
One of my first thoughts on the film was how poorly suited our Arnie is to romance scenes – the film’s second scene is him making out/boning Sharon Stone. He looks so uncomfortable/plastic with Stone on top of him that I almost feel sorry for him and it takes a very special kind of man to be more interested in watching the news than with making out with half naked Sharon Stone. It would appear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is that kind of man though. However, though Arnie may be poorly endowed in the emotions department, this film is not ABOUT emotions. It is about high octane ass-kickage and fortunately Arnie is well equipped for THAT. My first thoughts were left behind me in a whirlwind of blood and fighting.
I generally enjoyed the film but my two minor niggles are as thus: the film contains some very iffy ‘science’ and is also a health and safety nightmare!
The ‘science’ behind this film is more than a little questionable. Total Recall goes one better than tinfoil hats to keep out aliens: apparently wetting a towel and wrapping it around your head is enough to muffle the signal of a brain-implanted tracking device***… suuuuuure! Because if your SKULL doesn’t dull the signal with all that mushy brain tissue and BONE, or you know all the concrete walls between you and the signal receiver, then a wet towel is definitely going to do the job! The science at the end is also very dubious, but again, science is not really what this film is about, so I will let them off!
Now to my bigger niggle. Total Recall is like the seventh sphere of hell for anyone interested in health and safety. Imagine you are an architect or a builder. Right! Now imagine you are in charge of designing/building a massive infrastructure on Mars – buildings that need to house and protect millions of people, keep out the hostile atmosphere of mars and keep IN the happy, habitable atmosphere of the building. How would you do that? Would you do that by making every external wall out of glass and making sure that one bullet (or one fast-running person) can break through it, with no back-up measures in case of breach? NO! BECAUSE THEN YOU WOULD DIE! If I had windows at all I’d have QUADRUPLE GLAZED TOUGHENED STEEL-ENFORCED GLASS with about 20 backup systems in case of the worst! But NOOoooOOoo! URGH!**** right! Enough of that, the lack of safety is often very helpful for Arnie, even if deadly for pretty much everyone else…
Now for some plusses. Total Recall is blessed with containing Argyle from Die Hard’s Mars cousin. There certainly seems to have been a phase in action films of requiring humorous, chatty, overly familiar black drivers… and this film most certainly doesn’t disappoint in that respect, Argyle would be proud! It also features:
a bad-ass midget hooker with knife
a three breasted prostitute
lots of mutants and a dude with a mutant baby-critter coming out of his stomach alien-style
as well as lots of gore, exploding faces from exposure to vacuums
Arnie pulling a giant glowing gob-stopper out of his nose.
Anyway, I very much enjoyed this film. It gets good quickly – not too much boring build-up and science – Total Recall starts as it means to go on with near-continuous action, gore and surprises. The twists and turns knock it up a calibre and I was pleasantly surprised by the plot twists – several of which I genuinely wasn’t expecting! I LIKE this film and I really hope that the remake lives up to its predecessor!
*by which I mean lots of thick screens and flashing lights and gadgets which could probably be outdone by the newest smart phone**
**I assume – I have no idea what smartphones are actually capable of – rock on Nokia bricks!
***It certainly adds something to the film though – Arnie running around with a wet tea towel wrapped around his head.
****Can you tell this issue annoys me a bit?