Total Recall (1990) Review

I have one main issue with Arnold Schwarzenegger; I will never look like him! I don’t mean “win the lottery, get plastic surgery and change my face” look like him but I’ll never be the size of Arnie. I’m sure I could manage it eventually if I put the work in, trained for a ridiculous amount of hours everyday, eat the right foods and took the right vitamins/steroids but I’m lazy. I’m a guy who loves to spend hours on end watching films of all different types so the thought of me dedicating my life to becoming the size of Arnie just isn’t that appealing.

It’s not something I’m particularly upset about generally but it does become an issue when I’m watching any of his action films. For me to take the action film seriously and really root for the main character and care about the journey he is going on, the odds have to be stacked against him. It’s hard to feel like Arnie is coming up against insurmountable odds when he’s built like a house! It’s not an issue in films like Terminator when he’s playing a machine or even the brilliant Kindergarten Cop when the size of him adds to the comedy but for a film like Total Recall, where for the first part of the film you have to believe he is an “average Joe,” it becomes a slight stumbling block.

Not quite the everyman I can aspire to be…

Total Recall does address this issue, giving him a job where he would require huge muscles and when you eventually find out what he really is, you can look past the muscles and huge physique but it means that when it comes to action films, even science fiction ones like this, I am always going to prefer the everyman like Bruce Willis and Liam Neeson, I can at least imagine that they are two heavy nights away from a beer gut!

When it comes to the film itself, Total Recall slots nicely into the action film/science fiction films of the 80s and early 90s, lots of action sequences, car chases, explosions and a decent attempt at a good story. In fact the actual story of Total Recall is a good one. Arnie going to a place where they implant memories into his mind and then discoves he has the memories of a secret agent hidden in his mind. This discovery then takes him to Mars where he finds himself in the midst of a battle between the leader of the planet and a rebel group. It has loads of action, as you’d expect from an 80s Arnie film, beautiful woman, Sharon Stone particularly, and even a couple attempts at humour.

Sharon Stone does more than enough to fit our sexy lady for today’s review.

The special effects aren’t bad either. Some of it seems slightly dated, particularly the moments when anything extraordinary happens to Arnie’s face, for example him pulling a tracing device out through his nose, but you can easily overlook these. In fact, a lot of the film is a great spectacle, from the brilliantly realised futuristic Earth to the dusty and deserted landscape of Mars. The scope of the design reflects the ambition of the story and it does a great job.

There are some missed opportunities. There is a slight hint that the whole film could be a figment of Arnie’s imagination and that it is all going on in his head but this is never fully explored as much as it could have been. Though you can make that judgement for yourself and there are some ambiguous moments, if they’d made it a true theme of the film, it would have made for a much more intelligent and probably more interesting story.

Considering there’s very little CGI, the effects still hold up pretty well…

It will also be interesting to see what they do with the remake. For starters, they have cast a much more “everyman” action hero in Colin Farrell and this will focus much more on the idea of him being a spy than the Mars aspect of the original film’s story, the rumour being that the film stays firmly on Earth. The first trailer is very impressive with nods towards this film while seemingly taking it into a new direction.

Overall, I enjoyed Total Recall. Its a decent throwaway action movie with a good dose of Sci-Fi too. Arnie doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen him do loads of times before and the special effects, though dodgy in places compared to today’s standards, do still hold up, particularly the set design. Now where did I put those weights?

Rating 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Will be interesting to see what direction the new Total Recall takes.
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