JT Film Review

43 – Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Paul Verhoeven

Cast – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Racheal Ticotin, Ronny Cox


total_recallThe director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop) returns to pseudo-sci-fi with the “camp” action film Total Recall. Star Arnold Schwarzenegger brings his usual tough yet strangely sympathetic every-man character to the table, and is actually one of the highlights of the movie, which concerns an everyday working man in the near future, who recieves memory implants of a vacation to Mars, but immediately after goes beserk. Was it a memory or the real thing? Is the whole movie a dream? We’re never really told and, depite what most people think, I found that it hurt the movie.

The script is based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, the author of the stories which are the basis of movies such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, Next, and A Scanner Darkly. His writing tends to bring up social issues, and features everyman characters who arer unsure of their identity. And while this movie addresses these, it does it in an action/adventure style that frankly detracts from those topics. How can we be pondering the issues of identity, fantasy fulfillment, and oppresive corporations when Arnold is beating up thugs and playing around with fancy gadgets?

That being said, the action and more “campy” sci-fi aspects are still fairly imaginative. There is rarely a boring moment in the movie. The plot does become a little hard to follow around one hour in, but it all straightens out in the end.

The cinematography in parts (mainly the sequences on Mars) is awful, featuring mainly a red washout, blurring the actors, the sets, and the visual effects. It almost gave me a headache to watch it. (There is a possibility that this may have been the DVD, and theatregoers would have ehad a different experience.) The visual effects are fairly good (when we can see them well) and still hold up reasonably well today. This vision of the future is interesting; while it still has elements of the typical dystopian future, several scenes (showing Arnie working at his construction job, etc.) show bright sunlight and a bustling city. This gives a slightly  more rounded experience.

total-recallThe main problem with the movie is the relationship between the story and the tone it uses to tell it. The story delves into issues of dual identity, memory implants, and civil revolutions; yet the tone is campy and light. Verhoeven never tries to go deeper, where the story really should be going. At times it seems it wants to go almost film noir, but we get none of that. Instead we get Arnie running around kickin’ ass, which is essentially a perfect way to describe most of his movies. This one just blends in with the rest.


Total Recall has a nice pace to it, and is fairly inventive. However the movie as a whole doesn’t fufill the possibilities of the story, and feels too campy for its own good. Arnold is decent, but for the most part the rest of the cast feels tired. The movie would have benefited if Verhoeven had tried some new things or gone a bit darker with the story.



“Total Recall” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



September 6, 2009 - Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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