Corona also has its good sides. For example, the revival of classic films. Paul Verhoeven’s modern sci-fi classic TOTAL RECALL is now also coming back to the cinema. In our review we reveal whether the Arnold Schwarzenegger film will stand the test of time.
OT: Total Recall (USA/MEX 1990)
The year is 2084: Construction worker Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads a safe, comfortable, but also boring life. He would love to move to colonized Mars and start over again, but his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) is strictly against it. Not only because it would disrupt their usual existence, but also because there is a rebellion taking place on the red planet. So Quaid decides to use the possibilities of modern technology to fulfill his own wish without betraying Lori: He goes to the Rekall company, which promises to implant memories in its customers that never happened. Quaid is hoping for an adventurous, satisfying Mars vacation in a matter of seconds. But this time something goes wrong: even before the procedure really gets going, Quaid goes completely crazy. He believes he is a secret agent who is being hunted. Recall is trying to cover up this mistake. Or did Recall awaken a memory that Quaid previously seemed to have erased? Is he really a secret agent? Or is there something completely different going on? Quaid travels to Mars to solve the mystery…
It’s now a proud 30 years old: Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi blockbuster “Total Recall”. To mark this anniversary, Studiocanal is bringing the powerful and imaginative film based on the short story “Memories in bulk” by Philip K. Dick back to the cinema. At the same time, “Total Recall” will be re-released on Blu-ray and released on 4K Blu-ray with a new image transfer. “Total Recall” is therefore receiving extensive anniversary treatment, which is not necessarily a given: Of course, “Total Recall” has its die-hard fan base and many nostalgics from the cinemas of the late eighties and early nineties hold the film in high esteem. But compared to Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop” and some other Arnold Schwarzenegger hits like the first two “Terminator” parts or “Predator,” “Total Recall” left a somewhat smaller impression on pop culture. The woman with three breasts, who appears for a few moments in the film, has been referenced many times since then, and in more recent years the DVD audio commentary, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger proudly simply recounts what is currently on the screen, has become the Cult running gag for collectors of haptic data carriers. But otherwise, apart from the sub-generation of film fans for whom “Total Recall” was released at exactly the right time, the memory of the middle part of the Paul Verhoeven Hollywood success hat trick (“RoboCop” 1987, “Total Recall” 1990, “Basic Instinct” 1992) slowly fades away.
The visual power in “Total Recall” is still extraordinary today.
If that is the case, we can only hope that the revival and home cinema re-release will now result in a course correction and that “Total Recall” will once again gain a prominent place in the pantheon of sci-fi and Arnold Schwarzenegger cinema, which he is entitled to. Yes, for splatter fans, “Total Recall” has now lost its forbidden appeal: While “Total Recall” was still on the index in 1991, it was removed from the list and re-examined in 2011, as a result of which it “only” carries an FSK from 16 years of age. And there are no plans to release the version originally delivered by Paul Verhoeven, which he then trimmed by a few violent spikes before the film’s world premiere for an R rating in the USA. But if we’re honest for a moment, it actually helps the reception of “Total Recall” that the film is no longer reduced to its harshness by many fans in the discourse. Certainly: Paul Verhoeven remains true to the course he took in “RoboCop”. The Dutchman holds a distorting mirror under the noses of the gun-loving, violent voyeuristic USA with massively exaggerated (and morbidly humorous) extremes of violence, disgusting splatter effects and grotesque creatures, and it turns out to be extremely impressive (like later in “Starship Troopers”). It’s not without reason that “Total Recall” received an Oscar for its detailed, macabre puppets, its explosions and all that spurting blood – and the $50 to 60 million budget that briefly made “Total Recall” one of the most expensive productions in cinema history , are undoubtedly noticeable.
“But if we’re honest for a moment, it actually helps the reception of “Total Recall” that the film is no longer reduced to its harshness by many fans in the discourse.”
Nevertheless: This reducing “Total Recall” to “Paul Verhoeven made really hard popcorn cinema!” and “Back then, Hollywood still had balls in its pants” or similar platitudes from the brand “The cinema of my youth was the best cinema!” Some corners of film criticism don’t do this sci-fi trip justice. They simply fall short – “Total Recall” is more than just an effect show of what is practically possible and how far an R rating could be explored in 1990. The tone of “Total Recall” is outstanding and cleverly balanced: the screenwriters Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon (who also wrote “Alien – The Uncanny Creature from a Strange World”) and Gary Goldman (“Total Recall 2070”) and director Verhoeven set off an Arnie action firework display in which the Austrian grunts, groans, makes faces and makes jokes, beats up people, shoots them and blows them up – all of this is subtly exaggerated with a wink and yet never parodic. “Total Recall” finds exactly the small gap between loud-crazy megalomania and action-dystopia farce, which raises the tricky question: Is it all hair-raising imagination, harsh seriousness or blood-curdling satire?
Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his best roles.
Schwarzenegger’s completely detached, not in the least subtle game not only drips with infectious joy, but also plays a wonderful role in the double or triple story game: Is Quaid now crazy, finally shaken awake and therefore excited, or does he mutate into the protagonist of an conceited, wonderfully stupid exaggeration Sci-fi spectacle? Schwarzenegger’s amusing and amusing grimacing fits in all three readings, the comedy of which is skilfully counteracted by the raw violence and horror-like horror figures. And during Jerry Goldsmiths (“Mulan”) Ronny Cox gives a really good score (“Everyone is first when dying”) The film’s smug meanie still has so much depth that you can buy that he has good (but very problematically implemented) intentions in lying to the population. Cox’s role thus illustrates the theme of this narrative that has not been covered often enough in “Total Recall” for a long time: the question of whether this is all really happening should not simply be asked from an observational position. As “The Matrix” would do at the end of the same decade, this film from the early 1990s asks emphatically: Is a beautiful lie, a life of ignorant delusion, more fulfilling than the unsatisfactory truth? “Total Recall” asks us this question and also provides the answer in a very smug and relentlessly entertaining way – if you just look.
“Schwarzenegger’s completely detached, not in the least subtle game not only drips with infectious joy of playing, but also doubles or triples the story game wonderfully.”
Conclusion: “Total Recall” is a sci-fi masterpiece that is as hard and spectacular as it is entertaining, which also shows a lot of cleverness behind its rough, strong effects and its fun Arnold Schwarzenegger performance. Even 30 years after its premiere.
“Total Recall” can be seen again in USA cinemas from November 5, 2020.