Movie Review – “Total Recall”

I’m finally finding the time to churn through the requests
that we received a while ago. (You can always make your own
if you want, even if it’s only a “me too”
to request an existing request, so I’ll know which
reviews to prioritize.) I should also warn you all
that there are spoilers in this particular review.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid

Sharon Stone as Lori

Michael Ironside as Richter

Ronny Cox as Cohaagen

Rachel Ticotin as Melina

Screenplay by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon
Povill, and Gary
Goldman. They were also sufficiently self-aware to
give an “inspired
by” credit to Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It
For You Wholesale”
instead of a “based on” credit.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven.

Complete information is available from the

DVD release

includes English and French audio tracks with
English, French, and
Spanish subtitles. However, that one’s one of the
first DVDs to be
released, with lousy bonus features, non-anamorphic
transfer, and 4:3
menus. Get this
or this
you insist on buying this movie.

Past movie reviews can be found here.


A man who dreams of Mars pays to have memories of a
trip to the planet
implanted in his head, but things go terribly wrong.

High Point

The initial escape sequence.

Low Point

Did anybody think about the last twenty minutes while
they were
writing or filming them? I mean, really, all ice?
And what exactly
was reacting there? Why is there crossfire when she
uses the little
trinket, but not when he does? It’s meant to fit a
human hand? God,
that was poorly planned and implemented.

The Scores

I have to give it some originality credit.
After all, they
expanded considerably upon the source material (which
might make a 20
minute film, if you really stretch it) and put more
material in it (specifically, the “what’s reality?”
bits and the
anti-corporate sentiment) than you normally get in a
flick. There’s still a large amount of standard
action stuff, and
it’s not nearly as intellectual as most of Dick’s
stuff, but it’s not
Dick’s name that filled most of the seats when this
came out. I give
it 4 out of 6.

The effects are probably the best part of
the film. Some of
the rubber faces look like rubber faces, admittedly,
but at this stage
of CGI development, they needed physical effects.
There are only a
couple of really jarring moments (including the
length of the bar
holding the ear on; wouldn’t that go almost to the
other ear?) but
most of them were decent, if not pretty good. I give
it 5 out of 6.

The story gets off to a sloppy start, has a
pretty good
second act, and then falls apart in the climax. That
whole ending was
just trite, predictable, and poorly executed. If you
want to have any
payoff in these questionable-reality stories, then
you have two
options. The easy out is to reveal exactly which is
the true reality
for the audience at the very end. We get that just
over an hour into
the movie, and then it gets ignored for the rest of
the flick. The
other option is to make sure there is plausible
evidence for either
case, and no clear conclusions drawn on screen,
allowing the audience
to debate amongst themselves, and allow them to
discuss it among
themselves. We didn’t get that either. Instead, we
had the glimmer
of hope for an intelligent assembly of celluloid
thrown out in favour
of trite dialogue, pandering to the perceived
audience, and a truly
corny ending. The respectable contribution of the
second half is
completely undermined by what precedes and follows
it. I give it 3
out of 6.

The acting is Schwarzenegger at his best,
and some good
actors trying not to do a better job than the star.
I give it 2 out
of 6.

The emotional response this produces is
mixed between
irritation, enjoyment, complacency, and insult.
(Ice. I still don’t
believe it.) The fact that the production errors
actually reduce some
of the potential response doesn’t help. I give it 3
out of 6.

The production is not good. The ADR is
sloppy, especially in
the construction scene. The camera angles don’t get
close enough to
feel intimately involved in the story, particularly
in the escape from
the hotel on Mars. You don’t use long shots when
people are being
chased; you can’t maintain a frantic feeling when
most of the screen
is static, and the camera doesn’t move. Just look at
the first
rooftop sequence in Die Hard to see how
that’s supposed to be
done. Close camera angles, with fast and far pans
and quick edits
will keep the viewers off balance and frantic. The
characters were
running for their lives, and I felt like I was
watching a couple who
are afraid they’ll miss their bus. The editing used
in the first
rebel attack was similarly flawed, with the second
explosion starting
in one shot, and then being completely repeated in
the next shot,
neither of which was close enough to the action to
really make the
audience jump. What was the objective of that
attack, anyway? It was
just a bunch of explosions for the sake of
explosions. I give it 2
out of 6.

Overall, it’s not a terrible movie, but
there are much more
entertaining and interesting
choices out there, both for movies inspired by
K. Dick
and for movies starring
I give it 3 out of 6.

In total, Total Recall receives 22 out of

2 replies on “Movie Review – “Total Recall””

    • Re: Spoilers
      I had fond memories of this movie from years ago… and I mentioned it to someone and ended up getting it for my birthday a year ago… Now when I watch it, I crack up at how bad the acting/story/everything is. Granted, I’m older now. This is classic Arnold… I can’t believe he ever made it as an actor.

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