Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) might not be who he thinks he is. His wife (Sharon Stone) might not be his wife. The woman (Rachel Ticotin) might not be a figment of his imagination. And Mars? Thereís a chance heís been there. Hot just in his fantasies, but for real, figures like the director in charge of the facility Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) and his violent enforcer Richter (Michael Ironside) people he might actually know.
But this canít be true, can it? He hasnít really been to Mars? Heís not really a secret agent? Is he?
Based (albeit loosely) on the story by legendary science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick, itís best not to go into great detail where descriptions of director Paul Verhoevenís Total Recall are concerned. Brought to him after the surprising international (and critical) success of RoboCop, the movie already had Schwarzenegger attached to star, facilitating changes in tone drifting it away from both the source material as well a little bit from the directorís own more idiosyncratic darkly satirical tendencies.
But not completely. The movie is a whip-smart affair right from the start, presenting its futuristic world with an easygoing flourish thatís instantly recognizable. When Quaid makes his decision to go to Rekall for a memory transplant, weíre right there with him. When the technicians discover a problem, weíre in the seat along with our hero, trying to comprehend between reality and fiction as both come tumbling down.
Verhoeven handles all of this with ease, moving things along at a furious pace but never sacrificing story or plot in the process. Each revelation involving Quaidís wife, Mars, Cohaagen, the mysterious woman from his dreams, alien civilizations, all of it makes sense, each bit of connective tissue propelling things forward coming from a place thatís personal and true.
All of which makes the final half hour of the film more than a little disconcerting. While the action presented beforehand has been fast, has been furious and, without question, has been incredibly violent, itís all been staged in service to the story itself. It has helped drive the plot forward, helped but Quaidís crumbling psychological state into perspective.
But the last bit? Itís like Verhoeven allowed Schwarzenegger to pull out his gigantic Conan sword and stark hacking and slashing his way to a conclusion. It isnít that what transpires doesnít make sense, it does, itís that this resolution just feels so saccharine and, well, safe. Sure there is blood and gore, but for a movie that up to this point has been as smart as it has allowing the star to start tossing off signature one-liners and ripping off arms feels oddly anticlimactic. Itís a letdown.
Still, quite surprisingly, it is only a minor one. Without question, this is easily one of the stronger entries in the Schwarzenegger canon, and to say the film has aged beautifully over these past two decades is a massive understatement. Total Recall still gets the job done and then some, and even if the remake (seeing it tomorrow) proves to be acceptable I seriously doubt it will have the same long-lasting resonance this Verhoeven-powered original has managed to produce and maintain ever since it was first released to theatres back in the summer of 1990.
Total Recall is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer. Paul Verhoeven supervised this new transfer personally, and his hand is obvious. I actually donít remember this movie looking this good when I first saw it way back in 1990. While some of the Oscar-winning effects are certainly dated, overall this is as strong a transfer as any fans could have hoped for. I canít come up with a single negative thing to say about it. Not one darn thing.
Total Recall is presented in English, German and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and includes optional English SDH, French and German subtitles.
Some of the extras presented here are new. Some are ported over from previous DVD editions of the film. These extras include:
∑ Audio Commentary with star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven
∑ Interview with Director Paul Verhoeven (34:47)
∑ Making Of Featurette (8:23)
∑ Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall (23:15)
∑ Imagining Total Recall Documentary (31:29)
∑ Restoration Comparison (5:13)
∑ Photo Gallery (1:02)
∑ Original Theatrical Trailer (2:07)
The audio commentary is as great as ever, but as solid as it is the in-depth interview with Verhoeven is the true bell of the ball as far as this disc is concerned. His memories of the production are still quite vivid, and listening to him talk about what heíd maybe do different is extremely interesting.
As for the rest, the vintage doc and the relatively more recent (but still a bit old) retrospective ďImaginingĒ featurette are both quite strong, and is the featurette on the filmís extensive restoration. All-in-all, itís a good set of extras, and while not everything from previous editions has been ported over from previous editions thereís just enough new material to make up for that fact.
Total Recall is a hoot, always has been, more than likely always will be. That it doesnít quite maintain the smarts and the intelligence on display during the first two-thirds is still an annoyance, but on the whole the movie has held up beautifully, and without a doubt it is one of the stronger entertainments Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever appeared in.