Day Twenty-Nine: Total Recall (MotM 2020)

total recall cover

I’m very close to the end. The vision is clear. Or perhaps… I’m not close at all, and I never really started. What can I truly believe? Schwarzenegger. I can believe Schwarzenegger.

Quick note: a few images present in this review may be a little hard to look at.

Have you ever heard of RobocopRobocop was a pretty interesting, fun film about a dude who becomes a robot. It involves a lot of cheesy action, terrible bad guys, practical effects, and a hero that has his mind manipulated by outside sources. Sound neat? No? Well, take it from me, it’s not as brainless as I make it sound. Total Recall is pretty similar, only it has AH-NOLD in it.

total recall 1
This was a really cool shot.

Bear with me if I’ve said this before, but Schwarzenegger is not a great actor. I’ve seen him in three Terminator‘s, PredatorKindergarten Cop, and now this (and many years ago, Jingle All the Way). His prominence in the ’80s and ’90s was all starpower and notoriety, not talent. Yet there is a strange charm to him, the way one feels compelled to cheer on a child trying their best. But snark aside, he’s not too bad here—just a few (dozen) lines I think could’ve been delivered better.

The following Total Recall has is kind of fascinating to me, especially since I have history with the inspiration behind the film. “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick is something I read in college, and while I wasn’t 100% sure it was the inspiration behind this film, the coincidences with the premise made me about 80% sure. Thus, going into this, I had assumed it would have more of classic sci-fi feel, one that wracks the brain and challenges people. And it does… to a minimal degree, only to be pushed aside by action-hero clichés and tons of neat practical effects.

total recall 2
“Neat” is a safe word.

What I said before about this being similar to Robocop is true in multiple facets, not just that they’re both sci-fi and action-oriented. Both have a certain balance of old-time explosive fun and psychological horror. It’s been some years since Robocop, but I don’t totally recall (ha) it being quite as “machismo” as this is. Buff, handsome male hero is put into a bad situation, gets intimate with a girl, and saves the day all bloodied and battered. About as hunky as an early ’90s film can be without being confused for an ’80s flick. In my current mindset, I’m not as fond of these as I once was.

Still, there are a lot of positives to Total Recall that give weight to its high scores on various film databases. Some of the practical effects and make-up are really interesting, with a lot of grotesque imagery that I didn’t expect going into this. Mutants and body horror and three-breasted women… a lot to take in. Some set pieces also stuck out to me, particularly when they got to Mars and the red glow of the planet illuminated certain rooms. The run-down marketplace full of mutants and debauchery also had a memorable amount of effort put into it. Not the nicest-looking sci-fi film I’ve ever seen, but with almost 100% practical effects, it’s pretty high-grade.

total recall 3
“High-grade” is a safe phrase.

While minimal in context, served more by the story at large, the psychological aspects of mind manipulation at least made enough sense to follow coherently. I had kind of feared that things would get a little too dumb, and it would almost deface the inspiration it holds so dear. Thankfully, it continued to hold my interest and properly coaxed me along for a good portion of it, even if the “bang-bang, shoot-shoot, rawrrrr” came flooding back to end it.

Still, this is more of a film for those that enjoy heroic epics of worldly consequences. It has some solid mental foundation, though if I were to recommend it legitimately, it would be more to the Die Hard crowd than the Blade Runner alternative. Or watch it if you like AH-NOLD and you like seeing AH-NOLD do trademark AH-NOLD stuff. He’s got more than a few one-liners in store for you here.

Final Score: 6/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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