Construction worker Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) dreams of adventure and tries to convince his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) to move to Mars. When that fails, he does the next best thing: He goes to Rekall for a dream implantation of a 2 week trip to the red planet. Choosing to take a vacation from himself, he opts in for extra credit to become a spy and encounter the woman of his (literal) dreams, Melina (Rachel Ticotin) during this virtual travel. Something goes haywire during the implant though, and Quaid wakes believing he actually is a spy and that armed agents of Mars overseer Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) are coming to kill him. Led by Richter (Michael Ironsides), thugs ARE after Quaid, and he eludes them and finally gets his trip to our nearest neighbor planet. On Mars, Quaid finds Melina and seeks out the mysterious rebel leader Kuoto in attempts to find out what information is hidden in Quaid’s thick skull. Is he really the key to a Martian revolution or is Quaid suffering a giant delusion of grandeur?
The Production: 5/5
Based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We can remember it for you wholesale”, Total Recall is one of the best science fiction movie adaptations of all time, and cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger as a bona fide action hero and star. This was not always a sure thing though, with multiple studios, directors and leads scheming to get the picture made for over a decade before the pieces fell into place with Arnold playing mastermind behind the scenes. We won’t even mention the terrible, joyless, remake further than saying: don’t bother.
And everything is aces in this film. Schwarzenegger is in top physical form and brings a spark of wonder to Quaid that would go on to be his signature style on screen. Sharon Stone is radiant as his young, beautiful, wife, with a hidden flair for karate. Ironsides is as relentless as a Terminator in hunting down his prey. The score by Jerry Goldsmith is a mélange of orchestral and synthesizer pop that matches 40+ straight minutes of action with interesting cues that build and never repeat, and then tops it during the final scenes. Paul Verhoeven’s direction is just what Arnold wanted, matching the drive, humor and mystery he brought so well to Robocop, with not so subtle digs at consumerism, sex, and authoritarianism.
30 years on and it remains eminently watchable: Arnold as everyman is hard to believe with a physique like that, but it’s his ability to let hope, wonder, confusion and humor shine through that completely overshadow his body’s presence. Stone would go on to serious stardom herself as a driven psychopath in Basic Instinct, but here she pairs her hidden agendas with boundless sexiness, all behind an enormous and believable smile. The eye popping (literally!) makeup and practical effects by master Rob Bottin are matched by a single x-ray wall CGI shot that was so influential that people still talk about it today. And even THAT is followed up by the robotic ‘Fat Lady’ mask gag that has never seen equal.
When people say “They don’t make movies like that anymore” it literally is Total Recall they are talking about. The film simply has it all.
3D Rating: NA
Featuring a new 4K UHD transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR 10 encodes, Recall has never looked better. Still, there’s a lot of grain, a lot of weak focus, and a lot of soft shots inherent to the original capture. Skin in particular looks airbrushed throughout. Much has exploded around the web with people up in arms over this transfer and I can’t say I disagree with some of it, but the over reaction has already begun with some calling it trash fit for being in a litter box or dumpster fire. No, it’s not that bad. Is it up to the best transfers we have seen from similar and earlier era films? No, clearly not, but it’s not trash either. The HDR is subtle too. But it’s there and for that alone this is worth upgrading from the Blurays.
Bottom line: I personally believe a lot of what folks are frustrated about is baked into the original film, and as this transfer was approved by Paul Verhoeven HE is fine with it as is. Do I wish it was even better? Yes I do, but I’m not going to be among the gang carrying pitchforks and demanding a new transfer.
Similarly there is a new Atmos encode but it too is subtly better than previous editions. It’s -accurate-, detailed and airy, with stuff well positioned throughout the presentation. But it’s still late 80s sound technology, for good or bad, fed into Atmos without being fundamentally re-done. There’s not a ton of bass and I think that will be the biggest sticking point, but Goldsmith’s soundtrack is more amazing than ever and its hold on the film is stronger because of Atmos.
Special Features: 4/5
Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood
This was TERRIFIC. Recommended.
Open Your Mind: Scoring Total Recall
Also very good!
Audio Commentary by Paul Verhoeven & Arnold Schwarzenegger
I believe this is a retread from previous Blurays
Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall
The Making of Total Recall
Imagining Total Recall
All fun for a special effects junky like me, especially liked the segments featuring Bottin.
In the pantheon of Sci-Fi films, Total Recall is among the very top. It’s rare that a story like this gets translated so well to a Hollywood film, but you can read it for yourself and see that the -essence- has been boiled down and given new direction that makes way more sense as a movie plot:
We can remember it for you wholesale
I’d argue that Recall is one of those rare, perfect films, at least when considering the era in which it was produced. As noted above everything just works and was top notch for its’ day. I totally get why some early reviewers wish that it looked and sounded even better than it does here, but I am satisfied that what is on the disk is accurate to the film’s underlying original captures and that the HDR pass and Atmos encodes alone make this a worthy upgrade. Others will surely disagree and that’s OK. It’s 15 bucks on Amazon right now, and that includes the Blu-ray and the digital code too. Totally worth it!
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