Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure,Sci-Fi,Thrillers Rated for Redux: Total Recall (1990)

Rated for Redux: Total Recall (1990)

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In addition to my regular reviews, I will be looking at movies that are going to be or already have been remade in the next/last few years. I’ll give you my opinion of the film as a whole, and then let you know whether or not it should/needed to be remade as well as my reasoning. If I have any information about the redux film I will also take that into account when determining a film’s “Reduxability”. If you have any suggestions or tips I would love to hear them.

Rated For Redux: Part 5 can be found here.

“Get your ass to Mars!”

Previously, it seemed that cult films were the most popular choice in Hollywood for remakes (Clash of the Titans, Fright Night, Dawn of the Dead). This makes sense, because as time passes, more people get exposed to these types of films that initially had a limited audience and therefore it makes sense from a business perspective to green light a remake. Recently, though, that trend has changed to incorporate big-budget movies that had big audiences and made their studios lots of money at the time of their release anyway (Batman Begins, The Amazing Spider Man, X-Men: Origins). Total Recall is yet another entry into the later remake department. The film was a big-time blockbuster, with big-time actors, following in the footsteps of James Cameron’s Aliens 4 years earlier as an R-rated sci-fi bonanza. With cutting edge late 1980’s special effects (it came out at the height of stop-go claymation animation popularity) Total Recall simply blew audiences away with its balls-out approach to action, violence, and story telling. 

Today though, the film at first seems less impressive. With the proliferation of computer generated special effects, it’s hard to not laugh when the clay-mation makes an appearance. Similarly, the film also has this goofy feeling brought on by the clunky dated props and scenery. It is also true that the completed career arcs of almost everyone involved here also poisons the film a little bit, but don’t be mistaken. Total Recall is still a hoot and a half to watch. No film this side of a Tarentino flick has this much reckless abandon. Wrap it all up in a rather sophisticated but never boring sci-fi story and it never gets old watching Arnold pretend like he is a normal guy and then the next minute he’s an unstoppable killing machine. It’s like that old wooden rickety roller coaster that never looses its appeal. Sure, there are more flashy and advanced rides out there, but they’re never quite the same as this one with all its familiar quirks.

Story: Douglas Quaid seems like a normal guy except that he has a strange desire to visit Mars. He decides to visit a company called Rekall that can implant a Mars visit memory in his mind. He hopes that this will calm his obsession, but something goes wrong. Suddenly he feels like someone else. Strange men are hunting him down, and his own wife is trying to kill him. His only choice, it seems, is to head to Mars face his fears to figure out who he really is and why the red planet haunts him in his dreams….Good (21/25)

Acting: Arnold plays his typical character here. Douglas is cool, calm, and collected, even if he is a bit aloof. Sharon Stone plays his wife, and is generally convincing in her role. Rachel Ticotin plays Quaid’s counterpart and doesn’t do too much to stand out. The rest of the cast is really over-the-top, including Michael Ironside. Equal parts cheese mixed in with steely facial expressions and grunting. Okay (17/25)

Direction: Director Paul Verhoeven is always associated with violence and sex, and this movie is no exception. His cold and closed-in visual style is persistently shoved in your face, giving the film a distinct feel and direction. Indeed, the action is well captured, but there are moments that the closed-in scenery and lack-of-space backfire, taking some of the excitement and cheapening the film. At least there are times where the scenes open up and the camera is a little more free-flowing, and it is in those moments that the film hits home. Verhoeven knows how to make movies exciting in the most basic visceral sense, and he does that well here. Okay (18/25)

Special Effects/X-Factor: The special effects and the general look and feel of this film are dated, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable anymore. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The clay-mation animation, clunky 80’s technology, and obvious scale models make for a unique viewing experience that you won’t find anywhere else. The story tries to add a serious tone to the whole thing, but instead this just ups the fun factory because had the story been unexciting the entire film would not have worked. The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also quite good and adds to the drama. Overall, this film will be remembered because of what it is; a fairly sophisticated story wrapped in satisfying over-the-top action. This one is meant for for making you smile but there’s also something there to think about. Good (22/25)

Rating: (78/100) = C+ (Average) 

  • What’s Good: Arnie fans won’t want to miss this one. The combination of thrilling over-the-top action, violence, and sex with unique stylish elements and a rather sophisticated story make for an all-around entertaining film.
  • What’s Bad: The film feels more dated than it probably should, most of the acting is over-the-top, the sets feel like they are closing in around you, and, intentional or not, the film has too many goofy moments to be taken completely seriously.

Summary: Unforgettable for many reasons. 

Is it worthy for a remake? Yes, overall I think so. While this film was a big-budget production, it also had the qualities that make a good cult film. The cult-like following means that there is a large audience who would want to see it. Second of all, there are enough ideas here and the story is interesting enough that taking it in a new or different direction will still be entertaining. A new version shouldn’t infringe on the original.

What could go right? Collin Ferrell has shown that he can be good in action movies (+10%), director Len Wiseman’s Live Free or Die Hard showed that he can approach the same level of entertainment audacity that the original film had (+10%), special effects will definitely improve (+10%) and the ideas behind the story are good enough to support another adaptation (+20%)

What could go wrong? Nobody can do all-out action like Schwarzenegger (-30%), Hollywood has a habit of watering down good stories to make room for more action (-20%), and there is no way that the new version will be able to match the quirkiness and fun style of the original (-10%)

Reduxability? 90% = Seems like a good idea for a movie, it just won’t be as fun as the original.

My previous review: Rated: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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