6 June 2006 | MisterWhiplash
one of the most enjoyable of the Arnold action vehicles
Total Recall has little, if any,by way of passing itself as being 'art'. It is, but more in the sense of it being pop-art, of the director Paul Verhoven paying tribute in visuals to the story by Phillip K. Dick. And it's also one of the more exciting and quotable of those shameless examples of how to do an action film. In this case, however, because it is a P.K. Dick-based story there are some good social bits made in the process. If it isn't as astute or consistent as Blade Runner or Minority Report, it's probably more due to it having to be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger than it being a full-on thought-provoking work of science fiction on film. But this does rank up high with the other works of the star, as he is in a complex situation in the film- his mind is scrambled, at first, and everything he thought was right as dickens is not. So he's told by 'himself' on a screen he happened to save for himself that he has to get to mars to find out the truth.
There is plenty of good action sequences, but it is more about Verhoven's knack at getting this popularized view of Mars just a little subverted, a little stranger. Some of my favorite scenes involved Scwarzenegger's mishaps and turns of fate as the story and his character took turns. For example, in the scene when Arnold's character wants to get his memory wiped off to Mars and then he flips out in the chair, this is a very entertaining scene in being very ridiculous (try to listen to what he says, or don't as its near unintelligible) as well as following a darker trek in the story. In fact, much of the film works on the strengths of both director and star by having it not too over the top to have some belief in what is going on, but that expectations aren't limited to what might happen as Arnold's character in on Mars uncovering the conspiracy around his messed-up memory.
Featuring a sultry Sharon Stone in a great supporting role (another memorable scene comes with her demise, as usual quotable to the bone), as well as a memorable climax involving the arid Mars air and a certain outrageous reaction to it, I recommend Total Recall for genre fans and even those who might be wary of it being a 'Hollywood' take on Dick. It's not great, and per usual PKD fans might scoff at the faithfulness to the source, but it's better than some of the lesser adaptations of the author. Just go in for a good time and it stands up over time (err, 16 years).