Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Total Recall; science-fiction / action, USA, 1990; D: Paul Verhoeven, S: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Sharon Stone
The year is 2084. Douglas Quaid is a normal construction worker married to Lori and obsessed with travelling to Mars. Since he doesn't have enough money to afford a trip, he decides to go to a company called Rekall where he would get an implanted, false memory of a travel to Mars. He decides to get a memory of a secret agent, but the thing go wrong, he escapes and starts wondering if he really is a secret agent from Mars whose memory has been erased and replaced with a false one. As he gets persecuted by Richter he travels to Mars and meets prostitute Melina with whom he apparently had a relationship. He also meets a psychic-mutant, Kuato, leader of the resistance, who advises him to start a secret Martian reactor built by Aliens long time ago. Cohaagen, Mars' administrator, reveals that Quaid is actually Hauser, his employee, who voluntarily had his memory replaced in order to infiltrate and find Kuato. Still, Quaid manages to escape and start the reactor, which creates oxygen and turns the whole Mars into an inhabitable planet.
"Total Recall" starts brilliantly: it shows an extravagant, utopian world of the future full of interesting details and high-tech ideas (the "TV-windows" that can show pictures of nature by a click of a button, a woman changes her fingernail color from green to blue just by touching them...). The main tangle, based on a short story by the brilliant Philip K. Dick, unravels rather quickly: the main hero Quaid cannot afford a journey to Mars, so he decides to implant a false memory of his journey to that planet as a secret agent, but the thing goes wrong and he soon doesn't know if he really is a secret agent or not. There are a few thought provoking issues raised in that plot, especially the one about how one's whole memory can be replaced with another one, leaving someone wondering what is real and what not. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" had a similar concept, except that there someones memory was erased, while here it was changed. Unfortunately, when the main hero comes to Mars, the film looses its philosophical and intelligent charge and quickly degenerates into an average, vile action flick. It still has a few interesting ideas here and there, but the story too often falls into trash (the mutants, like the woman with three breasts, are simply at time too bizarre and disgusting), dumbing violence and Verhoeven's uninspired, excessive exploitation of gore and campy style, where not even the trick if the whole story is just Quaid's imagination or not cannot save the thing. "Total Recall" is a good film, but it still stinks.