A Look Back at Total Recall (1990)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching the movie and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I miss the old days when an R-rated action-packed science fiction movie can be passionately made with exceptional directing, clever writing, great camera work that’s consistently steady, solid performances from the actors, action that was not too choreographed, and visuals that heavily utilized practical effects and optical effects.

I’m talking about Total Recall, the 1990 sci-fi action movie that starred a much younger Arnold Schwarzenegger supported by Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (who directed the 1987 classic RoboCop) with a screenplay (based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman, Total Recall was a tremendous hit in the cinemas grossing more than $261 million worldwide with a production budget of over $60 million. To date, the film remains a favorite not only with fans of Schwarzenegger but also with people who love action movies, sci-fi movies, movies of the 1990s and geeks.

But before looking back at this movie, it is important to take note that Total Recall took several years of development before it finally got produced. The very first screenplay was written by O’Bannon and Shusett in the 1970s (after securing the film rights to Philip K. Dick’s short story when the author was still alive). Eventually prolific movie producer Dino De Laurentiis took the project for development. Years later, De Laurentiis’ company collapsed (due to failed projects) which provided Schwarzenegger the golden opportunity to get Total Recall by persuading Carolco to secure the rights for a few million dollars. After many screenplay drafts written and the hiring of Verhoeven as director (note: Schwarzenegger approached him personally) plus Gary Goldman, the rest became history.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox in a memorable scene.

Now, here is a look back at Total Recall.

Early Story

The story begins at the surface of planet Mars where a man and a lady (both wearing space suits) travel on foot. Suddenly, the man slips down and breaks the frontal shield of his helmet exposing himself to Mars’ air. It turned out to be an intense nightmare for Douglas Quaid who was in bed with his beautiful wife Lori. Lori asked him about the unidentified woman who appeared in his dreams, but Quaid expresses his love for her. On his way to work, Quaid saw a TV ad inside the train about Rekall, a company that sells holidays and adventures in the form of memories. At work, his fellow construction worker discouraged him from availing of any services from Rekall. After work, Quaid visits Rekall and decides to avail of an ego trip as a secret agent. Just as the memory trip was about to start, Quaid wakes up violently…

Quality

This movie is still great to watch. Let me start first with the creative team of Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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A great action scene about to start…

When it comes to the synergy between the director and the lead player, Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger make a great creative team that made this movie very special! When asked during an interview what it was like for him to work with Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven said:  Arnold is great. Switching from Rutger Hauer to Arnold is not that big a step. It’s strange to say that, because he’s this crazy Austrian, with an accent—but, for me, Arnold is the American Rutger. I think if I did a few movies with Arnold, I could do as much with him as I did with Rutger. Now, this movie was the wrong thing . . . But I think you can do much more with Arnold, explore more possibilities, than was necessary for this movie.

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Sharon Stone as Lori.

Now, it is a fact that Schwarzenegger lacks versatility when it comes to acting. Even so, Verhoeven succeeded in getting a deeper-than-expected performance from the star in this movie. Sure, we get to see Schwarzenegger fight bad guys with really rough action, fire guns, run and jump around here but what really stood out here was his portrayal of a man who discovers that the life he knew was all a lie and goes on to find the truth about himself. This role remains a standout role of Schwarzenegger’s among all the characters he played in his many other action films. What is also notable with Douglas Quaid is that the protagonist is always in danger and never invincible, very similar to how Bruce Willis played John McClane in Die Hard. If you watch this film after seeing Schwarzenegger play his invincible icon in the Terminator movies, you will feel his pain, tension and curiosity here! As if that was not enough, there is also the other role Schwarzenegger played in this movie that you should see.

Of course, Total Recall also drew greatness and depth from Verhoeven who also got strong performances from Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Sharon Stone is the beautiful wife who will shock you. Michael Ironside is the henchman who will make you root for Schwarzenegger even more. Rachel Ticotin is the brave woman who is believable with the cause she is involved with.

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Rachel Ticotin as Melina.

More notably, Ronny Cox is the all-powerful and ruthless executive who will get on your nerves and make you root for Schwarzenegger a lot, very similar to how his villainous role in RoboCop made moviegoers root for the cyborg policeman. It should be noted that the evil executive-henchman duo of Cohaagen (Cox) and Richter (Ironside) here is a directorial trademark of Verhoeven’s and it should bring back memories of the other evil duo in RoboCop. More than that, Ronny Cox succeeded in selling the concept that Cohaagen really had been the administrator of the colony in Mars exploiting the resources and the people for a long time.

More on getting the most out of the actors, Verhoeven and his team crafted a memorable hand-to-hand fight scene between Lori (Stone) and Melina (Ticotin) actually taking part in the action and stunts. Sharon Stone clearly got athletic in this movie and her efforts paid-off nicely, complete with another fight scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger (she actually even threw two high kicks at Schwarzenegger’s head) early in the film. Beyond the hard battle with Stone, Ticotin went on to take part in further action scenes in the film and she sure is believable as an action performer. To put things in perspective, Stone and Ticotin are not action stars but they excelled nicely in their work here and this also made Total Recall special.

When it comes to storytelling under the direction of Verhoeven, Total Recall moved at a medium-to-fast pace and there was never a single moment of rushing, nor a single boring moment at all. The film just kept going smoothly complete with true unpredictability which results lots of twists and surprises. I should also state that the dialogue from the finalized screenplay is still excellent, and they were nicely delivered by the actors. Verhoeven also added depth to the film by using mystery while also getting good performance from Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid finds out that life is not what it seems. I should state that the sci-fi elements of altering (and adding) human memories with the use of computers and the business of selling virtual holidays and ego trips were strongly emphasized. These also add to the film’s mystery which should engage you to wonder and analyze as the story moves on.

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The best view from an office on planet Mars.

On the spectacle, Total Recall is heavily loaded! The action is violent, plentiful and carries that particular aesthetic that only director Verhoeven has. It’s hard to explain in words but once you watch the action in this movie (plus comparing it to RoboCop and Starship Troopers), you will realize it. Even so, the action never turned this movie into a brainless affair. The action worked nicely to balance the mystery and suspense.

The visual effects here were mostly done by practical and optical ways. Special effects specialist Rob Bottin, who famously worked in John Carpenter’s The Thing and worked also with Verhoeven in RoboCop, came up with very memorable animatronics to simulate facial and physical changes on characters on key sequences involving sci-fi elements. The team also crafted really freaky looking makeup works on the Mars mutants, which really gave this film a strong sci-fi look. I also like the use of miniatures and physical sets that visualized the colony in Mars. By today’s standards, this movie’s visual effects still look great and I can only wish that filmmakers today would rely less on computers and go back to using practical effects (note: physical stuff) and, on certain occasions, optical effects.

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Really great movie makeup work by Rob Bottin.

When it comes to the physical environments, this movie was filmed a lot in Mexico, specifically on key locations and on the sound stages in an established movie production studio there. Years ago, when I first learned for the first time that the trains used in the film were real-life trains that actually operated in one of Mexico’s real-life transportation systems, I was astounded! Paul Verhoeven himself confirmed that the train sequences were not only shot on location with real trains (note: monitors were added by the filmmakers to achieve a futuristic look) but the place’s architectural design were very unique and fitted nicely with the sci-fi concept of the movie.

The Mars colony set does not look fake to me. In fact, it really looks like it has long been lived in by people and the filmmakers nicely designed it. The Venusville set looks very convincing and, within the story, it got decayed due to long-term businesses, constant vehicular traffic and people who always flocked the place. The Mars hotel meanwhile has that cleaner, nicer look with tourists who paid good money for pleasure and discovery.

I should mention that the cinematography here done by Jost Vacano is excellent. The set-ups of the camera to get great angles of the actors is special, and the same can be said about the capturing of the spectacle that happened on-screen. The flashback of Mars inside Quaid’s mind had great, floating views of the location complete with perfectly smooth movement! Vacano also worked with Verhoeven in RoboCop.

Finally, the musical score by the late Jerry Goldsmith is very memorable and this is my favorite among all his works. The music provided gave this movie a strong sci-fi feel and when suspense plays, the tunes added nicely to it. The most memorable music tracks here are the opening credits music (which is immersive) and the foot chase between Quaid and Richter on Earth (the music really keeps the pace high).

Conclusion

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid in a key scene.

Total Recall is a true, adulterated sci-fi action classic and easily it is still is one of the best ever movies I’ve seen from Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven and Stone. A few visual elements did not age well but its highly engaging story (combined with the strong performances and spectacle) remains its key selling point. There is a lot of ambiguity throughout the film and it will keep you wondering if the story (or at least portions of it) was reality or all a dream in Quaid’s mind. The way the story is structured combined with the excellent spectacle, this is a movie that is worth watching again and again! It remains an effective viewing experience for me until now.

As it contains the directorial trademarks of Verhoeven mixed with Schwarzenegger’s own style of expression and hard action, Total Recall is a very unique move of its own and it’s impossible to replicate nor match. Keep in mind that the 2012 remake of this movie was badly made (even though it had a big budget and highly advanced visual effects involving the use of computers) and ended up being a complete failure.

To put it short, Total Recall is more than just an action-packed thrill ride. It is also a mystery film that will keep viewers on the edge as the search for answers continues. Total Recall also explores the theme of what would you do when you realize that the life you remember turned to be an exceptional lie, and that you are literally caught in the middle of a web surrounded by dangerous, powerful people. I could never forget how my mind got motivated as I focused on the narrative the first time I ever saw this great movie decades ago. Total Recall was a sci-fi viewing experience like no other.

Overall, Total Recall (1990) is highly recommended! I urge you, my readers, to buy the movie on Blu-ray disc or watch it via streaming.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

I will just say it straight and clearly – the Terminator film franchise is truly unnecessary today and, having seen its debut in the year 1984 (written and directed by a very young James Cameron), I should say that the saga really ended with 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron’s masterpiece).

Out of curiosity, instead of anticipation, I got to watch Terminator: Dark Fate at the local cinema. Having been disappointed with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation (a bad movie notorious for Christian Bale’s loss of self-control) and Terminator: Genisys (the most insulting and most screwed up film of the franchise), I had low expectations for Dark Fate.

Ultimately, I left the cinema disappointed yet again although the experience was not as bad as that of 2015 (with Genisys).

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Clearly, the filmmakers took inspiration from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and mix the more established film franchise stars (in supporting roles) with the younger actors.

To put it short, Terminator: Dark Fate took creative inspiration from 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This means it was made with recycled concepts, told the story through its new characters (played by actors who are much younger and who are supposed to appeal to younger viewers) and back them up with the old, more iconic actors (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton) limited to supporting roles. When it comes to presentation, this new movie felt more like a roller coaster ride than an actual story laced with spectacle stage-by-stage.

That is pretty much how Terminator: Dark Fate turned out. It does not matter that this was directed by Tim Miller, the guy behind 2016’s Deadpool. It does not matter that the great James Cameron got involved with producing and story credit (he shared with a few other names). It does not matter that this movie was made with a large budget of $185 million and relied heavily on computers to generate the visuals (which look fake most of the time). Whatever the preparations made, they did not matter at all because Terminator: Dark Fate is a rushed and creative disappointment that does not deserve your time nor your money.

The movie opened with archived footage of Sarah Connor expressing the darkness of the future coming. This was immediately followed by a scene set in 1998 showing Sarah and her son John living in an age in which Judgment Day did NOT occur on August 29, 1997. Suddenly another Terminator T-800 Model 101 (another Schwarzenegger-type Terminator) appears and actually kills John Connor leaving Sarah in turmoil.

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This is the protector sent through time by the human resistance.

John Connor, who has been a central story element in the 1984 and 1991 (memorably played by Edward Furlong) movies as he was destined to be the human resistance leader in the war with Skynet, was eliminated so quickly in the opening of this new movie very similar to how the character of Dwayne Hicks (played by Michael Biehn in the James Cameron-directed Aliens) got killed in a very dismissive way in the beginning of Alien 3. This move was nothing less than cynical, ill-conceived and even a daring disservice to Terminator fans.

From this point on, Terminator: Dark Fate turns into a “what if John Connor was dead and a new future war followed?” type of story.

Even though Judgment Day got prevented in relation to what Sarah and John achieved in Terminator 2, a new war between man and machines in the far future still occurs only this time Skynet is no more and the new enemy artificial intelligence (AI) this time is called Legion. This new story concept, by the way, is pretty insulting to any fan who loved the first two films directed by James Cameron as those flicks told a complete saga.

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This is the new, future leader of the human resistance.

And then the plot of The Terminator got recycled. A human fighter is sent back through time to protect a person who is destined to become the leader of the human resistance. Also sent back through time is a Terminator designed to look human and infiltrate society with a mission to kill the future human resistance leader. This is essentially what Terminator: Dark Fate truly is and even though Sarah Connor returned (plus another Terminator T-800 played by Schwarzenegger), there really is nothing new, nothing fresh and nothing worth enjoying.

When it comes to quality, this movie does not have much standing for it. The new characters are not engaging at all and their respective performers really had nowhere to go to engage moviegoers. Mackenzie Davis playing the new combat-ready protector only served to beef the film with action and there is nothing compelling about her act, nor did the script provide anything to make her androgynous character memorable. The new human resistance leader played by Natalia Reyes is forgettable and unbelievable even though she tried hard being dramatic. Compared with Sarah Connor in 1984’s The Terminator, the chosen one Dani Ramos in the film was transformed from a struggling, working-class person into a brave fighter in a very rushed and unconvincing manner. Also, if you take a close look at Natalia Reyes, she is too short to be a figure of authority, too small to use weapons and her act is clearly sub-par in terms of quality making her big misfire in terms of casting. The performance, script and directing really had no depth when it comes to developing the characters.

The new Terminator (Rev-9) played by Gabriel Luna was nothing more than an uninspired attempt to outdo the T-1000 of Terminator 2. Luna was decent with playing cold and emotionless but when he acts human to infiltrate human society, he’s just generic at best.

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This is the new cinematic villain that won’t stop to kill the future leader of the human resistance. Oh, the computer-generated visuals are often fake to look at.

As for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton returning, it is sad for me to say that these two iconic performers of the film franchise got wasted. Sarah Connor in this movie was poorly written and this modern version ruins the legacy the character had since 1991. Schwarzenegger meanwhile played another T-800 Terminator whose adjustment into human society turned out to be unconvincing, even outlandish. A Terminator adjusting into domestic human life? Totally unbelievable!

If there is anything to admire in this ill-conceived movie, it is Schwarzenegger’s delivery of his lines as the Terminator. He was over 70-years-old at the time of filming and he no longer has the super fit, muscular build he was famous for but he still proved to be excellent in being robotic with the dialogue. Sadly, this good stuff from the ex-governor of California was not enough to save this movie from its dark fate.

The film has a lot of action and there is a notable variety of it here. Even though action-packed and the action quality is an improvement over Terminator 3, Salvation and Genisys, Terminator: Dark Fate is ultimately a ride that can only provide temporary relief from the pain of the weak script. Oh, the use of fake-looking CGI hurts the action and stunts

Conclusion

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Let this be the LAST Terminator movie and let it fade away. How? By NOT spending your precious time and money on it.

Although it is better than Terminator 3, Salvation and Genisys respectively, Terminator: Dark Fate still failed to be a solid film and definitely it is NOT worthy of being the official follow-up (the “real Terminator 3” to the first two films written and directed by James Cameron. Cameron’s involvement with this movie did not really improve the situation of the deteriorating Terminator film franchise and even worse, this big disappointment taints his record of excellence as a producer. Director Tim Miller, in my opinion, should go back to superhero movie making or try directing a brand new project of science fiction that does not involve an established intellectual property. How he will recover from Terminator: Dark Fate remains to be seen.

Bottom line – Terminator: Dark Fate is not recommended. You are better off skipping this movie but if you intend to watch it at all, do it out of curiosity. Don’t spend your money on this movie (the cinema, future release on streaming services, Blu-ray, DVD, etc.).

If you want to experience the cinematic greatness of the Terminator film franchise, go back to watching The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day instead.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

My Observations: Terminator: Dark Fate Official Teaser Trailer

Have you guys seen the first official trailer of the upcoming movie Terminator: Dark Fate yet? If you have not, it’s been embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

You must be wondering what I think of it. Here’s my answer: the trailer is satisfactory and it does not excite me very much. I just find it interesting but I should say that Linda Hamilton‘s return as Sarah Connor (James Cameron‘s symbol of the strong, fighting woman) is intriguing.

In fairness, I like the confirmation that the story of this new movie takes place decades after the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and completely ignores Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (which did not involve James Cameron), the disappointing Terminator Salvation and the laughable Terminator: Genisys. Cameron returns to the franchise as producer and directing it is Tim Miller (Deadpool). This film is Miller’s 2nd full-length movie as director!

Who are the two young ladies in the trailer? They are Dani (played by Natalia Ramos) and Grace (Mackenzie Davis). According to available information about the movie, the two are being hunted by a new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) that resembles somewhat the T-800 terminator but has some abilities similar to that of the T-1000. Sarah Connor comes in to protect them both which parallels the events of 1984’s The Terminator and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

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The hunted.
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An older Sarah Connor.

What this movie showed is that it has a new concept to keep things fresh. One of the hunted came from the future and was shown to have superhuman abilities, daring to fight the new Terminator that’s been going after them.

While it is a fact that the Terminator film franchise has always been closely linked with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the famous star appeared for only a few seconds in the trailer. I guess the marketing people are saving their Schwarzenegger footage for later.

Schwarzenegger’s listed in the film as The Terminator but still there are questions about his role. Is Schwarzenegger playing another T-800 terminator living in secret as an old man or could it be he is also playing a man who eventually becomes the flesh template Model 101 for the T-800 terminators?

What I find intriguing is that Schwarzenegger’s body double in Terminator Genisys, Brett Azar, was rehired for a still undisclosed role in this new movie. In Genisys, he played the young T-800 terminator (with a digital copy of Schwarzenegger’s face pasted over his) and it is likely that he will be playing a very similar role here. This uncertainty keeps me interested in Terminator: Dark Fate.

As for the computer-generated imagery (CGI) used for the new, evil Terminator played by Gabriel Luna, they sure look fake! Definitely not photo-realistic! Could someone please push the CGI people to improve their work?!

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CGI so fake looking, this one took me out of the trailer’s concept.

Soon enough we will see what the filmmakers have to offer in the next trailer. Here is hoping that with James Cameron involved, Terminator: Dark Fate will truly reinvent the Terminator concept and deliver something fun and memorable.

Terminator: Dark Fate will be released in cinemas worldwide this October.