REVIEWED
12/29/02

STORY



LOOK

Total Recall: Special Edition DVD
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Year: 1990
TRT: 1:53


Ah yes, a classic sci-fi action movie that had some brains to back up the brawn of Schwarzenegger. Okay, so Ah-nold ain't the best of actors, but minus some bad one-liners, he gets through this one pretty well. The movie, roughly based on a Philip K. Dick story, is one of his familiar themes of questioning reality. I think this movie set a lot of precedents, in terms of cinematography and the more accurate incorporation of scaled models with live action. Even 12 years later, a lot of those effects hold up pretty good (yes, even with a minimal amount of CG [this was one of the first movies to use some on a 'realistic' basis, with the subway x-ray machine). But ultimately it's an action movie, and does very well on that level.

Michael Ironside puts in another great role as the guy you love to hate, and Ronny Cox does the same (though not as well as his role in Verhoeven's earlier flick Robocop). Some great effects, and except for a couple of poorly-executed mutants, the film looks pretty good.

My biggest complaint would be where so many films fall short. Sure, it's a great mind-fuck ending, but the way it got there was "total fecal" (ouch, sorry). It should have in all rights and purposes not been a very happy ending, in that the main character and a whole bunch of mutants should not have survived. Ultimately it was a sacrifice for the good of the planet. That wasn't a very popular theme back in the early 90's, or so it seems, thus the happy-scrappy hero pup ending. But it works with the whole "alternate reality" theme, so is at least somewhat acceptable.

Here's where I start talking outta my ass. There have been a lot of mind-fuck kinda stuff done with the whole twist-ending kinda thing, but this was a pretty major movie with big stars and usually this kind of thing just pissed off the general public. Sure, you got your sci-fi freaks loving every minute of The Twilight Zone and the strangeness it brought with the ending, but overall, it wasn't very commercial. I think this movie helped spur a whole new generation of twisted endings that people were more apt to accept (for better or worse). I have to admit I hate the whole "it was only a dream" kind of escape ending, as it usually is a sign of bad writing and the hack has no other way of ending it, but here I think it's successful.

DVD Notes: This "Special Edition" series put out by Artisan in 2001 is pretty good. There's a whole slew of extras, with detailed bios on all the major players, and the best aspect would be a great "Imagining Total Recall" documentary that goes into the history of the film from the beginning (back in the 70's, if you can believe it). This movie pretty much got made because of Ah-nold and his support of it. There is a commentary track with both Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven, which is okay, nothing too revealing if you've watched the documentary. But they do give a lot of credit to the imagination Philip K. Dick, so that's a good thing. Plus they have a bit of storyboard comparisons and production sketches included, and a brief featurette with a guy from NASA and the plausibility of creating colonies on Mars, so a pretty top-notch DVD from start to finish.