Total Recall is a 1990 Sci-fi film loosely based on Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by Paul Verhoeven.On its face it's a sci-fi take on a spy thriller, set in memories implanted into a bored construction worker of the future... or is it? Because of all the Alternate Character Interpretation, the film is often called "The thinking man's action movie."Douglas Quaid (Arnold S.) is tired of life Twenty Minutes into the Future. His literal life's dream is to get his ass to Mars as a way of escaping his humdrum existence. A commercial for the Rekall brand "Ego Trip" induces Quaid to try one of the trips, which are just implanted memories of a vacation that he'd never be able to take in person. Quaid elects for an enhanced set of fake memories that cast him in the role of a super spy—sort of a memory novella that he will remember living through. When something goes wrong with the procedure, he discovers that his entire life is a lie, and that in reality, he is a super spy working under deep cover. Or is he?The viewer is constantly challenged to decide if Quaid's experiences are real or all just a result of his "ego trip." The film is also well known for its special effects and over-the-top gore, like someother notable Verhoeven films. Highlights include tons of cool guns, three-breasted mutants, and a bizarre NES tie-in game (Or do they?)A less-campy remake starring Colin Farrell was released in 2012.
Total Recall provides examples of:
Action Girl: Melina. Thumbelina qualifies due to how much ass she kicks during the brothel shootout.
Adaptation Expansion: Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". The Piers Anthony novelization of the movie expands on things even further, giving a few glimpses into the alien race that created the reactors and adding a bit of gratuitous sex.
Mars is roughly under half an AU from Earth at closest approach, meaning it should take at least three minutes each way for the Video Phones to send messages.
There are so many things wrong with Mars in this film.
The finale is especially egregious though: melting the frozen core of the planet fills the atmosphere with water, turning Mars into an earth-like, perfectly viable planet in a few seconds. Yeah, it makes perfect sense. Bigger problem: a frozen planetary core?! The ideal gas law, PV = nrT, shows that pressure and temperature are positively correlated (ie the higher the pressure, the higher the temperature). Think about it.
Another problem with Mars is how the atmosphere is treated. In reality, Mars has an atmosphere that's too thin for humans to breathe, but the movie treats it as though there's no atmosphere whatsoever so that when someone steps outside, they're essentially in the vacuum of space. They also violently swell up, something that realistically wouldn't even happen in space, and really wouldn't happen on the surface of Mars.
In the fight scene in the memory implantation suite on Mars, one of the technicians attacks Quaid with a slender metal rod, but between the more than meter of metal and his own strength, he's not able to even raise a bruise on Quaid when he parries the rod with his bare forearm, but it's still strong enough for Quaid to drive it through his attacker's skull. Being able to drive the thick metal lug that had held one of the restraining cuffs to the chair (before Quaid simply lifts the restraint straight up out of the arm) into another technician's neck and create a rather neat, circular wound is similarly silly. (OK, it's an Arnold fight scene so the laws of physics tend to go out the window, but things really should make more sense than that.)
Or these are clues that these events are not real....
"Two weeks. Two weeks...two weeks, twoweekstwotweekstwoweeks..."
Brainwash Residue: After Quaid breaks Melina out of the constraints one of the Recall machines, it seems just a bit of the Housewife programming made it though, but not by much.
Quaid: Are you all right? Are you still you?
Melina: I'm not sure, dear.
Bulletproof Human Shield: Played painfully, painfully straight. Quaid uses a dead bystander this way in the subway scene and by the time Quaid and his meat shield get to the top of the escalator the corpse is basically Swiss cheese, but still no bullets go through to strike Quaid.
Completely Different Title: Apparently translating the title was difficult, leading to things such as Voyage au centre de la mémoire ("Journey to the Center of the memory"), O Vingador do Futuro (The Avenger of the Future), Desafio Total (Total Challenge), Atto di forza ("Act of (brute) force")... And all of those are completely different from the original short story's, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
That's why in Romania, where foreign movies are subtitled not dubbed, they didn't even bother with a translation. The movie was marketed as Total Recall. Same for the sequel.
Cool Guns: Look for street sweepers whenever Richter is really pissed off. Also the cool magazine-on-the-back Calico weapons.
Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: Ironically, the script makes lovable blonde girl-next-door Lori a villain, while the dark-skinned, slutty ("sleazy," to use Quaid's term), and rude Melina is the sympathetic one.
Death by Irony: Cohaagen, who controls all the air on Mars, dies in the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet.
Dragon with an Agenda: Richter nearly screws up Cohaagen's plans several times, because Cohaagen wants Quaid alive for whatever his plans are, and Richter is constantly trying to kill him to avenge his wife Lori, whom Quaid killed (and the fact that Lori was Quaid's 'wife' for a while and was constantly in bed with him can't have helped either).
DVD Commentary: The one for this film is particularly hilarious. For one, Verhoeven's Dutch accent, coupled with Schwarzenegger's Austrian accent, serve to make it almost unintelligible. Schwarzenegger's commentary consists almost entirely of making jokes about the three-breasted hooker, a grating tendency for stating the patently obvious ("This is me as a construction worker", "I used this guy as a Human Shield and then threw him down the escalator"), and expressing how he likes certain parts of the movie because they serve to reinforce the possibility that it's All Just a Dream. Verhoeven for his part has a Verbal Tic that leads him to end most of his sentences with "Izznit?"
Eye Scream: The eyes of characters exposed to the near-vacuum atmosphere of Mars. Even if they recover from suffocation, they should be blind after their eyes have taken that kind of abuse. But then, the entire movie seems to be a case of Eyes Are Unbreakable.
Failed a Spot Check: Quaid seems unaware of Kuato's resistance movement, despite it being featured on the news at the beginning of the film. Apparently, he simply tuned out the words "terrorist attack" and focussed solely on the Mars part.
Faux Action Girl: Subverted by Quaid's "wife" Lori. At one point, she seems to be becoming one, then proceeds to start kicking ass all over again.
Green-Eyed Monster: Richter's enthusiasm to kill Quaid appears to be based primarily around the fact that Richter's wife was the agent assigned to pose as Quaid's wife Lori. And that she clearly enjoyed several aspects of that particular mission. At least until Lori gets killed, at which point his motives centre on good old-fashioned revenge.
Lori does this to Quaid twice the first time she fights him: once with her fist, once with a kick. Later in the film she stomps on them after capturing him. Geez, she must have some grudge because she once pretended to be his wife and must had sex with him at some points, huh?
Richter does it to a patron of the Last Resort during the assault on the place.
The little person prostitute does it to Richter's partner with a knife. Ouch.
Handy Cuffs: Quaid, after he's captured by the bad guys on Mars.
Human Shield: The poor bastard on the escalator with the backpack. Quaid discovers he's being attacked when the first volley of gunfire hits the guy he uses as a human shield and causes him a severe case of death. Multiple gunshot wounds to the upper chest, neck, and head will do that to a fella.
It's A Small World After All: Mars has one red light district (Venusville), and is arranged into sectors that number enough to be designated letters of the alphabet. Since we don't know how much of Mars was colonized, it's possible that the human population there all lives in the same city.
Laser-Guided Karma: Cohaagen turns off the air supply for Venusville and later kicks over a fishbowl, callously leaving both to die from suffocation. He later dies himself the same way, suffocating in the thin atmosphere of Mars.
Leave No Survivors: When Richter and his men pursue Quaid and Melina into the mutant district, they escape and Richter shoots the first person who refuses to answer him. When they retaliate, he orders the soldiers to kill everyone and barely escapes from the ensuing slaughter himself.
Lobotomy: Quaid is told by one of his co-workers it is what nearly happened to a friend of his when he went to Rekall. Later in the movie, Quaid is told that he is hallucinating the adventure in his brain and that if he doesn't exit it, he will be lobotomised. It's left ambiguous as to whether the man who told Quaid was lying or whether Quaid was indeed lobotomised.note It's more about how laymen misuse the term "lobotomy" to refer to any sort of brain-tampering effect that diminishes intellect or willpower. Lobotomy is actually a specific clinical procedure — the surgical severing of a particular cluster of nerve fibers — so having one's mind damaged by Rekall's non-surgical memory-modification technology wouldn't qualify as one.
Quaid and Melina, who somehow instantly recover from Decompression fairly quickly, despite it being previously shown to turn people into jelly.
It seems that the alien reactor also managed to bring the pressure to Earth-Norm, but it still shouldn't have been that fast.
No OSHA Compliance: Rather than kicking in automatically, the emergency pressure doors in the Mars spaceport terminal have to be manually activated while potentially (as happens in the film) fighting against being sucked into a near-vacuum.
It all comes down to whether the the scene between when they start the implantation process and when Quaid wakes up in the Johnny Cab is a part of the hallucination or if it really happened. And there's absolutely nothing that says one way or the other.
Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: when Rekall's President Dr. Edgemar meets Quaid to convince him that he is caught in his memories and should take a pill as a smybol of his desire to break out of it, Quaid puts the pill in his mouth and pretends to swallow it while watching Dr. Edgemar's reaction. When he sees a drop of sweat running down the doctor's face, he knows it's a trap and kills him.
Planetville: Even the presence of other tropes reinforce this. For example, the atmospheric pressurization is so fast that if it was interpreted as accurate, it not only shrinks the colony to appreciable city-size, but the whole damn planet.
Schrödinger's Butterfly: Is it a memory implant gone awry, or all real? In the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale that inspired this (can't say based on, can't even say very, very loosely based on), it did really happen.
These Hands Have Killed: Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents (one of them being his best friend/co-worker, supposedly) trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Hauser leaves instructions to Quaid, anticipates how Quaid is going to react at various points, and seems to know roughly how long it'll take him to remove the tracking device, before continuing.
Video Phone: Used on both Earth and Mars. Talking to someone on Mars was as easy as phoning them up on Earth. In fact, Cohaagen (when on Mars) uses his vid phone to call Richter (on Earth) without any technical difficulties or time delay.
Villainous Breakdown: Richter has a brief one after Lori's death, but pulls himself together quite quickly after nearly killing himself and his head goon.
Cohaagen, when he's forced to kill his best friend from turning on the machine.
Villainous Friendship: Cohaagen and Hauser (Quaid's former identity). Cohaagen acknowledges their friendship when Quaid calls the guy an asshole and makes sure he is given an obedient, mindwiped wife to "enjoy", goes into a rage when he is forced to order the death of his friend, and goes on a tirade against Quaid for making sure he's not coming back.
Your Head Asplode: Subverted, where the exploding head is a bomb-rigged animatronic prosthesis which Quaid wears as part of a costume. His deception uncovered, he tosses the head to his pursuers, in whose hands it cracks wise and then asplodes. Also averted and played straight, since the thin Martian atmosphere causes one bad guy's head to a splode. Arnie and his gal narrowly avoid the same fate.