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YMMV / Total Recall (1990)

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Much of the film's content did not appear in the original Phillip K. Dick story, with the subsequent popularity of the film doing much to obscure the original story.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • The most famous one of all: is the whole film actually real, or is Quaid still in the ego-trip simulation? This is a case where even the creators aren't very sure; Verhoeven says it's a fantasy, Schwarzenegger says it's real.
    • Just how evil was Hauser originally, especially considering he was best buddies with Cohaagen, a contemptuous sociopath in every other regard? Considering that the uncover operation as Quaid with Lori posing as his wife was supposedly all his idea, were Richter's reasons for wanting his blood solely for his actions as Quaid?
    • Is Lori really so aggressive toward Quaid just because he made her go to Mars? Or, like her husband, does she resent Quaid/Hauser because of how she had to sleep with him as part of the deception? She certainly didn't act that way when the deception was first revealed, but may not have wanted to antagonize someone who'd just defeated her and could have killed her.
    • Is Mary's blatant proposition to Richter during the Venusville raid a case of her being Too Dumb to Live for walking right into a dangerous situation? Or was she trying to buy Quaid and Melina time with a distraction?
    • Does Cohaagen try to stop Quaid from activating the ancient alien machine because he wants to maintain his stranglehold on the colony? Or does he really think that the machine could be a Doomsday Device?
  • Angst? What Angst?: Finding out your entire life was a lie and all your memories are fabrications would be enough to send any normal person into an existential crisis. Quaid takes the news that everything he knew was a lie surprisingly well after being briefly taken aback.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice:
    • The one thing that everybody remembers about this movie is the mutant prostitute with three boobs.
    • To some people, this is the movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger got ballbusted not one, not two, but three times. By Sharon Stone, no less. He also got another one albeit non-violently by another woman who squeezes his balls softly. See here.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Benny appears to be Douglas "Doug" Quaid's mutant cabbie friend and his way around Mars. In reality, Benny is a mole from Vilos Cohaagen luring the Agency's forces to Mars' resistance. Despite being mutant himself, Benny gleefully engineers the massacre of the mutant resistance, personally gunning down one of their leaders. The one major villain in the movie without redeeming qualities, Benny claims he does everything in order to feed his five kids, until Quaid spots him mid-lie—at which point Benny admits he "ain't even married!"
    • DC Comics adaptation, by Elliot S! Maggin & Tom Lyle, Chief Administrator Vilos Cohaagen lacks his film counterpart's Villainous Friendship with Carl Hauser, while still retaining all the evil. As leader of the Mars colonization efforts, Cohaagen brutally overprices the sell of oxygen to the citizens of the colonies, uncaring that many of them are slowly dying from being unable to pay Cohaagen's prices, and, upon discovering a likely way to provide infinite oxygen across the planet, Cohaagen covers it up to retain his power over the inhabitants. When rebel forces continuously try to oust his treachery, Cohaagen devises a plan with his partner Carl Hauser to mind-wipe the latter, turning him into an ideal rebel fighter, then using this new personality, Douglas Quaid, to lead Cohaagen to the rebels. Once succeeding in this, slaughtering the entire rebel group, Cohaagen attempts to revert Quaid back to Hauser, laughing all the way about asphyxiating the entirety of Venusville for fun. Cohaagen ultimately showed his lack of care for Hauser when, after Quaid escapes the attempted reversion of his mind, Cohaagen callously orders him be killed, and spends his last moments using Melina as a hostage in an attempt to murder Quaid, securing his rule over Mars once and for all.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The human shield scene. A poor bystander getting caught in the line of fire and shot by Richter's men when they're trying to kill Quaid is horrible. Quaid grabbing his corpse, using it to protect himself from several more rounds of gunfire, and then throwing his now completely bloodied up body onto his pursuers on the other hand? Hilarious.
  • Delusion Conclusion: The film actively plays with the idea that Quaid might just be trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine after he visited Rekall for a fictional holiday to Mars as a secret agent. Halfway through the film, he's approached by a man who tries to convince him of this idea, only for Quaid to reject his offer with a Boom, Headshot!, figuring he's working for the bad guys from his Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat while Quaid was deciding on his choice, something that he probably wouldn't have displayed if he was either communicating with Quaid from outside the simulation or a new character inserted into the simulation for the sole purpose of delivering Quaid the above message. However, there are many elements which have led viewers to conclude that it was really All Just a Dream, including Melina's face and the alien artifacts being visible on the Rekall computers and "blue sky on Mars" mentioned by one of the technicians, and the representative who visits Quaid tells him that if he doesn't snap out of his delusion, "the walls of reality will come crashing down, one minute you'll be the last hope of the Martian resistance, the next you'll be Cohaagen's bosom buddy!", all of which proceed to happen. The film also gets noticeably stranger and more surreal as time goes on, which encourages the "his mind is breaking down" idea. Then there's disagreement on whether Quaid suffered a "schizoid embolism" and was lobotomized at the end, or whether his Rekall vacation worked as intended and he simply woke up at the end.
  • Fanfic Fuel: The mystery of whoever built the terraforming reactor and why, as very little of it was talked about in-film.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • A man is offered a red pill because it'll help him enter the real world. That sounds familiar, with another red pill in that film that would send Neo to "reality".
    • Sharon Stone is playing a woman that offers to be "tied up" then goes on to play a woman that ties people up.
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger versus an evil Governor, you say? Adding to the fun, Arnold won his real-life office because the previous Governor was, yep, totally recalled.
  • Jerkass Woobie: As bad as Richter is, it's hard not to feel sorry for him when he finds Lori's dead body, prompting him to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Quaid.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Carl Hauser is the best friend and business partner of Mars' governor Vilos Cohaagen and proves to be just as brilliant as he is while being much more likeable. When the pair's exploitative practices on Mars result in mutated humans revolting against them, Hauser and Cohaagen form a scheme to have Hauser infiltrate the rebels. Seducing the rebel Melina and ingratiating himself to some of the members, Hauser then has his memories wiped and replaced with those of a man named Douglas Quaid, knowing that the psychic mutants would be able to sense his deception otherwise. Hauser records a message to Quaid, making him believe that he betrayed Cohaagen to help the rebels and giving him instructions on how to meet with their leader Kuato. Following the instructions, Quaid discovers Kuato's location, allowing Cohaagen's men to wipe out the rebels and kill Kuato. Hauser then appears in another recording, thanking Quaid and earnestly apologizing since he plans to take his memories and body back, with Quaid barely being able to avoid this fate.
  • Memetic Mutation: Like most Schwarzenegger films, most of the memes surrounding this film come solely from the man's iconic accent and delivery style, and so do other more memorably-delivered lines by other members of the film's cast:
    • YOU BLUU MAI CUVAH!!!
    • GET YOAH AHSS TO MAHS!
    • GEEVE DEESE PEEPLE AYAH!
    • DIE BENNY!!!
    • Shit! SHIT!
    • SCCCREEEEEEWWWWWW YYYOOOOUUUUUU!!!!!
    • BUT I KILLED DEM!!!
    • Start the reactor, Quaid... Free Mars...
    • CONSIDER DAT A DIVOAHCE.
    • SEE YOU AT DE PAHTY, RICHTAH!!!!
    • Hey man, I got five kids to feed!
    • Get ready for a surprise!
    • TWO WEEKS!
    • Open your mind!
    • The characters' decompression faces, Quaid and Cohaagen's in particular.
    • "Baby, you make me wish I had three hands." note 
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Cohaagen crosses it when he leaves all the people in Venusville to suffocate via cutting off their air supply.
    • While Richter's Butt-Monkey and Beleaguered Assistant tendencies may have earned him a little bit of audience sympathy before, his killing of Mary the three-boobed prostitute, simply for being uncooperative, ensures that we don't feel too bad for the guy when Quaid eventually offs him in a rather gruesome manner.
    • Benny crosses it when he sells out the entire resistance to Vilos Cohaagen's men, leading to the bulk of its members being gunned to death. It is also revealed at this point that his claim of having loved ones was entirely a lie.
  • Narm:
    • Generally, every damn scene that requires Quaid to scream in distress, stretching from the first few minutes of the film all the way to the last, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger's infamously limited acting abilities that result in him giving some of the most cartoonishly flat angrish imaginable. The end result sounds less like he's freaking out and more like he's peeling off the world's largest bandage.
    • Cohaagen's face as he grossly inflates from his decompression death can be Nightmare Retardant given how he ends up vaguely looking like Rodney Dangerfield.
  • Older Than They Think: The film utilized tropes popularized by The Matrix almost a decade before it came out such as (possibly) being stuck in a virtual dream world and being offered a Red Pill to return to reality.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Dr. Edgemar, the bald guy who offers Doug the red pill.
    • Priscilla Allen's performance as the "Two Weeks" woman.
    • Lycia Naff as the unforgettable three-breasted hooker, Mary.
    • Kuato's screentime is as small as he is, yet he still manages to be among the most memorable parts of the movie.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The NES/Amstrad/Commodore 64 game. With the most epic (read: with the most annoying hitbox) fight against a hat-throwing hobo you'll ever see in a video game. Though the alley fights can be avoided by jumping over the entrances to them. Once you know to avoid them, the game is an accurate albeit challenging adaptation with the sprites in the NES port for Quaid and Richter baring an impressive resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Ironside, especially considering the sprite limitatioms of the time.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Signature Scene: Most previews and retrospectives use the scene where the "Two weeks" lady's head opens, revealing Quaid underneath.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • During Cohaagen's death scene as he struggles to breathe on Mars, the camera cuts out a half-second too late, causing the poles used to push out the character's bulging eyes being visible as his face flops to the side.
    • A few seconds later (and crossing over with Freeze-Frame Bonus), the camera catches one of Quaid's eyes popping out while his features return to normal, as the Mars air rushes around him and Melinda after the volcano explodes.
    • Arnold's glaringly misshapen "head" when he takes off his "Two Weeks" Lady helmet/mask. It's bad to the point that even Rob Bottin admitted it being one of his weaker effects for the film.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The beginning of the main theme by Jerry Goldsmith sounds suspiciously similar to Basil Poledouris's Conan the Barbarian (1982) theme. Alternatively, you could think of pounding tympani as a Leitmotif that follows Arnold Schwarzenegger around through most of his movies.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Hooker with a Heart of Gold resistance members Mary and Thumbelina are pretty colorful and interesting, which makes it a shame that Mary only has one scene and Thumblina doesn't have any dialogue when she shows up later on.
  • Unintentional Uncanny Valley:
    • Justified, since the Johnny Cab robot is a Howdy Doody parody with a deliberately phony, chipper personality, modeled and voiced by Robert Picardo.
    • The scenes when Quaid takes the tracker out of his nose and when he takes off his fat lady mask. In both scenes, it's pretty easy to tell that Quaid's face is an animatronic.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • The film has well-made models and prosthetics, and the only brief CGI, in the X-ray scanner, looks simple but holds up.
    • The movie also took home a special achievement Academy Award for visual effects, although it's not recognized as an official "competitive" Best Visual Effects Oscar due to being the only film that got enough votes to make the nominee field cut line (the last such instance this has happened).

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