In preparation of perhaps watching the remake of Total Recall (mostly because it was filmed in Toronto – I recognize the subway car in the trailer), I did some pre-studying (much like Batman) with the original Total Recall that was released in 1990.

I had seen Total Recall before, but in bits-and-pieces and probably sanitized for TV. This was the first time I’ve seen it in uninterrupted order, and the first thing I noticed is that the beginning is unbelievable. Basically Arnold says Hi and then decides to go to Rekall to forward the plot. Thankfully it gets better from there.

The second thing I noticed was that it is very violent and bloody, but the fighting is horrible. There is no sophistication (or seemingly choreography) in the fighting; it felt like brawling. The gunplay was also stupendous. Ignoring that fact that they have unlimited bullets (it’s the future!) and that the heroes can never get hit, why do the cops wear bullet proof vests when any bullet goes through it? This contributed to my impression that the movie was campy.

I was also distracted by the juxtoposition between futuristic and dated technology. Every time they had something cool, such as touch sensitive dynamic nail colors, they have some 1990s junk like big cathode ray tubs. I wonder if we will look back at Minority Report in 20 years and make the same comments?

The redeeming point about Total Recall is the ambiguity about whether he is dreaming (or reliving a memory) or not (which I assume the concept is from the source material). They really do keep you guessing and provide enough hints on both sides that you really are not sure. Was Hauser’s videos done by holography? How did the man with the briefcase find Quaid in the random hotel? However, I don’t think this twist redeems the movie enough, and while many critics had good reviews for Total Recall, I’d only give it 3 out of 5 stars.