As promised, here is Total Recall. This came out 29 years ago, back when Arnold Schwarzenegger was leveraging a body-building legend into film stardom, back before he became the Governator of California, also known as The Impregnator. This one is true Arnold. It’s streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is the top cast:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid
- Rachel Ticotin as Melina
- Sharon Stone as Lori Quaid
- Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen, the corrupt and ruthless governor of the Mars Colony
- Michael Ironside as Richter,
Don’t look for a lot of depth here. I will hit some highlights and explain what you are in for if you decide to give this one a visit.
The opening: another peaceful day on the lovely planet Mars, not the closest to Earth, but the only other major body in the Solar System upon which people may one day walk. We see a loving couple, striding alongside a rust-red crevasse. Their hands almost touch, shielded inside their Mars pressure suits. He steps on some Martian soil, which gives way. He tumbles down the slope. His face plate shatters, and he dies a horrible death.
But it’t only a dream. It’s a dream he keeps having. His loving wife Lori chides him about the other woman. He is construction worker Douglas Quaid, and he does not know who the woman is. At this point viewers start to wonder how a man who makes his living pushing a jack hammer can afford to be married to Sharon Stone. I mean, rich guys grab up all the hot babes early on.
But Douglas can’t get over the dream. He wants to go to Mars. There is a cheap way. You don’t need to go to Mars. You can have the experience much cheaper by having the memory of a Mars adventure implanted in your brain. He opts for an adventure that makes him a government operative who defeats the bad guys and saves the world.
But as the company that sells the service prepares him for the implantation something rebels inside him. He bolts the procedure and flees.
He tells his work buddy about what happened, and his buddy turns out to be a member of the menacing forces. By now viewers are beginning to wonder is this the real world, or is this part of the dream implanted in his brain. His buddy and some henchmen move to eliminate him, and of course, he kills them all. He’s Arnold.
Now they are tracking him. There is a device planted in his head. He gets a phone call and picks up a valise left for him. Instructions take him to an empty building, where he wraps a wet towel around his head to foil the tracking device. He watches a video of himself and is told he is not Douglas but is Carl Hauser, who has had his memory altered. By now we know that Lori is not his wife, but an actor playing the role to fill out the false memory. Douglas is instructed to go to Mars.
Which he does. There he checks into the prescribed hotel and receives a message to go to a low-life dive in a seedy section of the Mars colony. Many delights are available here.
To make it short, the Mars colony governor has set the whole business up to trick a rebellious faction into accepting Douglas, leading them to the identity and location of the rebel leader, Quato, who turns out to be a mutant growing out of another body.
The storm troopers breach the underground rebel headquarters and kill Quato. They also capture Douglas and his secret love, Melina, the one from his dream. The plan is to revert Douglas back to Carl, the governor’s henchman. Douglas and Melina are strapped into the memory machines.
But Douglas rebels. As Douglas, he despises Carl, his alter, and he breaks free from the restraints. He and Melina escape and set off to rescue the entombed rebel group and to activate the ancient Martian reactor that will release a pent-up Martian atmosphere. There is an epic battle between good and evil in the underground chamber, and the outside wall is breached. All inside air begins to rush out as Douglas struggles to reach the panel to activate the reactor. Governor Cox is ejected into the sparse Martian atmosphere and suffers a horrible death.
Douglas and Melina are also ejected, but not before Douglas has activated the reactor, which causes Pyramid Mountain to erupt with streams of air, restoring Mars to an Earth-like state. The loving couple stand together and gaze at the new world of Mars.
And it all is the very definition of “absurd.” The theme is an epic battle between right and wrong, laced with episodes of gratuitous gunfire and human slaughter. Would have been nice to get a view of Sharon Stone’s breasts, but you’re going to need to watch Basic Instinct if you want to see more Sharon Stone territory.
Sorry to disappoint true believers, but the reason Mars does not currently have an atmosphere is not because somebody turned off the air machine. Mars does not have a deep enough gravitational field to retain any but the thin gas it has. Thoughts of colonizing Mars need to be tempered by the realization that colonizing Antarctica would be more practical.
If anything deep is to come out of this plot is that what makes us what we are is our memories. Carl Hauser is given the memory of a righteous citizen, and that is what he becomes. He never wants to go back to being Carl. It’s nature versus nurture being acted out for you.