Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Get your ass to Mars!

Total Recall (1990)

I'd actually watched this one not too long ago (decided to rewatch the original rather than go see the remake in the theater) so it was pretty fresh in my memory, but figured I should go ahead and watch it again with more of a critical eye toward the Arnold Factor.  Overall this is still a pretty entertaining movie and has a lot going for it, but I do have to say that it falls kind of flat compared to some of his previous movies.  The action isn't as tense as Predator or as crazy as Commando, it didn't entertain as well as The Running Man, and it's not as funny as Twins.  It's not a bad movie by any stretch, and it does a lot of things, it just doesn't do many of them very well.

Arnold's not quite as "on" as he has been in most everything else.  He's acting pretty well, he just comes across a lot more flat than he has been in his prior films aside from Red Heat.  I'm not sure if that's the result of the complexity of the plot or if he just wasn't as in to the director (or vice versa) as he could have been.  He's not phoning it in or anything, there's just not all that much spark.  That said, he has quite a few excellent scenes, some good over-the-top action/gore, and lots and lots of "Aaarrggghhhaaaggghhh".  I've not touched on that yet, but Arnold's distinctive pain/action yell is as much a hallmark in his movies as "I'll be back" or a hard stare or shooting someone in the head.  I love it and find myself disappointed when they don't manage to fit one of those in somewhere.  It's almost his version of the Wilhelm Scream.  Perhaps somewhere down the line, he'll let a particularly good one become public domain and we can hear it in all sorts of movies for years to come.

After all this time, I'm still not sure exactly how to call the reality of this show.  It's possible that it's exactly like it seems and the attempted trip at Rekall triggers his capped memories and he then goes on a rampage, shoots a bunch of people, goes to Mars, shoots a bunch more people, and then activates an alien device to bring an atmosphere to Mars.  In movie-speak, we call that "plausible" these days.  Also possible that from the moment he goes under at Rekall, we're inside his fantasy and everything from that point forward is us along for the ride on his trip.  There's ample evidence for both... Seeing things going on outside of his experience (chats with the bad guys and whatnot) would certainly make it seem like it actually happened.  The various hints like "Blue Skies on Mars" being the name of his trip or the fade to white at the end could have you thinking they're going all Blade Runner on us and trying to get us to question the reality.  Then there are bits like the girl of his dreams being a character later that could serve either interpretation.  Personally, I'm going with Door C and saying that the filmmakers were haphazardly attempting to straddle the line between both possibilities to instill ambiguity that the real villain is the inconsistency of the script.  It's not Prometheus-level bad or anything, but it does smack more of them not really having fully planned out what they wanted to do, as opposed to deftly placing hints or sowing the seeds of doubt.

Ahnold Quotient - 10

Pretty strong amount of AQ being tossed around in these scenes.  From the arrogance of Hauser to the bloody violence just for the sake of bloody violence, this one really lets the Ahnold flag fly.  Couple that with some (hopefully) intentionally cheesy sequences (bug in skull removal) and dialog ("Consider that a divorce") and we're definitely hitting all the beats with this one.  Toss in a smattering of Arnold not really seeming into the movie and I think we have our first good example of the archetypal Schwarzenegger movie.  Woot!

Rewatchability - Sure, why not

Wouldn't really go out of my way to pop it in, but wouldn't argue it if it was suggested by someone or the Blu-ray looked at me funny.  It's a good ride and it's classic Arnold, it's just falling further down the list of my favorites the more of his other movies I rewatch.

Next up - Kindergarten Cop!  I like this one and recall not liking it as much as Twins for the pure comedy, but I also don't remember a lot beyond "It's not a tumor", so will be interesting to see how that one goes.

1 comment:

  1. Ahem, the movie *was* based on a novel by the science fiction author whose central theme is how hard it might be to tell if someone is manufacturing your reality. If anything, they messed up by making it not ambiguous enough which "reality" is "real". Perhaps not all that important a point when focusing on the Ahnuldness of movies, but calling what ambiguity they managed to get a "flaw" is going too far.