We’ve had a lot of fun here with the I’ve Never Seen feature: finally cleaning out the skeletons in our cinema closests, admitting out film crimes and rectifying it before the burden becomes too much. This week, I have to confess something big.
No really. You should probably sit down.
Though I’ve been alive for 22 years now, to the best of my recollection, I have never seen any Arnold Schwarzenegger film. I know. It’s awful. Pretty sure my boyfriend considered breaking up with me when I told him my awful secret. I have seen clips of his various film roles and I could easily run a list of them off the top of my head but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any all the way through. Clearly, I’m not doing film right. So when I saw there was a remake of Total Recall coming out this week (today in fact), I figured I’d better watch the original quick.
And as I’ve always been told I would, I really enjoyed it. I’d say I loved it but I’m too liberal with that word as it is. What I will say is that it’s full of things I definitely love: the playful sci-fi, the crazy science, the puppetry and super-awesome retro special effects.
What really surprised me was how together it was. Most of my exposure to Arnie is in parody by various comedians and friends, including my boyfriend and only knowing the parodies led me to not take him seriously as an actor. I’m glad to be corrected though. Total Recall was full of campy action and dialogue, it worked tremendously well and I was completely drawn in by the film. Obviously Arnie gets to strut his stuff and show off his punching skills but it was good to see a more toned down performance as Quaid in his scenes before he visits ‘Rekall Incorp’.
The main elements that made the film for me have to be the visuals and the ideology. From that first scene where Arnie’s face starts to blow up from the oppressive atmosphere on Mars, you know where you are with the technology.
Now, I’m a great lover of CGI when done right as it opens up a new world of possibilities, but I can’t deny how much I love a film full of tangible objects and special effects. The tiny scale models of the landscapes of Mars have the figurine collector and stop-motion animation fangirl side of me giggling gleefully. It’s not often done in contemporary cinema as it can be cheaper to just insert a digital set than make a model and, if not done right, can age a film immensely. Total Recall can’t deny its age but it doesn’t have to. Instead it thrives on it, becoming a defining film for a generation.
The ideology behind it is not new but I can appreciate it now a lot more than I might have before. *Beware: spoilers ahead* There are a number of scenes which contest the dream theory almost conclusively – mostly the scenes post-Rekall Incorp that don’t involve Quaid and are therefore superfluous as his dream – but there is enough ambiguity to create discussion, at least enough for a second viewing. The DVD extras suggest that the casting of Schwarzenegger implies the film is in reality as he is too much of a hero figure to have been lobotomised. While I recognised Arnie as a big action hero, I didn’t hold him in such high regard that a dream ending was impossible. So maybe it was a good thing to have left it so long to see Total Recall.
Now, I will see the new film with Colin Farrell but I expect it to be fairly forgettable next to this memorable classic. Certainly with the 12A rating, it will struggle to be a visually striking in the violence at least. If, like me, you have yet to see the 1990 Total Recall, I highly recommend you rectify that immediately.
Now, here’s hoping it doesn’t take a slew of Schwarzenegger remakes for me to finally see the rest of what makes him the impressive figure he is.