We’re here to take a look at Total Recall at 30. Yes, the iconic movie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, has turned 30. Recently, SciFiPulse published Back to the Big Screen: Total Recall 4K. But now, it’s time to take a look at what the film’s based on, and also assess the Colin Farrell remake, too. If you’ve read the source material, and seen the remake, then you should be able to totally recall things being discussed . . . (no apologies for the thematic pun!) If you haven’t yet, then now’s the perfect time to start the journey!
The Source Material
Total Recall is adapted from the Philip K Dick story, “We can Remember it For You Wholesale”. The story was first published in 1966. It’s unsurprising that the story “became” a film, because many other of Dick’s stories have. Perhaps Blade Runner (1982) is the best example. In literary terms, “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale” is a “longer short story”. It’s not quite long enough to be a novella. The story deals with a man who isn’t quite sure what’s going on, which is a recurring theme within much of Dick’s work. It’s not the easiest story to make sense of, but it’s a wonderful adventure in its own way. We’re certainly glad it was written, because of . . .
Total Recall (1990)
What a legendary movie! As Total Recall turns 30 we should remind ourselves exactly why this Paul Verhoeven movie is considered a true cult classic. The combination of action and violence was offset perfectly by the unique funniness and humour of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s clear to see how much the movie drew from “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale”, but the film has its own unique charm. The big success is that it didn’t take itself too serious. And, the film captured Dick’s vision of the future, too. For example, the gadgets used to live everyday life. Though it’s a product of its time, the film still stands up today as classic sci-fi flick.
Total Recall (2012)
Unfortunately, the remake starring the aforementioned Colin Farrell took itself a little too seriously. Directed by Len Wiseman, Total Recall (2012) wasn’t so much a remake. It was more rooted in Dick’s story, in some ways. But mostly, it lacked fun and humour. It was an all-out action affair, and special effects extravaganza. Perhaps it tried to mimic the success of Minority Report (2002) (Farrell was also in that), but didn’t manage to. This article does a good job of assessing the remake, and comparing it to the original story. All it really did was prove that some things are best left. They don’t need remaking. But that doesn’t seem to stop Hollywood’s endless rehashes.
It wouldn’t be fair to discuss Total Recall at 30 without at least mentioning Total Recall 2070. It’s fair to say it’s certainly “cult”. In polite terms it’s largely deemed forgettable. Yet, what it shows is that Dick’s work is such a rich source for adaptation. All of this, from one 22 page story! He always tells deeply human stories, and so much of his work is steeped in “big questions”. That’s his appeal. Many literary sci-fi fans either love or hate him. Regardless of that, Dick is a true behemoth of the genre his lasting influence is undeniable.