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(It seems I’m too busy to consider midnight as a deadline, so I’ll simply take part in this home stretch of NaPoWriMo as I can. For Day 26, the prompt was to write a parody poem, so I decided to imitate “Paul Revere’s Ride,” one of my favorite poems and meters, and merge it with this movie’s plot.)

Listen, dear viewers, and you shall be played
The bewildering story of Douglas Quaid.
‘Twas some future date in Two Thousand Eight Four,
(This isn’t the remake that many abhor
But Verhoeven’s version that Ahnold portrayed).

He said to his wife, “It would awesome be
If you and I could go visit Mars.”
But because she responded with apathy,
He sought out the next best way to the stars.
No one would care if he were to deign
To have memories planted into his brain,
Maybe to match his curious dreams
Of mystery women and Martian extremes.
But life, he soon found, is not quite what it seems.

When he left Rekall, he recalled very little,
Yet he soon found he was right in the middle
Of murderous Martian Machiavels
And mutants revolting beneath glass shells,
Which most would agree were far too brittle.
Was all this real, or another dream?
Was Quaid a player, and for which team?
I would tell you more, but you must agree
That reviews are best when they’re spoiler-free.

MPA rating:  R (strong violence, language, and nudity)

Like 2020, I’m finally getting started on my Blindspot list for the year in April, so I’ll have to double up a few times in the coming months to finish before the end of 2021. Kicking off the list is 1990’s Total Recall, a sci-fi mind-bender featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his popularity, along with Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, and Ronny Cox. It certainly represents a niche of its era that Hollywood is unlikely to resurrect successfully now that CGI is so prevalent: the hyper-violent, futuristic thriller with cheesy dialogue and effects that were amazing (and Oscar-winning) for the time and now have almost a quaint, unpolished roughness to them that somehow doesn’t detract from their quality. I’m thinking of movies like Outland, The Running Man, and director Paul Verhoeven’s own Robocop, and Total Recall is a prime example that I had somehow missed until now.

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My opinion of Total Recall is split. On the one hand, I love science fiction, and being based on a Philip K. Dick short story, the film is able to delve into a lot of fascinating subjects: questions about the nature of memories and reality, the dirty populism of a future Mars settlement, even the dependency of one’s identity on one’s memories. Plus, there are concepts that were clearly borrowed by later films, such as a red pill being offered to wake Quaid back to “reality,” not unlike The Matrix. Yet for all its impressive themes and gleefully convoluted plotline, ultra-violence has never been my cup of tea, and this movie definitely earns its R rating. Beyond the space brothels and headshots, it also gets very weird with its psychic mutants and whatnot, all of which I suppose should be no surprise considering the time period and Verhoeven’s involvement.

So Total Recall is a mixed bag for me, an unabashed sci-fi thrill ride that finds a balance between philosophizing and tearing bad guys’ arms off. It’s the kind of film I think is dragged down by its R-rated content even as I know that’s part of the appeal for its fans. I’m glad still to have watched it, even if I’d prefer to see it on a cut TV channel in the future. Take the grain and leave the chaff, as they say.

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Best line: (Kuato the mutant) “You are what you do. A man is defined by his actions, not his memory.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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