Lastly, how do the endings of Total Recall (2012) vs. Total Recall (1990) vs. “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” measure up?
Quaid’s “True” Mission:
- “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) – Successfully killed an assassination target on Mars (already achieved).
- Total Recall (1990) – A multi-step infiltration of the resistance in order to kill Kuato. Agent Hauser lays ground work on Mars (romancing Melina, planting clues) before volunteering to have his mind erased – believing that the less-informed version of himself, Quaid, will lead Cohaagen to the infamous resistance leader.
- Total Recall (2012) – Infiltrate the resistance and kill Matthias Lair. Hauser successfully “joins” the resistance but, upon meeting Melina, decides he’s on the wrong side of the conflict. Furious, Cohaagen captures Hauser, plants false memories, and then follows Quaid as he, unknowingly, leads UFB troops to Lair.
- “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) – Quail voluntarily agrees to have his recollection of Mars replaced again (so that Interplan will stop chasing him) but, this time, with a more satisfying set of memories (so that he won’t have a desire to return to Rekal again). The company designs a quintessential fantasy for Quaid – specifically, that he thwarted an alien invasion when he was younger and his very existence prevents the invaders from returning. However, when Rekal once again attempts to implant the memory, they discover that Quaid did, in fact, thwart an alien invasion when he was nine years old. Fearing that the aliens will return if Interplan kills him, Quaid is left with his memories and life intact.
- Total Recall (1990) – Quaid kills Cohaagen and successfully activates the alien reactor, essentially a terraformer, that spreads breathable, oxygenated, air across the Martian landscape – ending the governor’s strangle hold on Mars citizens.
- Total Recall (2012) – Quaid kills Cohaagen and destroys the invading robot forces – along with “The Fall” which has long been viewed as a symbolism of the Colony’s oppression at the hand of the UFB.
Was it All a Dream?:
- “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) – No, though it’s possible the entire story is a dream. However, the story concludes with the assertion that Quail is just a bad-ass – a man who has actually lived his wildest dreams.
- Total Recall (1990) – Unclear, especially consider Quaid himself asks a similar question in the film’s closing shot, “I just had a terrible thought… what if this is a dream?” Events in the film do follow Quaid’s planned Rekal fantasy (down to the shape and disposition of his lover, Melina); though, it’s certainly possible that the events on Mars actually happened (especially considering Hauser’s double-crossing).
- Total Recall (2012) – Unclear, though the film’s post-climax resolution would seem to indicate that Quaid’s experience is real. After hazily returning to consciousness, he comes face to face with Lori, his “wife,” who once again attempts to kill him. After dispatching her once and for all, Quaid is reunited with Melina – and there’s no mention of the “what if this is a dream?” question. That said, skeptics could point to the moment before Quaid awakens as possible evidence that he’s still dreaming – when, for a brief moment, he hears previously spoken Rekall operator dialogue. As a result, it could be argued that all of the memories “happened” in a split second or that being unconscious in his dream made him more aware of his surroundings while unconscious in Rekall.
Hopefully the piece helped clear-up some of the Total Recall confusion. Obviously each of the stories leaves room for multiple interpretations – so feel free to share your own thoughts and theories in the comments section.
If you’ve yet to see the new film and are still on the fence, check out our Total Recall review.
Want to talk about the new movie with other people who’ve seen it? Head over to our Total Recall spoilers discussion.
Also, stay tuned for a roundtable review of the film, and it’s comparisons to the other installments, in an upcoming episode of the Screen Rant Underground podcast.
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Total Recall is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language. Now playing in theaters.