Free Willy

Free Willy. Le Studio Canal 1993.

Before watching the movie:

This was one of the big cultural moments in my early childhood that I was aware of even as it passed me by. Everyone was talking about Free Willy for some reason. I dimly recall it being on in the same room at one point, but I think it was in the way that one dips in and out of a movie someone else is watching while at a family gathering.

There’s a good movie finding its audience, and then there’s a cultural phenomenon. The latter I can understand for a lavish tentpole movie like Titanic, but this doesn’t seem to be that kind of visual-oriented extravaganza. It kind of looks like it has a similar domestic plot to the original, before the franchise fatigue Air Bud, actually, like if you took all the basketball out of that movie and swapped the dog for an orca, you’d come close to this movie. While cetaceans were popular in the 90s, I would’ve thought that more came out of the popularity of this movie than contributed to it. Well, I guess I’m about to find out.

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Total Recall

Total Recall. Carolco Pictures 1990.
Total Recall. Carolco Pictures 1990.

Before watching the movie:

Why is it that Hollywood seems to like Phillip K. Dick more than any other SF writer? Off the top of my head, there’s Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Looking it up, I was surprised to learn that the recent The Adjustment Bureau is another adaptation of his, as well as almost as many more I hadn’t even heard of, including two television series.

I recall the short story this is based on “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale” as a cerebral thriller, while this movie seems to be positioned as an action-packed blockbuster. To be fair, I can certainly see the room to open up the plot with action sequences.

I feel like this is one of those movies that if it wasn’t rated R I would have seen it ages ago. It came out only two years after I was born and its staying power has only been diminished by having a recent remake. If I’d been 17 in the 90s, I probably would have been invited to watch it with someone before the decade ended, or been invested enough to make the effort myself. However, in the last ten years it’s just been on a shelf or digital shelf somewhere, with no particular reason to make “I’ll watch it someday” into “I’ll watch it now”, until well, now.

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