Highlander: There Can Be Only One (Decent Entry in this Franchise)
September 3, 2016 - accent chair
This year will top a full 3 decades of one of a hardest-to-explain franchises in new film history. Highlander (1986), is one of a many bizarrely specific arrange of stories we consider I’ve ever consumed, nonetheless it never fails to pierce a grin to a anticipation film clean above a certain age. It’s a good understanding like Ghostbusters (all anger over a new reboot aside) in a approach that a completeness and a feeling of compensation during a finish of it seems to obviate any reason for a sequel.
Of course, we competence feel such violent nostalgia for a strange since scarcely any try during following adult Highlander has been a new failure. Those that have not been failures have presumably never been followed adult or have themselves been trashed by destiny missteps. It has led me to ask—each time, anew—just how many deadweight a princely film can support before it sinks next a metaphorical aspect of vicious commend or nostalgia-inflated orbit.
A Kind of B-Movie Magic
The initial Highlander film is not a masterpiece. The sets are dingy, a effects haven’t aged that well, and there’s zero utterly special about a performances (apart from Clancy Brown’s memorable Kurgan). It is, however, a damn excellent film that evokes for me a meant and unwashed movement and anticipation films of a ’80s. The drift is so delightfully bananas—and delivered with so true a face—that we can’t assistance nonetheless be drawn into it. In this world, a tiny organisation of people who are imperishable ramble a Earth in enemy for a deceptive “Prize.” Unable to have children, they renovate all corporeal mistreat unless decapitated—whereupon some uncanny electromagnetic life force is eliminated to a favourite of a duel in an bomb materialisation famous as “The Quickening.”
With any Quickening, an imperishable gains a believe and appetite of his degraded foe. The final non-headless male left station during a finish of “The Game” claims “The Prize.” Immortals have a uncanny ability to clarity one another when they get closer—probably since there would be no other approach to simply brand one another otherwise. The customarily specific breach on their bloody bouts seems to be that fighting on holy belligerent of any kind is forbidden. (Why? Who enforces it if somebody violates a rule, a Immortal Police? we would sarcastically ask if this includes a holy drift of long-forgotten inland peoples, nonetheless there is no reason to be flippant about it since a seven-season radio uncover already answered that doubt in a affirmative.)
This seems flattering promising: Fighters who grow in strength and power, exponentially, with any unbroken victory, until customarily a dual extensive baddest remain. They’d substantially be throwing Kamehameha waves and kicking over buildings after thousands of years of amassed power, right?
In existence though, nope, it usually comes down to dual dudes with swords clanging divided during one another in a feeble lit, abandoned, vaguely industrial setting. Despite this, a film has endured in my memory since of how intentionally it strides brazen with what it’s got: A unwashed story, Sean Connery goofing around, an unforgettably pretentious and sinister villain, and Queen rocking a soundtrack. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Australian executive Russell Mulcahy’s credentials was in song videos. The whole film has that same kind of stylized, operatic peculiarity during times.
The film starts in unwashed ’80s benefaction day as a eponymous Scotsman, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) feels his Immortal clarity rawness while holding in a fighting compare during Madison Square Garden. He enters into a quarrel with another imperishable in a parking garage and beheads him, rising a military review that never unequivocally goes anywhere, nonetheless does pierce into his circuit an appealing debate scientist who apparently knows about Gothic metallurgy.
Meanwhile, a bumbling beast famous as The Kurgan is streamer to New York City, feeling a lift of The Gathering (which is what happens when a immortals have reached a semi-finals in their millennia-long sword fighting tournament). The film is intercut with flashbacks of MacLeod’s life, including his initiation into a ranks of immortals by a gratuitous and well-bred imperishable Ramirez (Sean Connery—who, we should note, is a Scottish man—playing an Egyptian who carries a Japanese sword and has adopted a Spanish name but speaks in a thick Scottish accent).
The particular campy sum should have all combined adult to a film being a scandalous B movie, nonetheless it all came together to be an enthusiastically dear classic. It positively doesn’t harm that Lambert and Connery’s chemistry shines by in their scenes together. Lambert’s spin as a Byronic favourite in a prolonged cloak with an superb samurai sword cuts a sheer conformation that a sequels have all attempted to replicate. His impression is terse, nonetheless that doesn’t meant he’s shallow. His integrity to keep fighting on is some-more than usually an try to revenge his slain master. He’s fighting to keep a Prize out of a hands of a untamed nihilist—a ’roided out asshole who treats a universe like a 14-year-old treats a stolen car. MacLeod is physically outmatched by The Kurgan, nonetheless his element and stability wins out over his enemy’s distance and brutality.
The premise, a hero, a stone ‘n’ hurl and complicated steel manuscript anticipation trappings: All of it flipped a switch in millions of teenage brains, cave included. Maybe we feel nostalgia for it since there’s unequivocally zero else like it.
We learn a Prize is some uncanny mind-reading, perfect-empathy kind of appetite that MacLeod will use to combine humanity. He is rendered mortal and can age and have a family, something we know he’s longed to do for centuries. Swords clash, sparks fly, a universe is saved and there’s a happy finale and Freddie Mercury stuck in your head.
And there it competence have ended.
Tonguing a Zeist-geist
It didn’t, of course.
Before a creators of Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) asked how they could presumably follow adult their uncanny tiny gem, they unequivocally ought to have sat down and asked why. we can’t detect of them ever carrying pondered presumably doubt from an artistic standpoint. The finish product is a ultimate cinematic non-sequitur.
Is anti-nostalgia—the loathing of a finished thing, rather than a emotional for it—a thing? we can’t even suppose how to report what audiences felt after sitting by this movie, generally deliberation a pedigree: Mulcahy behind in a director’s chair, Lambert and Connery both reprising their roles, and knave Michael Ironside uninformed off his spin in Total Recall a prior year. What could presumably go wrong?
Everything, apparently. The problem with a whole Highlander series has always been that a initial film embellished a writers into a corner. Remember, it finished with a final imperishable achieving a Prize and sallying onward on a query of assent after a lifetime of battle. The film acknowledges all of these things, afterwards runs them over with a John Deere tractor. In a apart destiny of 1999, MacLeod uses his ultimate believe to save a universe from tellurian warming by … putting adult an appetite defense that blocks out sunlight? Stay with a film, though, and you’ll find out that MacLeod comes from a universe Zeist, where he and Ramirez were rebels conflicting a vicious dictatorship. Ironside plays a enforcer of this regime, General Katana. The dual are prisoner and condemned to outcast on Earth, that will make them imperishable for some reason. This is evidently since immortals are a approach they are, and is a whole procedure for their competition.
Summarizing this film is an practice in futility. Every line, any detail, raises questions that can't presumably be answered. It was an extensive flop, with Ebert job it “the many hilariously unintelligible film I’ve seen in many a prolonged day—a film roughly overwhelming in a badness.” Mulcahy cut together a film a conflicting approach in 1995, stealing all references to Zeist and dubbing it a “Renegade Version.” It doesn’t unequivocally help.
No iteration of a array has ever referenced this film again, even ironically.
Salvation on a Small Screen
The prospects for Highlander contingency have seemed improved behind in 1992 notwithstanding a face-plant of a initial sequel. For those innate usually a bit too late to have seen a strange film in theaters, a radio uncover served as an entrance into a Highlander mythos. It indeed introduced me to a franchise, and is one of a reasons we feel a arrange of hole in my heart where a authorization used to be.
Following a life and times of Duncan MacLeod, clansman to Connor, it was a flashback-heavy soap with a knave of a week and a occasional beheading of Joan Jett. It wasn’t a good show, nonetheless in 7 seasons it deepened a world, answered annoying science questions and introduced particular characters. The array is unequivocally richer for carrying a murky Watchers (a tip multitude of mortals who observe and account nonetheless never meddle in a ongoing dispute of a immortals) and a imperishable Methos (modern day crony of Duncan who was innate in a Bronze Age, when his bloody exploits alongside 3 ruthless companions sparked a legends of The Four Horsemen of a Apocalypse). Really, it’s some better-than-okay melodrama.
Continuity was still inscrutable, of course. Lambert courteously reprised his purpose in a commander to palm off Highlanding duties to array lead Adrian Paul, nonetheless it’s set in a present-day ’90s. So has Connor degraded The Kurgan? The Game is many decidedly still afoot—this array is installed to a gunwales with immortals of any figure and size. How many of a film happened and how many didn’t? The universe competence never know.
This was a redemptive splendid spot, a extensive partial of a mythos that a lot of fans desired examination for a prolonged stretch. But, as we’ll see, that nostalgia has been trampled on, too.
Final Dimension, Same as a First
With a radio array going on, 1994 brought another large shade sequel, Highlander: The Sorcerer (Subtitled The Final Dimension in a States). Right from a get-go, it’s transparent that this installment seeks to totally bury Highlander II, and it does so by plucking a nostalgia heartstrings for a initial film with a vengeance. In a initial few minutes, there are callbacks to several iconic scenes in a initial film.
For that reason alone it starts off flattering promisingly. Lambert is behind as MacLeod and underneath a origin of an imperishable Japanese guru (played by freakin’ Mako). MacLeod again faces a bumbling beast with a raspy voice and a name that starts with K (Kane, played by Mario Van Peebles) who, again, slays his master in a past and hunts him in a benefaction day. The film even done an honest try during explaining how there can be some-more immortals even nonetheless MacLeod won The Prize earlier. (Van Peebles and his flunkies were solidified underneath a towering for 400 years, we see. Hopefully tellurian warming won’t exhibit any trapped Neanderthal immortals….)
Sadly, a film has zero many to supplement of a own. Van Peebles’ knave follows a same beats, right down to some severe play with a sex worker. The effects are low rent. The soundtrack is a snooze. The film contingency have spent utterly a sum on a helicopter for a day, since a unconditional vistas of Connor removing his slit behind by posing and jogging and going by his kenjutsu kata amid a beautiful vistas of Scotland go on several beats too long. The final dispute has nothing of a gritty, pleasing peculiarity of a original. It is an try to bank on nostalgia for a initial film that falls conspicuously flat.
The best that can be pronounced for a film is that it didn’t unequivocally do many to repairs a series. Unlike a films that would follow.
Oh, and that Cartoon Series
No, we can’t explain since in a universe anybody suspicion it was a good thought to spur rugged group decapitating any other and marketplace it to kids. Fully explaining a post-apocalyptic drift of this 1994 Gaumont prolongation would need another 1,000 words. Improbably, this French-Canadian constructed animation is indeed so bonkers it’s fun. we was also a right age to watch it on Saturday mornings, and yes, a partial of me feels a same nostalgia for it that we feel for stay like Thundercats. If we have a lung ability to go for a wiki dive, we brave we to review about it, nonetheless we needn’t bother: Aside from a feeble done video diversion adaptation, this one-season road was never examined again.
Another one-season consternation in a authorization was Highlander: The Raven, a 1998 live-action spinoff uncover following Amanda, a 1,000-year-old burglar who frequently crossed paths with Duncan MacLeod in a strange radio series. This show’s crime was wholly paltry and so intentionally ’90s that it competence enthuse a celebration game. The pretension method recalls those run-down wolf-and-moon T-shirts. The judgment sees Amanda perplexing to remodel her criminal ways during a insistence of a mortal (until a final episode) cop. There’s unequivocally tiny to suggest this for anybody, fan or no fan. It doesn’t blemish any of a sentimental itches a Highlander story customarily does. (Hulu subscribers can binge all 22 episodes of it as of this writing, though.)
Unfortunately not a Endgame
By 2000, a good radio array was off a atmosphere and into syndication. The authorization motionless to go a track of Star Trek: Generations and do a large shade instrumentation that featured both dear array heroes (and that kills off a comparison one, naturally). What improved approach to bank on nostalgia for a aged film and a renouned TV uncover than by pairing a dual leads for a initial time in scarcely a decade?
It goes poorly. Highlander: Endgame pits a MacLeod boys conflicting a imperishable Kell. (Seriously, being a bad man with a initial “K” is a many unchanging aspect of this franchise.) Kell, whom Duncan has never mentioned in 7 seasons of television, has a tortured past with a hero. Having slain hundreds some-more immortals than presumably of a MacLeods by unwashed tricks, he can’t be stopped by presumably Highlander alone. (Who enforces these phonetic rules? What consequences are there for violation them?)
The MacLeods aren’t going to let a fact their competition is a unwashed damn charlatan be an forgive to deface their possess compact honor, so Connor army Duncan to decapitate him and take his quickening, so permitting him to grasp Super Scotsman 2 and better Kell. we always insincere that immortals who schooled you’d disregarded a manners of The Game would usually announce open deteriorate and squad adult on you, nonetheless evidently not. Duncan buries Connor on a immature shade set with Scotland projected onto it.
There are a accumulation of reasons a film is usually true adult bad: Poor effects, Lambert looking tired, unequivocally tiny use of a show’s low dais of ancillary expel members. But a pierce that hull it for fans of a franchise—that sends it spinning behind into anti-nostalgia territory—was topping Connor. It feels like a slap in a face to fans who were calm to perspective a strange film as a possess apart phenomenon.
Yet, a final ruinous of a authorization was nonetheless to come.
The Source of All My Sorrows
Explaining Highlander: The Source (2007) is fundamentally to catalog any final approach in that it tramples on a franchise. Low-rent Sci Fi Channel prolongation expelled true to video? Check. Opening carnival created in Papyrus font? Check. Obviously filmed in some behind lot in Eastern Europe to save money? Check. Yet another post-apocalyptic, ashes-of-humanity setting? Check. Another adore of Duncan’s life whom we’ve never listened mentioned in 7 seasons of television? Check. Killing or disgracing dear characters and violation Duncan’s dragon-hilt katana? Checkmate.
The many wrongheaded thing, though, is a foolish plot, that tasks Duncan with anticipating “The Source,” some unexplained wellspring of appetite that a immortals have presumably been seeking for ages, nonetheless that has never been mentioned in 21 years of array smoothness adult to that point. To strech it, Duncan does dispute with a Guardian, a knave so hammy he contingency be seen to be believed.
Duncan’s esteem for winning their slapstick dispute and afterwards provident his deeply repulsive enemy during a end? Mortality and fertility. Yes, he gets to have a baby with some lady we’ve never met before—the accurate conflicting of anything awesome. It’s like winning a Congressional Medal of Honor and anticipating out it’s usually a minivan and $100,000 of tyro loan debt.
What are fans of a array who caring during all about a smoothness ostensible to do with any of that? How can we have nostalgia for a array that has shown such tiny courtesy for a possess quality?
There have been rumors for years of some new installment in a series. In this meridian of relentless nonessential reboots directed during a unfamiliar market, we can overtly contend we wish it never happens even nonetheless partial of me considers it inevitable. And we hatred feeling this way, really. Highlander competence rabble a smoothness and shoehorn in paradoxical nonsense any singular time it comes back, nonetheless a one thing that stays some-more or reduction consistent underneath a swordfights and hookers and apocalypses and stone ’n’ hurl is a surprisingly lucid evidence about what it means to be a good guy. In this stream maelstrom of implicitly compromised super-“heroism” during a box office, maybe I’m unequivocally sentimental for that: A good guy.
Connor and Duncan are both merciful group who use their appetite to strengthen instead of dominate. They go into dispute with demented bullies, filled with a fear of meaningful full good that they competence indeed die this time. These cinema ask we to side with a man who seeks peace and family, who upholds honest rules, who views appetite as a unhappy weight he wishes he could usually lay aside, nonetheless who fiercely fights conflicting a brutes who consolidate a terrible and wrong thought that competence should ever make right. we competence be reading too many into it, nonetheless we don’t consider it’s a tiny fact that a MacLeods are both collectors of excellent art, either. They’re a gatekeepers of a light, a guys who would’ve saved a Library of Alexandria if customarily they’d been there. This is civilization vs. tyranny, staid in a hearing by combat.
I crave for that badass, stone ’n’ hurl righteousness. And we wish they never let Zack Snyder anywhere nearby it.
Kenneth Lowe is a media family coordinator for state supervision in Illinois. His work has seemed in Colombia Reports, Illinois Issues magazine, and a St. Louis Post-Dispatch.