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Highlander Series (1986-2007) Review

Highlander (1986) PosterHighlander (1986) Review

“I have something to say!
It’s better to burn out than to fade away!”

 

We all know this 80s classic. Christopher Lambert plays Connor McLeod who is an immortal from the Highlands of Scotland hence the name though I have seen some modern reviews never make that connection and therefore think ‘Highlander’ is a title immortals have.

Set in 80s New York and told through flashbacks that are plentiful and do appear at any point in the film we learn he was taught about his immortality and the rules all immortals must follow from Sean Connery’s character Ramirez, an Egyptian now living as a Spaniard with a Scottish accent.

Apparently Sean did have accent lessons to give him a more Spanish sounding voice but I couldn’t tell and it doesn’t matter.

None of the inconsistencies matter and if they do then you won’t like any of the sequels.

This is more about having a good time just like Clancy Brown who plays the villain Kurgan seems to be having.

Kurgan really is one of the more disgusting baddies in movie history. Nowt more than a common thug with power but it is the way Clancy plays him that elevates him to something more memorial.
It is hard to not join with his delight when he is tormenting his hostage with a joyride through New York or to laugh with him at his deliberately bad attempt at a disguise which is only a shaved head and safety pins through his scar on his neck.

Some of the sword fights aren’t the best and neither is some the dialogue or performances but the direction is nice and flashy with plenty of exploding, destructive sets (the climatic fight is a spectacular treat for the eyes) great characters and a story that could only work in the 80s.

Also Queens soundtrack. Cannot forget that amazing soundtrack.

Highlander 2:
Renegade Cut (1991)

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
If you don’t take it out and use it,
it’s going to rust.”

 

When Highlander 2: The Quickening came out it pissed off fans of the original and for good reason. It seemingly ignores a lot of the original whilst bringing in new ideas that contradict a lot of aspects from the previous entry.

Stuff like making the immortals aliens that were sent to earth.

I don’t understand what they were thinking? I mean the studio that interfered and it seems Argentinian investors that forced changes in order to make as much money as possible.

I don’t think that worked.

Anyway it pissed me off because it broke my telly. This and Ghostbusters 2. Whether watching on a video or on a TV channel both of those films caused unstoppable rolling and intense colour flickering which eventually caused it to spread to anything being viewed before the TV died.

I guess my telly wasn’t the one. I suppose you could blame me for constantly putting them on and watching them.

This removes the alien bit and has Connor and Ramirez being from the past, sent to the future as punishment for an uprising against Katana played by Michael Ironside who seems to be having fun just like Clancy was but does veer into cartoon villain territory which Clancy avoided.

On the other hand we are watching Michael Ironside and I’ve never seen him smile, laugh and make jokes as much as I have here, the same with Sean Connery who’s role now has a more light-hearted, comedic tone to it which he does well and ultimately that is how to watch this. As a bit of fun, something not to take seriously at all.

You just can’t take this seriously due to how it messes with everything set up in the original yet does have enough entertaining pieces. The flying section of Connors first fight has some very nice wirework as the actors move along at decent speed and I always loved Katana’s hijacking of the underground train.

I think the fights overall are choreographed well apart from the climatic fight which is not a patch on roof top encounter with the Kurgan and even pales to Connor and Katana’s previous encounter that is vastly superior.

But ultimately this is sadly a failure, a failure I enjoy but a sequel that should have never gone in the direction this did, or have been made. There really should’ve been only one.

See how witty I am.

Highlander 3:
The Sorcerer (1994)

“It’s finally over.”

 

Highlander 3 completely ignores Highlander 2 but not only because it is set before the events of The Quickening and acts like a direct sequel to the original the way The Force Awakens is a sequel to A New hope.

I didn’t pick up on this when watching but others have pointed out how this is a basic copy of the original.

When I first watched it donkey’s years ago I remember liking it but not much else other than I liked Mario Van Peebles as this turns version of the Kurgan.

Starting with Connor in China many centuries ago as he is having a sword forged by a fellow immortal, Nakano, who also trained Ramirez and has mastered certain magic abilities which mostly are focused around illusions. It is a kind of magic after all.

Nakano is played by Mako which means this film receives an extra full point of whichever scoring system you use just for having him in it.

Mario Van Peebles appears as Kane who then absorbs Nakano’s abilities the usual immortal way but Nakano has one last magic trick up his sleeve and traps Kane with his henchmen in the cave they are in.

They finally escape in the modern day, blaming Connor for them being entombed for all those years and set off to America for revenge.

Connor has also just returned to America and is immediately shot by local thugs, typical New York in the 80s.
Waking in a hospital we do get a very entertaining sequence of hide and seek before a confrontation between Connor and one of Kane’s henchmen with a now wonderfully common over-the-top quickening sequence.

Following this it becomes a tad pedestrian. We have an also oh so common lost love reincarnation subplot, the film eventually remembers Connor has an adopted son but forgets that Connor won the Prize during the first Highlander so has him win it again for the second time but third overall.

I didn’t enjoy this as much this time. The first half is good but it loses momentum and whilst Mario is a good villain it doesn’t work when they have him try to copy the Kurgan such as during the hostage joyride scene. It only acts as a direct comparison between the two films that highlights how inferior this is.

At least Highlander 2 recreated this using an underground train and Michael Ironside was given more time to go crazy.

The biggest problem is the editing of the fight scenes, full of quick cuts and close ups mean you don’t see most of the fights. Say what you will about the some of the lacklustre swordplay scenes in the first but at least you could see them.

The final quickening sequence is nice and explosive.

Highlander:
Endgame (2000)
The Producers Cut

“Until the day we are reborn.”

 

So Disney can take over a property and expand on existing lore without trying to shit on it to sell new characters.

This film serves as a farewell to Conner and tries to bridge the Original movie with the telly series and just like both of the previous sequels Endgame ignores all the sequels that came before it.

In this one Connor is hunted by Jacob Kell that has a reason beyond simple ‘kill the highlander to win the Prize’. How many times must Connor win that before he is allowed to keep it?

Jacob, played the wonderful Bruce Payne chewing up the scenery as Bruce does, kills Connors daughter Rachel with Sheila Gish returning to the role and decides to go into hiding as he is tired of all the violence.

A nice touch having Sheila back and also returning is Beatie Edney as Connors first wife Heather with her scenes fitting in so well they feel like they used outtakes from the original 1986 plus she barely looks like she’s aged as well.

Maybe she’s an immortal.

Where this film works is when it expands on Connors past through flashbacks and is something that should’ve happened in the Quickening. We learn about his Mother and more about Rachel’s time growing up with him.

But as this is more about passing over the torch to Duncan Mcleod he naturally takes a backseat to Adrian Paul which is understandable. I do think that for most of the film they handle this well. This is Duncan’s story.

Duncan has his own issues with Kate, his medieval Scottish bride that he killed to awaken her latent immortality only he never sought her consent or even informed her of her anti-agingness.

So she’s pissed off and has teamed up with Jacob for revenge. Amongst those joining them is Donnie Yen who served as the fight co-ordinator meaning we get some excellent fights and swordplay.

Overall this isn’t too bad. It does seem to have a bit of a straight-to-video feel about it, as if it is an extended episode from the show but if this is an indication of the quality of the TV series then maybe I should watch it.

Whilst this does finally feel like a continuation from the The Highlander it does handle Connor’s death extremely poorly. Regardless of the Sequels quality or continuity issues it was Christopher Lambert and his portrayal of Connor that was always worth watching and why Highlander is so fondly remembered so he deserved better than a shitty bluescreen (remember when it was called that) death.

That is one thing that must be done properly and they fucked it up. To make things worse Duncan’s quickening (all of them) are so piss poorly filmed I thought they had been edited to be cropped by someone in the background at Disney chain-smoking between demanded changes.

I know this wasn’t made by Disney themselves but a company they own, I just dislike modern Disney.

The Quicken effect was always multiple explosions, floating bodies and lots of added lightning\light trails but here it is Adrian Paul convulsing as best he can whilst a stationary camera catches some minor off-screen sparks.

Just bad.

Anyway this isn’t so bad for fans however as much as you don’t really need to have seen the TV series you will come to parts that you will only understand if you have watch the show. At this point seasoned viewers of the films will be used to ignoring elements that make no sense and maybe adjusted to the ever lowering quality within the films.

Amongst the many peculiar decision’s made throughout this series is the extra scenes filmed just for the trailer that give Jacob magical powers (the ones Connor would’ve gained at the end of Highlander 3) and whilst this makes him to be more of the threat this film keeps promising he is it is a lie as none of this ever appears or is alluded to in Endgame.

 

 

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