The Highlander Returns!
By Mike Thompson
When I got my hands on the director's cut of HIGHLANDER 2: The QUICKENING, I couldn't have been happier. With the title, "Renegade Version" boldly written in Star Trek font, I was ready for an ungodly revelation. Loyal readers of Cashiers du Cinemart will remember from issue 4 will remember my feelings that HIGHLANDER 2 is easily one of the best films of all time.
It would seem that the real hero of HIGHLANDER 2 was not Conner McLeod or Ramirez or, as I suggested earlier, the writers, or even director Russell Mulcahy. No, the true hero was the person who edited H2 into its theatrical-release form. But again, HIGHLANDER 2 proves itself to be a truly ground-breaking film in that this is one of the best cases of a "director's cut" of a film being worse, I mean a lot worse, than the original.
Sure, critics may debate about the merit of BLADE RUNNER's voice-over, dream sequence and ending, but let's look some of the big differences between HIGHLANDER 2's theatrical release and the "renegade version."
Remember when Conner McLeod becomes immortal again, tells Virginia Madsen's character this and they kiss? That may be hard to believe in the original but, the renegade goes one further (rebelling against good taste and not the movie studio perhaps?) by having them do the wild thing right there up against a dumpster. I can think of nothing more sexy.
Except maybe the subplot wherein our heroes climbing a mountain that peaks above the atmospheric shield to see if the ozone has really repaired itself. As THE LOST CONTINENT showed us, there's nothing that causes deep hurting more than rock climbing. Ten solid minutes of rock climbing. And when they reach the top, guess what? The ozone's fixed. I guess we really needed to see this even after the earlier scene where Virginia Madsen broke into the high security facility to run a check on their computers? Yes. In any other movie this would be called excessive padding, but here it's "exclusive footage."
What's better than pushing the running time of a movie into double digits with rock climbing? An unnecessary and poorly edited fight scene, of course! In the "renegade version," Michael Ironside and Christopher Lambert duke it out on a moving truck! Of course, the truck looks like it's going a total of ten miles per hour and is so choppy that I thought Lambert fell off the truck when it was actually Ironside. But hey, at least it's a fight scene and those are always fun.
And "fun" doesn't even come close to being an adequate word for describing HIGHLANDER 3.
You know, since the original HIGHLANDER left so many unanswered questions that a sequel had to be made, and, boy, that HIGHLANDER 2 was quite a cliff-hanger too, now wasn't it?
So, coming in number one on my list of unneeded sequels is HIGHLANDER 3 with subtitles being either THE MAGICIAN, THE SORCERER, or THE FINAL DIMENSION. Take your pick, it went through three title changes before it ever was released.
It may surprise you to know that I didn't even want to see this film. Call me crazy, I know!
It's not really a sequel to HIGHLANDER as it is a prequel to HIGHLANDER 2. It takes place between the two films but I don't know where to rank it in terms of its awfulness.
We begin with Conner McLeod hanging out in India with a kid. It's not his kid, of course, since immortals are sterile. Now, all I kept thinking is, "this kid had better die because there's no trace of him in HIGHLANDER 2." But does he die? Of course not! He's a kid, fer chrissakes! Are you some kind of an animal?
"There can be only one." Was Conner talking about the number of immortals or the number of villains a film should have? Just as HIGHLANDER 2 undid all "logic" the first movie employed, this keeps right on unraveling that big mess. Because, even though McLeod could only claim the "prize" after he killed all of his fellow immortals (at lease those on Earth, I gather), three, count 'em, three more bad guys show up. Apparently, you can get the prize if you think you're the only immortal left because McLeod assumed they were killed four hundred years before in a cave in. Nope, they were just hanging out, biding their time for the right sequel to rear their ugly heads.
Also making an appearance is one of the most wasted characters I've seen in years and probably the only cop on the NYPD with an English accent. He's trying to connect McLeod with some beheadings that went on a few years back. In case you missed those (and the film makers sure do hope you did), there's even a little rap by McLeod in the beginning of the film where he tries to sum up the first movie. Fuck that, I want to see him try to explain the second movie, and, for that matter, the third!
If I seem angry, it's because I am. At least in HIGHLANDER 2, the film makers attained some sort of Zen state where their movie became a void. That, to me, is an admirable achievement. But this rehashed mess just doesn't even come close. And dig this tag line: "When there can be only one, you've already lost." No shit.
Check out the official Highlander Site!