Highlander 2: The Quickening

March 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Highlander 2 is a disaster of the highest order. If you liked the first Highlander movie or were even a fan of the television series forget about this movie. There is nothing about this movie that is familiar to anything else in franchise. More over, the character motivations are unclear, roles ill defined, the premise is ludicrous, and established rules broke. It’s as if the person who wrote this movie had never seen the first movie. Highlander 2’s biggest failure is in the writing. Even as a stand alone movie outside of Highlander movie continuity, it falls flat on its face.

Highlander was a cult film phenomena for any number of reasons. It didn’t exactly do great at the box office but gained a signification following on video and cable. It’s easy to see why because there was so much awesome in that movie. The soundtrack was pretty much all done by Queen. You had awesome swordplay, an appearance by The Fabulous Freebirds, Sean Connery, exotic Scotland history stuff and stunning locations, memorable one liners, and an interesting premise. The catchphrase behind the movie and series in general is “There Can Be Only One” You see, Highlander is about a group of immortals who fight each other on there. They can only die when their heads are cut off. So they sword fight in one on one competition. The winner of each fight gains the power and memories of the defeated by being struck by lightening in a process called The Quickening. Oh, and the only rule they have for the most part is they won’t fight on holy ground. At the end of Highlander, Conner Macleod played by Christopher Lambert is the only immortal left and wins the prize, assess to all the memories and knowledge of everyone in existent. So with only one left, there isn’t much room for a sequel. But of course, with the movie eventually finding a following, they wanted to cash in and make a sequel.

Now this is a real challenge. What do you do as a follow up to Highlander? Conner is now mortal and has won the prize. I suppose you could explore what he is going to do with the prize but that could limit the sword fighting aspect of the movie which is pretty much why a lot of the fans are going to show up. Problem is there is no one else to fight. So they did aliens. There is an interesting idea there. Perhaps aliens who had one the prize on other worlds could meet on Earth and do battle in another gathering for an even greater prize. But that’s not what happens in Highlander 2.

What does happen in Highlander 2 is its revealed that the immortals are outcasts from the Planet Zeist. Why was this not mentioned once in the first movie? But first we start off in the mystical future of 1999. I remember it well. Lou Bega, Limp Bizkit, dot coms becoming absurdly rich and bankrupted all in a matter of months, and the ozone layer failing and threatening the melt the planet. See, before global warming was going to kill us all everyone was in hysterics over the ozone layer depleting. So they used it as a plot device in this movie. Conner Macleod and other scientists make a shield controlled by sky-net to protect the planet from the sun. Fast forward 25 years to 2041 and the planet shield has turned the world into a crap hole. I don’t know why in all these cyber punk future movie people are so willing to live in a dilapidated cesspool. Basically, they are trying to rip off Blade Runner.The only resemblance this movie has to Blade Runner is in the set design.

So Conner goes to the opera and has a flash back. Not to Scotland like in the good movie but rather the Planet Zeist. Ramirez played by Sean Connery has gathered a resistance movement against General Katana, who does not once use a katana when fighting in this movie. He picks Conner randomly out of the crowd to lead the resistance. They enter some kind of bond that is never explained or makes any sense. The General Katana attacks. Conner loses the battle quickly and the resistances is crush. Katana for no reason wants Rameriz and Macleod captured. Why? All the other freedom fighters are butchered with their heads removed. He wants them captured although its never explained how Katana knows they are important. Was he ordered by the priests to capture the leaders but kill the rest? How does he know Conner is a general when Conner was made a general ten minutes before the attack. Conner didn’t even know he was a leader before the attack so how the hell does Katana know? Are there scenes missing in this movie? I’ll ask that a lot because that’s what it feels like. Scenes were either cut, never filmed, or just forgotten about. Four writers worked on this movie, three of whom worked on the first Highlander and all have a wealth of experience. I refuse to believe they would have made major mistakes like leaving out critical information that would inform the audience on character motivations.

So a group of Priests, I think, declare that Ramirez, Macleod, and others are to be sent to Earth as immortals. They lay out the rules for Highlander. The fighting on holy ground thing makes no sense now that they are aliens. Why would Earth religions matter to aliens? The catch is that they can come back to Zeist after winning the prize. Conner doesn’t do this, remaining on Earth instead and growing to be an old man. For reasons only known to him, Katana sends two morons to kill Macleod some 40 years after winning the prize. There appears to be no further rebellion to General Katana and Macleod has expressed no interest in returning to Zeist, which looks like the worst parts of the wasteland in Road Warrior. General Katana has no reason to go after Macleod. None what so ever. Zero chracter motivation. Not revenge since he already defeated Conner easily on Zeist. Conner isn’t coming back to Zeist and Katana rules unopposed. The general rule is that your villain needs a reason to oppose the protagonist. Again, I suspect scenes were cut or not filmed that would explain why General Katana wants Macleod dead other than he’s the bad guy.

The subplot is about Louise, a freedom fighter who believes the Shield Corporation is hiding something. They are hiding that the Planetary Shield is no longer needed. They are also engaged in monopoly and price fixing. She tracks down Conner Macleod because he built the shield and may know how to disable it without killing the planet. The Planetary Shield is somehow powered by the planet and it would take more energy to shut down the shield than there is on Earth and the planet would explode. Where do I begin with this idiocy? How is the planet powering the Shield? According to the ending its a pillar of white light in a giant room. But what is generating that power and how would it threaten the planet? It’s only the major dilemma of the movie. This idea is waved away by the movie when it is a major stumbling point. How would anything take more energy to turn off than leave on? Is the Shield being powered by the Earth spirit or some nonsense like that? Even if they were using something like geothermal power, it wouldn’t blow up the planet to turn off something that is powered from geothermal power. Macleod allegedly built the Shield to last forever. Why? Surely Conner Macleod, who won the prize and has access to all of the memories and thoughts of everyone ever would know that the ozone layer heals itself. So you would think he would have come up with a way to safely turn it off when it was no longer needed.

Speaking of Conner, the prize, and the Shield Corporation, how did the Shield Corporation come to be? Again, Conner can read thoughts and memories. Macleod and his scientist buddy Alan built the Shield to protect the planet. How could it end up in the hands of an evil corporation? Conner, no doubt, had some kind of ownership of the Shield since it is of his own design. So somehow he must have transferred ownership to a bunch of greedy bastards. Or somehow agreed to let the Shield be used as a means of profit. He couldn’t have been tricked into it because he would know if someone is trying to con him. And how does the Shield Corporation engage in monopoly and price fixing? There is only one planet so their can only be one Planetary Shield. How can they possibly charge people or set a price on the Shield which they can’t turn off? If people don’t pay the Shield Corporation, then what? You can’t throw everyone in jail. You can’t turn off the Shield and let them fry. The Shield Corporation has no leverage and can’t compel anyone to use their service. They have a produce that is everywhere in the world all at once and can’t be turn off or taken away. If no one gives them a dime then nothing changes. Basically, there is no way for the Shield Corporation to profit or for that matter even exist. But the writers either wanted to rip off Blade Runner or show their liberal bias. I’ll let you decide which. But I think it is clear to see that the writers created two straw-men villains whose very existence is questionable.

So Katana’s two assassins reach Earth and interrupt Macleod and Louisa’s discussion. Macleod has a very defeated attitude for a guy who has won the price. Maybe the world would have been better off with The Kurgan winning the prize. Sure, it would be a hellish dystopia but at least The Kurgan would be enjoying his dictatorship. The Shield Corporation wouldn’t have fooled The Kurgan into letting them become a mega power. Macleod seems like a man who has just given up on the world. At least under The Kurgan, the world’s suffering would stop when he is eventually killed. Macleod has just let the world go to hell. No matter, Katana’s assassins dress like leather boys with goggles and cackle maniacally.Conner dispatches them and gets the Quickening, turning him immortal and young. He also calls out for Ramirez for some reason. I’ll get into that later. Louisa immediately jumps his bones when she has only known him for ten minutes and all he has done is kill two aliens. Apparently thats all it took to win her heart. At this moment she goes from a strong, independent, freedom fighter to Conner’s love interest for no reason. There is no reason for Conner to like her. He might admire her spirit but she doesn’t have any kind of impact on him or his actions. He may find her attractive but we can assume after the last movie he has now lost his second wife. It took him 500 years to date again. Now he is ready to hop this girl because….. no reason. In the first movie, the love story was genuine because it took a lot of work. It was well told and Brenda really earn Conner’s love. She touched his life and helped him love again. The love story in this movie isn’t earned. It’s shoe horned in for no reason and its unclear why these two characters would be together.

So the assassins couldn’t get the job done, General Katana is going to Earth himself to finish off Macleod. Again, no reasons for him to do this. He is the undisputed ruler of Zeist. He hasn’t seen Macleod in a few thousand years or so, maybe. He beat Conner easily last time. Conner hasn’t returned to Zeist and its been 40 or so years. With all that in mind, Katana goes to Earth to kill Macleod. He immediately menaces common folk with his psychotic, erratic behavior. 2024 must be a completely lawless society because the police make no effort to stop Katana’s rampage. He only crashed a subway car at 500 mph killing and injuring hundreds. No reason for the police to look for him.  Michael Ironside plays Katana as well as he could with the material given. Katana certainly has a lot of menace to him. He has a Joker like sense of humor and makes memorable if not strange one-liners. Katana’s biggest problem, other than lack of character motivation, is that he makes a lot of references to Earth culture that he would have no way of knowing. Ramirez returns to Earth and is completely puzzled by modern technology and manner of speaking. Katana knows all of this stuff. It’s uncertain how he knows all this stuff. Again, scenes may be missing. Katana waltz into the Shield Corporation and teams with them to take down Macleod. How does he know the Shield Corporation and Macleod are connected at all? And who is Macleod to the Shield Corporation? They know he is one of the founders and paid a visit recently. Beyond that, they don’t know that he is teamed with a freedom fighter and wants to bring down the shield. It’s implied later that Alan had some kind of conversation over the computer with Macleod but we don’t know what was said.

Now to Ramirez. He turns up in Scotland on a stage during a production of Hamlet. His first order of business is to get a new suit for some reason. Most people in this dystopia dress in rags so his Spanish conquistadors outfit isn’t exactly out of place. Then he books a flight to America because he knows exactly where Macleod lives, for some reason. Then he turns up in Conner’s loft, they have a friendly sword fight, and catch up on old times. The only thing Ramirez does in this movie is stop a lowering window fan from cutting everyone up. It’s a scene that could have been easily cut. They bring back Sean Connery, who is having fun with the role, but they don’t give him anything to do. He doesn’t impart any particular knowledge to Macleod that couldn’t be found in a Chicken Soup book. In the first movie, he was excellent as Conner’s mentor. In this movie, he just kind of goofs around. He is just a prop, used for the purposes of getting Sean Connery in the movie. His role is completely wasted in this movie and has no reason to be here.

To wrap this mess up, Ramirez, Macleod, and Louisa go into the Shield Corporation guns a blazing, running right into the front door. Their immortality helps them get past the machine gun wielding guards. They end up in the lowering fan room. Why does this room exist? What purpose does a lowering fan serve to anyone? Ramirez uses some BS magic to stop the fan and save Conner and Louisa. Louisa gets pinned down by machine gun guards. Conner runs into General Katana and they have their fight scene. Katana has killed the CEO of the Shield Corporation for getting mouthy with him. Conner wins. Louisa shows up to cheer him on, even though she was pinned down and out of ammo only moments earlier. It’s never revealed how she escaped that situation. Conner walks into a giant pillar of light that powers the Shield. His Quickening short circuits the Shield and brings it down. Macleod smiles at his girl and freeze frame to a merciful ending.

`Was there anything good about this movie?  Well, the special effects were pretty good, particularly for the time. The fight scenes were well done, even if there was nothing motivating the action. The set designs were all pretty much ripped off from Blade Runner but they looked really good. They definitely got the look they were going for. The actors did the best with what they were given but I think even they knew this was ship was sinking fast.

I don’t know who thought this was a worthy sequel to Highlander but they couldn’t have been more wrong. I would like some answers on how this happened. What executive green lit this shit? Sadly this probably wasn’t the end of that guys career because he is no doubt someones cousin. Who really wrote this? Three of the writers from the original movie could not have thought this was a proper sequel unless they just hated the fans. I don’t blame the actors or even the director. Studio finger prints are all over this and those people are the real villains of the movie. The Shield Corporation is no where near as evil as meddling studio executives, products of Hollywood nepotism, who think their family connections and old money qualifies them to make creative decisions. Those people should never work in this town again. Sadly, they are probably working until this very day, screwing up perfectly good movies and losing millions without consequence. There should have been only one. One Highlander movie.


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