Highlander II: Renegade Version [Highlander II: The Quickening] (1991)

A lot of people think Highlander II is one of the worst movies ever made.

I quite enjoyed it.

And, yes, probably for many of the reasons that people hate it.

Of course a lot of people will tell you that it doesn’t make sense.  But that’s ridiculous.  Everything in this film can easily be explained:

Why is every car in the future (2020, to be precise) a vintage Forties, Fifties, Sixties or Seventies car?

Because it looks cool.

Why does the ancient civilization from the distant past (or the planet Geist in the Theatrical cut) look like an Arabian Nights fantasy city with a giant, vaguely Egyptian statue?

Because it looks cool.

Why does an army in this distant past go to war with swords and machine guns and the sound of heavy artillery.

Because it looks cool.

Why does hitting things with big swords produce huge showers of sparks?

Because it looks cool.

Why do Immortal assassins have porcupine quills for hair and giggle a lot?

Because…well you get the idea.

Russell Mulcahy started out in music videos (like a lot of Nineties directors) and the one thing you can say for his films is that they are visually striking.

Of course there is a story — there has to be to hold all those MTV moments together.  Connor MacLeod has gotten old since the last film.  The Ozone layer failed years ago, but Connor created an electronic shield to take its place, which works but replaces the blue sky with storm clouds and a laser light show.  Something’s wrong with it, there’s a conspiracy to keep it secret, and (naturally) a sexy rebel girl who want to know the truth about it.

Oh, and the evil, scenery-chewing General Katana from that distant past/planet Geist who exiled all the Immortals to Earth (or the future, whatever) has come to kill Connor.

Along the way, we get an aerial hoverboard battle (shot in camera by the guys who did the wirework for Superman: The Motion Picture); a commando assault with wetsuits, harpoon guns and zip lines; lots of sword fights with flying sparks; crackling energy discharges and lightning bolts; and an utterly absurd cartoonish 400 mile an hour commuter train ride.

We even get a magnificent performance of Wagner’s  Götterdämmerung and one of Hamlet which rapidly descends into Burlesque.

I was mildly surprised to note just how bad Christopher Lambert’s accent is (particularly for a Scotsman).  There’s a certain irony to the fact that the guy with the heavy Scot’s accent is playing a Spaniard, but hey, that was in the first film, so it’s hardly worth noting.

Now I need to point out that fans of the series do not love this film and will never love it.  Not ever.  It tramples all over the established mythology of the first film (and for that matter, of the TV series and next three movies).  The fans hated it so much that Mulcahy removed all references to Planet Geist in his director’s cut — although it has been claimed that it was in his earliest drafts.

Whatever the case, the production — in Argentina, of all places — seems to have got thoroughly snarled up and was ultimately yanked out of Mulcahy’s hands.  He shot some additional footage for this version but not enough to complete his original vision for the film — and I’m really not sure how close what resulted is to what he originally had in mind.

But I don’t suppose it really matters.

The film we got is a glorious mess, a huge visual feast, jammed full of incredible action scenes, with a goofy plot and over the top performances.  The real star here is Michael Ironside: he’s said in interviews that the script was so terrible that he decided to go completely overboard.  The result is the most insanely out to lunch performance of his far from subtle career.  It’s a joy to behold and leaves no scenery unchewed.

However, this is not a movie for cinematic wimps.  If you are hung up on logical scripting, elegant dialogue, realistic performances, or series continuity, they by all means avoid this one.

But if you are willing to give in to the madness and enjoy this magnificent turkey, this marvelous failure, for the stunning absurdity that it is, you’ll be just fine.

In fact, you’ll probably find yourself shouting at the characters, groaning in disbelief, throwing things at the screen…

And generally having a good time…

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One thought on “Highlander II: Renegade Version [Highlander II: The Quickening] (1991)

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