So I thought we were going to see Highlander the Quickening and then a reel of some of the horrible planet Zeist stuff, but it turns out that my friend actually found a laser disk copy of the original release with all the scenes placed properly in it’s correct place. It was an evening of agony, and I have to write about it.
Here’s the deal. I saw Highlander the Quickening it it’s abridged version back in 1991 in a theater and thought it kind of sucked then. Age has not softened my opinion about it. However, it turns out that when the movie was being filmed in Argentina the company that financed it (insurance, I guess) was really worried about losing money on it (a legitimate concern, based on the final edited product) and somehow, in the worst contract in movie history, gained creative control and forced in an entirely different sub plot into the movie involving a failed rebellion on a distant planet called Zeist. Let’s just say the movie, which already sucked like an undertow, took a turn for the stupid surreal. It’s like the plot died a horrible death in its first incarnation and the the evil scientist (played by the insurance company) resurrecting it as a zombie to stumble around the screen spewing bile and embalming fluid all over the screen before stumbling off to suck somewhere else.
Here is how I picture the movie in my role of King of Analogies. Back in high school I used to get a two pack of twinkies. I would take a straw and suck all the filling out of one of them through the holes in the bottom. Then I would fill it back up with ketchup. I would go up to one of my friends and start eating the good one while saying “Hey man, want a twinkie?” This movie is like getting the bad twinkie, but instead of ketchup it’s filled with a mix of Ex-lax and epecac, so you end up spewing chunks out at both ends. Not really so much painful as just disgusting and disappointing.
Sigh. Here is the plot summary. It is the far off year of 1999 and the ozone layer is more or less destroyed. Connor MacLeod, with the help of a guy who looks like an escaped garden gnome without the hat, invent the Shield, which covers the entire earth and protects it from the ultraviolet radiation. Flash forward to 2024. The earth is now super hot and wet all the time for being trapped inside the Shield, which is under the control of a multinational evil company call the Shield Corporation which apparently generates profit just by existing. MacLeod is now a decrepit old man but still has the Fabio-style haircut. He goes to an opera and during a scene falls asleep (or has an acid trip) and suddenly we hear his old headless buddy Ramirez’s voice and see the words “500 Years Ago on Planet Zeist.” No joke. Really, that is what happens. Ramirez and Highlander are the leaders of a revolution against the evil General Katana (wait a minute! Didn’t MacLeod carry a katana in the last movie? Was this an tribute to the first movie or just really lazy writing? I would bet on the latter). They get captured, mainly because they seem to be fighting against an army that has heavy artillery and are themselves carrying swords. The rest of their friends get killed, but for some bizarre reason rather than just executing them Katana allows the local priesthood to transport them to Earth and make them immortal.
Wait a minute. Their “punishment” is to be immortalized and transported to Earth in order to compete from “the Prize?” Also didn’t the first movie start off with MacLeod as a young man with the Clan MacLeod with relatives and everything? Also, at one point Katana calls him Highlander, which in the first movie was pretty clearly a reference to being from the Scottish Highlands. Does that mean he was from the Highlands of Zeist and then coincidentally landed in the only place on earth also called the Highlands with no memory of his extraterrestrial life? Also, he and Ramirez were friends on Zeist but had to reintroduce themselves to each other in Earth? Bear with me, gentle reader. It will all make sense in the end (not).
Anyway, in a move ripped straight from the Evil Villain Handbook of Stupid Moves, Katana sends two morons to try to kill MacLeod, who is more or less content to grow old and die. MacLeod kills one, gets young again, and kills the other in a really stupid battle in spite of the fact that it involves a hoverboard. Meanwhile, there is some sub plot about how the ozone layer is back and the Shield Corporation (with evil CEO played by John McGinley from Scrubs) is just keeping it up to maintain their profits. The romantic love interest is fighting against the Shield Corp (ever heard of a subpoena?), finds MacLeod, and they hook up. Ramirez (yes, played by Sean Connery. I don’t think it coincidence that the two movies that I have despised the most on this blog have both starred him) is resurrected in Scotland through the magic of the Quickening and the Shield, where he steals a prop sword and trades a single pearl earring for something like $40,000 worth of clothing, transportation, and I guess a fake passport. Sword fights happen, security mooks from the Shield Corp prove to be Stormtrooper accurate and die by the bushel, and General Katana (Michael Ironside) appears to be the villain behind a plot that has no reason to exist. He also wrecks a subway car full of children by having it go in excess of 500 mystery units per hour into a brick wall while channeling Ozzy from Crazy Train. It all boils down to a final sword fight that looks like it was actually an edited down version of two different fights, since MacLeod’s sword keeps going from evil looted blade to Ramirez’s old katana and back again. Ramirez also sacrifices himself to save MacLoed and the chick from the operationally critical “Crushing Fan Room” with magic powers(?). Good triumphs over evil (sort of, unless you consider bad writing, direction, filming, and acting evil) and the world is happily released from the prison of the Shield (sorry if that was a spoiler, but if you want to go out and see this garbage after this review you probably enjoy pain and should be thanking me for helping to make the experience worse).
Anyway, the stars. They kept the original main character actors, Connery and Christopher Lambert. One grudging star. The romantic interest girl was kind of cute, in an 80s beehive haircut sort of way. One star. There was a hoverboard. One star. Every scene was at night, so we didn’t have to see how cruddy all the sets probably were. One star (get the feeling I reaching here?). Four stars total.
Now the black holes. The story made absolutely no sense. It couldn’t have been less confusing if it had been in a foreign language and run backwards. Five black holes. The sword fighting was awkward and badly choreographed, although everything else sucked so I don’t know why this wouldn’t suck too. Three black holes. In spite of being 8 years in the future all the cars were somehow from the 60s. One black hole. The acting from everyone, even Connery, sucked. Two black holes. Planet Zeist. Three black holes. Every guy except the corporate CEO had bad Fabio/Meatloaf style long hair. One black hole each, so three black holes. MacLeod’s Scottish accent, which seemed cool in the first movie, made all his painfully long monologues seem even more forced and insincere than they actually were. Two black holes. It more or less ruined my positive memories of the first Highlander. Four black holes. The writers felt they had to create an origin of the Immortals that made zero sense. One black hole. Total: 24 black holes.
Grand total, 20 black holes. Truly awful. Rumor has it that the director walked out of the premier 15 minutes in, which would put it about the time the words 500 years ago on planet Zeist would have appeared on the screen. Also, there is a story that Christopher Lambert had a finger severed during one of the sword fighting scenes and had it reattached. If they had shown that I think I would have given them another star. Michael Ironsides is also supposed to have had his teeth chipped in another scene. Face it. The gods of film did not want to see this thing get done.
As for yesterday’s question of Dwight Scrute versus Egon Spengler, I think it could go either way. Dwight is generally better armed and has studied martial arts, and once maced a guy at work. However, Spengler has faced the undead and other horrors. I think in a regular fight I would have to bet on Dwight, as he seems eager for the violence. I do know I would definitely want to watch this fight. It would be entertaining. (Ghostbusters image courtesy of the science fiction t shirts category).
For today, I need you all the think outside the box a little, as this next one is less a straight up fight and more about a long story. Here it is. Who would win: the Scooby Doo gang investigating the mystery of Freddy Kruegar?