Just Look Away

Posted on April 8, 2011

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Highlander II: The Quickening

Highlander II: The Sickening

This 1991 scifi/fantasy movie has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where only 37% of viewers reported liking it. I’ve blogged about some movies with no rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but this is the first 0%-film for the series.

Why Bother?

Highlander II: The Thickening

The first reason to see this – and certainly the reason that I saw it in the theater – was because you really enjoyed Highlander, the 1986 original film.

You might be a Sean Connery fan. Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod) was. Connery’s character wasn’t in the original script, and Lambert threatened to back out unless he was added back in.

If you are a Russell Mulcahy fan, you might be tempted to see this one.

I watched it

Highlander II: The Chickening

In 1999 (in the movie), the world’s ozone layer is nearly gone. Connor MacLeod (the sole surviving immortal and winner of The Gift) forms The Shield Corporation to build an electromagnetic shield that protects the Earth.

There’s some back story about the immortals being humanoid aliens from the planet Kleist and coming to Earth 500 years ago, and then it’s 2024. Connor has retired from The Shield Corporation, which now rules Earth with an iron fist. It turns out that when you’re the only immortal on a planet, you gain The Gift but lose your immortality so Connor is now old.

For some reason, his enemy General Katana (still on Kleist) has taken all this time to figure out that MacLeod is still alive. He sends two assassins to Earth to kill MacLeod, apparently not realizing that their arrival steals MacLeod’s Gift, but makes him immortal – and young – again. But wait, it gets worse – when MacLeod kills the assassins, nothing happens. He doesn’t get back the Gift, and he doesn’t become mortal (and old) again.

Connor meets a terrorist (played by the always-gorgeous Virginia Madsen) and learns that Earth’s ozone layer healed itself. Connor decides to destroy his company and its shield, so he summons his old buddy Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (a Spaniard who’s actually Egyptian but really an immortal alien from Kliest, played by Sean Connery) and they go to town. Katana comes to Earth to kill MacLeod himself, and there’s some sword fights.

The Verdict

There should have been only one.

How bad is this movie? Russell Mulcahy wanted his name pulled from the credits and replaced with Alan Smithee. Christopher Lambert hated the script so much that he wanted to quit, but was held to his contract. All the subsequent films ignore this one, as if it never happened. It’s bad. If you disagree, check the copy that you watched. You may have seen Highlander II: Renegade Version, the director’s cut, which is 20 minutes longer than the theatrical release and changes much of the film’s story.

Aside from the flaws pointed out above, this movie directly contradicts the first film multiple times. The renegade version includes a documentary in which the filmmakers claim that inflation rose so much in Argentina (where it was filmed) that the film’s insurance company took over production and made a film that they thought would be profitable. Who knows?

Here are two tips for people making sequels.

First, don’t explain anything. If it wasn’t explained in the first film, don’t explain it now. If your first film did well and required that we accept a race of immortals living secretly among us, leave that the Hell alone. We don’t need space aliens or vampires or Nephilim or anything else.

Second, embrace the ending. If there’s one Immortal left and he has The Gift, your sequel needs to be about what he does with The Gift. Conflict should come from his limitations, and from people wanting to use him for his Gift. We don’t need alien generals with stupid names coming to Earth to mess with him (nor do we need construction opening vaults containing previously unmentioned and unknown evil Immortals, but that’s Highlander III).

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