Highlander II (1991)

Editorial Note: I just want to take the blame for the grainy photos that accompany this finely wrought article. Unfortunately, the film is often shot in a darkly lit manner, and I couldn’t get good screen captures. This is solely my fault, as is the poor ‘pacing’ of the stills, and Jason should not be held accountable.- Ken.

So why do we take the time to write these insanely long documents slamming these terrible movies? Most of the time the answer is “Because it’s fun.” All we’re doing is writing down all the things you and your friends think when watching bad movies–spotting plot holes, making fun of the bad dialogue and making snotty remarks about the silliness on screen.

For this one, however, I must confess to having but one motivation–Revenge. See, I really enjoyed the first Highlander, and I was eagerly anticipating the second. When I saw it, I wasn’t just angry that I’d wasted time and money on a bad flick. I felt betrayed. They had taken a premise with plenty of potential, and quite simply ruined it in every conceivable way.

This is also the first movie screening where the audience I was with became openly hostile. It’s not that I haven’t seen bad movies in the theater before. Up until then, I’d always been in with audiences that had a percentage of people who liked the movie. (At the time of Robocop 2 I thought I was the only sane person in the audience because I thought it sucked).

Or, if the majority did think the movie was bad, they just communicated their disappointment by silently shuffling out of the theater like pallbearers. My Highlander II audience, though, was actively disliking the movie. During the love scene, people were groaning and shouting derisive remarks. And when the credits rolled, they didn’t just boo, there was a collective growl. I could see the ushers quickly excusing themselves for an extended cigarette break, far, far away from here.

To understand where the second one went so wrong, let’s look at what made the original work. First, a very good cast–Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod, an immortal clan warrior. Playing the mentor role is Sean Connery as Ramirez. And we’ve even got a great villain, The Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown. Brown is famous for his deep voice, which makes him ideal for the bad guy roles. (There’s a wonderful moment in the first movie when he hijacks a car driven by a terrified elderly couple and he says “Mom” with mock affection to the old lady).

Highlander had romance and tragedy–MacLeod’s first wife ages and dies while he remains young, and never tells him that The Kurgan raped her. It had mystery and epic scope–immortals fighting each other through the ages in order to be the “one”–the person who claims the prize. What is the prize? Some form of enlightenment that isn’t fully explained, leaving room for expansion in the sequel. Oh, and they did expand on it in the sequel. Expanded it, bent it out of shape, contradicted it, and then destroyed it.

Okay, let’s get it on. This one’s had it coming for awhile. Start with a picture of a red, unhealthy-looking sky. A caption identifies the date as “August 1999.” We hear a montage of various newscasters explaining that the ozone layer problem has reached the crisis point. Now, now, stop moaning. Environmental messages always go down well in movies. Look it what it did for Prophecy and On Deadly Ground. Please note that at this writing, August 1999 is not that far away. Wow, things are going to collapse big time in the next few months. I know, I know, hindsight is 20/20.

One snippet from the montage mentions that in Africa, millions are dead. We start a slow pan of what appears to be a field hospital. It’s poorly lit and Ridley Scottish lighting is streaming through fans. Look’s like someone’s seen Blade Runner. More voices explain that in a few months, the ozone layer will be gone.

Cut to a bunker-like structure with various technicians. A reporter explains in voice-over that “A team of international scientists” (is there any other kind of team of movie scientists?) lead by Doctor Allan Neyman and “supervised by Connor MacLeod” are attempting to fix the problem. Why is MacLeod supervising? There’s no indication in the previous movie–or this one–that he has any scientific knowledge. There’s also strong evidence that the scriptwriters’ scientific knowledge is slightly behind MacLeod’s, but we’ll get to that.

“This may be the last chance for planet Earth,” says the reporter solemnly. Sigh. I can tell you now that the filmmakers only have knee-jerk environmentalist leanings at best. Why? Because as every real environmentalist knows, human beings can’t destroy the Earth. You read that right. Even if we spill every toxin we’ve got, launch every nuclear missile we have, Earth will shrug it off. It’s the lifeforms on the planet that will suffer.

The problem with the environmental damage is that it’s not killing the planet, it’s killing us. Even if humans do everything possible to mess up the planet, eventually, Earth will clean itself up. It may take millions and millions of years, and the resulting ecosystem may look totally different, but Earth survives. At least until we invent something that can say, crack it into four different pieces.

Anyway, MacLeod and Allan Neyman (Allan Rich) are on hand. So are several scientists, who are, of course, wearing lab coats. Despite the warnings of doom, MacLeod and Neyman seem pretty confident. “They’ll remember this day for a thousand years,” rumbles Neyman. “The day we protected the planet from the sun.” And now I’m not impressed by his scientific knowledge either. The sun is ah…kinda necessary for life on Earth to exist. As Eric Idle points out in Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song,” that big hot thing we’re “orbiting at 90 miles a second, so it’s reckoned” is “a sun that is the source of all our power.”

Anyway, whatever they’re planning to do, they’re about to switch it on. We see bio-suited types dashing about while a loudspeaker begins shouting instructions. We hear this loudspeaker echoed in space, where a satellite orbits. One of the instructions is “all personnel leave the area.” Hmm. I wonder how personnel in space are supposed to leave the area in such a hurry.

“Satellite is at final receiving position,” says a Labbie-type. We hear bits and pieces of conversation like “Make this one count” and “The world is watching.” You may feel like the movie is being redundant, as we already know a lot is at stake. Believe me, the movie is being positively subtle compared to what follows.

A big pyramid-like thing fires a beam of some kind, a huge wavy orange thing covers the Earth, and they all hug. This is some kind of shield that will filter out the UV rays, and it covers the entire globe. Fade to black.

Fade up on a caption that reads “25 Years Later.” MacLeod is sitting in the back of a car, being chauffeured around. He’s wearing “aged” make-up, but he looks more like a Dick Tracy villain than an old man. Picture Pruneface with Bon Jovi hair circa the “New Jersey” album.

The screen test footage that lost Christopher Lambert a pivotal role in James Cameron's Titanic. And it won Gloria Stuart an Oscarâ„¢, too!

In a voice-over he says “The shield…25 years ago it was our savior.” Uh, we read the caption earlier, thanks. We know this is the future. He continues, “But now, no sun, no stars, only heat and humidity. It drains the energy from our whole world.” Actually, if the Earth were fully protected from the sun, life would die pretty damn quickly. It would be ice age time before you know it.” And what about growing food? I like mushrooms, but I don’t think I could live off them.

“We’re falling apart…going backwards…old cars…old planes…old dreams…” Uh…yeah. “The cure is worse than the disease.” There’s a shot of some punk-types kicking what almost looks like a gas pump, and inhaling on a hose. Okay, not good, but far from all out anarchy. Again, someone must have been very impressed with Blade Runner, because the city is dark, wet, and dirty. All that’s missing are the crowds and floating billboards. Much of the movie consists of inter-changeable slum-like sets.

Cut to a TV Screen. The news announcer says that the Shield Corporation was accused of “monopoly and price fixing.” There are more holes in this tiny bit of dialogue than there are in the ozone layer. First, the monopoly. Unless there are lots of smaller, cheaper outfits making their own shields (like Sprint is to AT&T!), than they do have a monopoly, plain and simple.

If this is an international corporation, they were stupid to set up in the US, which has anti-monopoly laws. In other countries, monopolies are legal. For example, in Canada there are “Crown Corporations” that are often monopolies. However, they are tightly regulated, so that they don’t engage in unfair practices (usually).

Then there’s the question as to why such a thing as the Shield would be turned over to a corporation instead of an international governing body to begin with. And finally, as to the price fixing, I have a suggestion. If you don’t like the price, don’t pay it. What’s Shield Corporation going to do–turn it off?

Just so we get the idea that Shield Corporation is one of those evil corporations, we learn that they’re making record profits. The reporter then starts a weather report. “No rain, no thunder, no lightning, as usual, under the shield.” Editorials during the weather report? That’s different.

Now cut to a place called “Opera.” You see, “Shield Corporation” is as specific as this movie gets. Credits start rolling. The camera zooms into the “O” and we see the main title, which for some reason looks a lot like Disney’s Hercules logo. Now zoom on a woman’s lips, perched like the “O” in the Opera sign. There’s an opera playing (see, we’re in a building called “Opera”), and this woman is obviously not singing it. She seems to be singing along to another song. Or is she supposed to be lip-syncing this one? Pan over the crowd (the hall dimensions look too big to match the exterior shot of the building), and zoom to the balcony, where MacLeod is dozing. The audience will join him shortly.

Suddenly, we hear the voice of Ramirez (Sean Connery) who attempts to say the word “Remember” as many times as possible.

“Remember, Highlander. Remember your home. Another galaxy. Remember?”

“Yes I remember,” says MacLeod. “The beginning. Five hundred years ago. On the planet Zeist.”

Zoom in on an opera performer’s cloak, who spins in an arty cut to another cloak, this one on a citizen of planet Zeist, which seems to be a rejected Tatooine set from Star Wars.

Just in case you weren’t paying attention to the dialogue (and who could blame you), a caption appears: “The Planet Zeist 500 Years Ago.” See, previous scenes in the movie were on Earth, but now we’re seeing scenes from a place called Zeist. Are we all following this so far? Maybe they can show a diagram at the end of the movie that explains this extremely complicated “flashback” thing.

Several cloaked types are heading towards what looks like the remains of a spaceship. In voice-over, MacLeod explains that they met in secret, in order to avoid General Katana. Hiding in a rather obvious wreck in the middle of an otherwise featureless desert is probably not the best way to remain inconspicuous.

Our secret headquarters lies in yonder matt painting!Helpful captions allow the fitfully dozing audience member to keep apprised of events.

Inside, Ramirez is making a speech. So “Ramirez” is a Zeistian name, huh? Ramirez explains that they gather in secret and suffer under Katana for the last time. Apparently, they’ve been going without a leader thus far. You know, if I were Katana, I wouldn’t be overly worried with the revolutionary power of this crowd.

The crowd (actually, one guy in the crowd) asks if Ramirez will lead. Ramirez answers that he won’t be their leader. “But because I see with eyes different from yours, I see a man with a great destiny.” The crowd asks to see this leader. Actually just that same guy asks, apparently the savant of the group, or the only extra paid speaking actor rates.

“Let him show himself,” says Ramirez. “Let him feel the Quickening!” He dramatically flashes his sword. Lightning begins to crack through the room. Hmm, a lightning storm in the desert. They probably have large neon signs everywhere that say “This Way to Rebel HQ” as well. I hope Katana hasn’t been searching for the rebels long. Where’s he been looking, in his closet?

The camera pans to show MacLeod. “Yes, you,” says Ramirez, just to reinforce the obvious. They did manage to resist the temptation of flashing a captain that said “Leader of the Rebellion, the Planet Zeist, 500 Years Ago” though.

Next, Ramirez and MacLeod are dipping their fingers in a bowl of orange juice. Well, that’s what it looks like. They remove their fingers, which are glowing. Uh oh, wouldn’t drink that, guys. Looks like the OJ’s gone bad. They put their hands together and more lightning forms between them. Hope they’re both insulated. And I hope no enemy patrols are nearby. “Say, see that lightning coming out of that spaceship? Think we ought to check it out?”

“The ancient power of the Quickening has joined us,” proclaims Ramirez. “We are now as one.” Ramirez makes a sign on MacLeod’s forehead like a priest at a mass, but instead of the sign of the cross it looks more like he scrawls the word “Loser” across Mac’s forehead.

The people kneel before their leader. “How do we start?” asks MacLeod. Uh, stand back up again guys. When your leader asks a question like that, it’s a bad sign.

“Not we, you,” says Ramirez. “You start with Katana.” Well, he knows what to do. Why isn’t he leader again? Wait, no time to discuss that. What a coincidence–suddenly someone shouts that Katana’s attacking. My God! After all their security preparations, after all their painstaking measures not to be discovered, somehow he found them anyway! How?! I suspect a traitor in their midst.

An extremely lame battle scene follows. I mean lame from both a tactical and a cinematic point of view. It consists of a few guys in dark Laurence of Arabia-type robes running across the dunes, while random explosions hit here and there. We can’t tell who’s on whose side. We see a couple of bodies fall, but no weapons–where are these explosions coming from? And MacLeod’s leadership consists of one shot of him weakly yelling something that sounds like “Break flanks, keep moving!” Somehow, this tactical brilliance fails to stop the attacking “army.” Yep, great choice for a leader.

Katana (Michael Ironside) appears dramatically over a dune. He doesn’t appear to have an escort or a weapon, and immediately gets his head blown off by an alert sniper. Okay, he doesn’t, but with a dumb move like this, he’s lucky he doesn’t. These two armies are so bad it’s a good thing they’re fighting each other. “Katana,” incidentally is also a kind of Japanese sword. Clever for a movie with sword fighting, huh? Huh? Hello? Anyone there?

Katana tells a flunky he wants MacLeod and Ramirez (uh, how does he know their names, and why single them out?), and orders the others killed. “I want their heads,” he says evilly. Well, I supposed there’s no way to say “I want their heads” kindly. Incidentally, Katana here confirms that Christopher Lambert’s character on Zeist is still referred to as “MacLeod.” I guess MacLeod is a Zeistian name, too.

Cut to an establishing shot of a rejected Mos Eisley set. Next, we go inside Katana’s HQ. He’s pulling a snake out of a small tank. He’s one of those movie villains with a pet. All good movie villains have an evil-looking pet, or a well-maintained garden. Just once I’d like to see a movie villain whom, say, enjoys doing crossword puzzles as he gloats over his captives.

“So deadly in their own environment,” he says. “So tame and servile in mine. What’s a five letter word for a famous American General, ends with a T?” Okay, I added that last part.

“Maybe they’re just waiting,” says MacLeod.
“Waiting for what?” sneers Katana.
“For you to get careless.”
“Maybe they are. As of tomorrow, waiting won’t be an option for you, will it?” [Say Zeke, I reckon they’re not really talkin’ about snakes.] “You sure?” asks MacLeod.

Completely red-faced over this “stinging” comment, Katana crushes the snake and tosses it at MacLeod. He also rips up the crossword puzzle menacingly. Okay, okay, I’m kidding. Still, MacLeod hinting that he might get to “wait” longer than Katana speculates wouldn’t have me shaking in my boots. [Editorial Note: I hope Jason doesn’t mind me interrupting here, but I have to point out that this ‘crushing the snake’ bit was wholly lifted from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, wherein Chistopher Lloyd’s Klingon crushes a snake-like thing he finds by Spock’s coffin. Watch the two and see if I’m wrong. – Ken]

Cut to a trial of sorts. Four monk-like dudes are reading the sentence to Ramirez and MacLeod. For leading the revolution, the monks exile them to Earth. “Once there, you will be immortal,” they explain. “You can only die if your head is cut from your body. When one of you becomes the last of us on Earth, he will claim the prize. He can return to Zeist, or chose to grow old and die on Earth.”

And there you have the biggest fault of the movie. We now know the events of the first movie were to determine who gets to go back to Zeist. What a nice prize. Zeist looks like a dustball, and it’s ruled by a dictator to boot. It’s populated by idiots. All that scope and majesty was for a ticket to Zeist? This is a tremendous comedown. The first movie gave the impression of a battle of cosmic consequences. Now it looks like a battle to see who will win the crown of Miss Teen Dayton, Ohio. Who gives a toss?

It also doesn’t make any sense. Why would Katana bring them to trial when he could kill them all and be done with it? If Katana is such a big bad boy, why can’t he do something about this? Isn’t it a bad idea to make your enemies immortal, even if it is on another planet? And finally, it changes premises from the first movie (a sure-fire way to piss off fans)–Mac and Ramirez showed no sign of knowing each other when they met in the first movie. Ramirez was also older than MacLeod was. All the immortals were not born at the same time. Yet according to this movie, everything happened 500 years ago. And where are the other immortals in this scene? How do they get to Earth? Didn’t Katana order them all killed earlier?

While the sentence is being read, Mac asks Ramirez if they’ll be together on Earth. Ramirez answers not at first, but they have a bond that cannot be broken, even by death. What he means is that Sean Connery is contractually obligated to do this sequel, but Highlander III can kiss his ass. Incidentally, there’s a scene in the first movie where Ramirez says that he would kill MacLeod if it came down to the two of them fighting for the prize. Get the feeling that the people who made this sequel actually saw the first film only once, and a long time ago at that? In fact, much of the same team from the first movie returned for this one, astonishingly.

“When you need me, you’ll only have to call my name. I’ll always find you,” Ramirez says. MacLeod says “If I win the prize, I’ll be back.” Sadly, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t enter and beat him up for stealing his line.

“Just remember the Quickening,” advises Ramirez. “It sounds like magic,” says MacLeod. “Well it is,” answers Ramirez. “Kind of.” This is a reference to one of the few good songs on the soundtrack–“A Kind of Magic” by Queen.

“Prepare yourselves…” say the monks. “There can be only one,” they say, the Highlander series catch-phrase. With that, they are special effected to Earth.

Cut back to the present. At least I think it’s the present. There’s no caption to help me. MacLeod is being awakened by a janitor. “Okay, Mister MacLeod, the show is over,” he says. Thank goodness! We can leave. “I thought so, too, Charlie,” MacLeod says in squeaky old man voice. “I really did.”

For the record, Lambert is French, so his voice is part Scottish brogue, part French accent (Connery is Scottish, but Ramirez was supposed to be Egyptian–go figure). For some reason Lambert is now talking in a low voice meant to compliment his age. Oddly enough, he was using his “regular” Highlander voice earlier. The old man voice makes Lambert sound like someone gave him a shot to the family jewels (actors must suffer for their art, particularly if they make the audience suffer with movies like this). It also makes him quite hard to understand.

Cut to a shield pyramid thing. This may be a different one than the one we saw earlier, but the film doesn’t manage locations very well. Wherever we are, we witness high-tech looking commandos sneaking into the facility. They use nifty pulley-things to slide along and then fall into the water surrounding the facility. It’s not clear if they climb in or swim in, but roll with it.

Inside we hear an announcement on the PA. “All personnel are to use stairways…” There’s more, but it trails off. I guess they’re having a problem with people hurling themselves off the second floor to get downstairs.

Our commandos knock out one guy, then open a door when one of them waves her fingers at it. Inside is a rejected model for the Death Star reactor core. One of the commandos removes her mask. This is Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen). Her hair and make-up looks very nice for someone whose been wearing a mask and carrying out a commando raid.

She opens a cylinder with a computer chip inside. She inserts one of her own, and says she has 30 seconds to get a clear reading. About two seconds later, some info flashes on a nearby screen. There’s a reading on various atmospheric conditions, including one that says Radiation: Normal. “Normal” is flashing to indicate a plot point. You know, maybe they should throw a caption in for good measure.

Louise field tests the new Terrorist Fresh... line from Maybelline.The movie helpfully boils down the entire main plot point to this single, easy-to-read graphic.

Seeing this, Louise remarks “Impossible.” It doesn’t make any sense for her to have that reaction. She’s opposed to Shield Corp and already suspected that they’re hiding something–what else was she expecting to find? Suddenly, a “Blue Alert” is declared. Blue? Maybe the security chief is colour blind. Anyway, some guys in white shirts are running around, and then security guards in black are running around. Again, the movie has a problem with assigning different uniforms to the good and bad guys. Hope nobody becomes the victim of friendly fire. Well, okay, I don’t really hope all that much.

Our commandos run like hell, having all taken off their masks. Smart guys. Why not pose for the security camera while you’re at it? They run across a rejected Death Star bridge set, and decide to split up. Also not smart.

Louise runs down by the shore of the moat they crossed. From the amount of gunfire, it seems like Louise should be just showered with bullets. But only a few hit just under her feet in typical movie fashion. It’s too bad she didn’t keep her mask, which looked like it had breathing apparatus so she could dive into the water and swim away, but noooo.

Next cut to a bar called…”Bar.” See, they used up the creative juice on “The Shield Corporation.” Every other business or place doesn’t have a real name.

MacLeod pulls up in his car. This area looks rather squalid for a man previously chauffeured around town, but anyway. He goes into the bar and puts a coin in the jukebox. “A Kind of Magic” begins to play.

Friendly Jimmy the Bartender pours Mac a drink, when a timely news story comes on TV. It’s the story of the raid. We learn that a terrorist group called “Cobalt” (strange that they don’t just call themselves “The Terrorist Group”) has struck the “December Installation.” They show a ‘Wanted’ mugshot of Louise (it was nice of the police to let her get her hair done first) and identify her.

MacLeod comments “Pretty girl.” Yep, for all he knows, she may have been trying to sabotage a facility that keeps life on the planet alive, but she has a nice smile and a great body, so who cares, right?

The announcer also says that Cobalt entered the facility “for propaganda purposes.” I wonder how they know it was propaganda, and not a failed attempt at sabotage? The report concludes with a comment from David Blake (John C. McGinley) who works for the Corporation in some capacity, but it isn’t said how (his official title is probably “An Important Executive”). Blake basically poo-poos the attack.

Outside, Louise is skulking about, and changes out of her commando clothes. How did she get away? The filmmakers would probably rather we not ask questions that can’t be answered with an on-screen caption. Inside her bag, she examines a scrap of paper. Written on the paper is “MacLeod 23rd Street Bar.” I wonder what they do if there’s more than one bar on the street?

Back inside the bar, a pudgy female barfly (picture a cross between Gillian Anderson and Tammy Faye Bakker) begins to razz on MacLeod. “Hey, are you MacLeod?” she demands. “Hey, I asked you a question!” Yes, and you didn’t give him a chance to respond.

“Great, I always wanted to meet the guy who turned the world to sh*t,” she says. That’s funny. I want to meet the guy who turned this movie to sh*it. An extra says “Well, he saved our lives if you ask me.” She retorts “I’m not asking you.” MacLeod asks what she wants. “Did you ever think about that before you covered the sky with that puke?” she demands.

MacLeod asks who she is. “Me? I’m nobody. All right? I work all day and my life stinks and it’s your goddamn fault, you old bastard. Don’t turn your back on me!”

Jimmy comes to MacLeod’s aid and escorts her from the bar, but she raises her middle finger. What does this mean? How about a caption to explain it? “I’ll see you again,” she promises. “Anytime,” croaks MacLeod like Mickey Mouse’s Great Granddad. Jimmy apologizes, and Barfly comes charging back in and hits MacLeod with a bottle. Go Barfly!

A really big fan of the first Highlander registers her opinion on the sequel with star Christopher Lambert.

Later, he’s leaving the bar when Louise Marcus runs up and introduces herself. My, isn’t she trusting. She must be related to the person who devised the fiendishly tight security of the Zeist Rebel HQ.

Louise wants his help with her cause, but MacLeod declines. She wonders what happened to his passion. She says he’s just a tired old man. “More than you know,” he says, getting into his car. She refuses to be brushed off, and gets in too. I guess he’s not worried about being named an accessory.

Louise recounts her recent expedition and her discovery. She claims that the numbers and figures “didn’t add up. Something’s wrong and Blake’s trying to cover it up.” What figures and numbers? The screen she saw said “Radiation: Normal.” Anyone who’s seen a movie before and has mastered the mysterious art of reading can tell you what’s going on. Radiation levels are normal, the shield is unnecessary, but evil Shield Corp is keeping it up. This conclusion is so obvious that you can reach it even though the science is screwed up.

Louise says she used to work for Shield Corporation, but started asking questions. As a result, they threatened, then fired, her. MacLeod says he doesn’t blame them. Is this supposed to be funny, as in MacLeod making sport of her feisty disposition? Or do they want us not to like him? Well, I for one ain’t laughing. Why is he being so aloof, anyway? His monologue earlier established that he doesn’t like the shield either.

She asks what happened to the MacLeod that everyone believed in. “That was forty years ago,” he says. Hmm…after all those captions and the dialogue, the audience quite clearly remembers that it was twenty-five years ago. I guess the captions were for the filmmaker’s benefit, to remind them of the timeframe. Too bad it didn’t work.

Another caption time! “The Planet Zeist.” Katana is bellowing for two flunkies. He orders them to go to Earth, find MacLeod, and kill him.

The two flunkies are spiked-haired, long-nosed, goggle-wearing dips. Each is wearing a nametag: “Incompetent Henchman #1” and “Incompetent Henchman #2.” Okay, they’re not, but let’s just say it’s real obvious. They look like potential suitors for the Chicken Lady on Kids in the Hall. Let’s face it–this is a movie and heroes just do not get killed by henchmen. But they’re such bozos that Katana should know they should be sent to potato-peeling duty, not a hit.

You know you're in trouble when a film features characters who were rejected for David Lynch's Dune.

One of the henchmen says “But I thought you said MacLeod was mortal, and can never return.” Wow, a plot hole so large that even the incompetent henchmen can point it out. Why would Katana want MacLeod killed after all this time? We can assume that since he knew to ask for MacLeod specifically, he is aware that MacLeod won the prize. Katana must have been watching him. Now MacLeod’s an old man. If he hasn’t come back by now, he just isn’t going to.

Anyway, Katana punches the henchman for pointing out the plot inconsistency, and repeats the order. They dissolve, and then we see two comet streaks send them to Earth.

Cut to the city. We see a diner called (yep) “Diner.” MacLeod is still driving along, but suddenly he roars in pain, presumably because of the arrival of the two henchmen from Zeist. Or perhaps he had a premonition of the reviews. The car screeches to a halt.

The two goons appear, screeching like the monkeys used by the Wicked Witch of the West. It didn’t take long to find MacLeod at all. This movie tends to give the impression that the entire Earth has been reduced to about 200 square yards, if that.

The goons are floating on flying snowboards. “Who are they?” asks Louise. Mac doesn’t know. One of the henchmen tauntingly calls to MacLeod by name. “Was that a lucky guess?” asks Louise. Somehow he contains his laughter at this hilarious quip, and gets out of the car. He tells her to hide in what looks like a dumpster. She protests, and well she should. She’s a commando type. Doesn’t she have a weapon? Can’t she at least point out that perhaps the goons should not be looking at them when she goes into her hiding place?

Anyway, MacLeod runs off while she “hides,” and the henchmen bicker over who gets to kill him. One is already talking with a Clancy Brown-like growl. Yet another problem with these sequels is their “Instant Villain Recipe.” Take one sword-fighter, add growl and crude behavior. They can’t be bothered to dream up new villains, so they just have them make leering remarks in a strep-throat voice. They do the same thing with Katana and Mario Van Peebles as “Kane” in Highlander III.

The henchmen shoot a firecracker (that’s what it looks like) at MacLeod, but miss. MacLeod pants “Ramirez! My old friend Ramirez!” He runs up a catwalk, rips a pipe off the railing, and says “Thank you!” (?) One of the goons catches up to him, and they start sword fighting. MacLeod seems remarkably able for a man his age.

A police car arrives, and the second goon fires a single shot, blowing up the car. If they used this weapon on MacLeod, they’d already be back on Zeist and this movie would be over. But, of course, they don’t. Hey, give me that gun!

Swords in Hollywood fights are usually coated with a chemical that makes the blades spark when they collide. I suspect there was large spill of this chemical recently. When the dueling henchman cuts a chain and part of the catwalk collapses, there is a huge shower of sparks. This is an obvious rip-off of the scene where Darth Vader cuts down a catwalk supporting Luke in Return of the Jedi.

MacLeod and goon fall onto a slow-moving train. That fall didn’t look comfortable, but tough old guy MacLeod shrugs it off easily. Goon punches him in the face a few times. It’s a good thing that these are obviously weak actor punches, because the elderly MacLeod could really get hurt. MacLeod eventually knocks him down onto the tracks, where wheels run over his neck, beheading him.

If you’ve seen the first movie, you know that the death of an immortal is a spectacular thing (and I guess people from Zeist automatically become immortal on Earth). There’s a surge of power, lightning flies everywhere, and anything remotely fragile is toast. It’s over the top, but the first movie made it work. This movie goes way overboard. Lightning shoots everywhere, the front of a building explodes (do they mix C4 in with the concrete?). And for some reason, this also returns MacLeod to the age he was in the first movie. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

The other henchman is laughing like a maniac, until he sees MacLeod walk out of the flames, unsinged. His clothes must be made of a very tough fabric.

The remaining henchman takes a shot at him–finally! The blast seems to hit MacLeod, but he only winces, as if he got a mild shock (those clothes must be made of a VERY tough fabric). Meanwhile, the proprietor of Diner (his name is probably “Mr. Proprietor”) watches the battle, bored. He’s probably missing the first Highlander too.

MacLeod grabs the sword the first henchguy dropped and hops on the flying skateboard thing he left behind. Oddly enough, he knows how to activate and operate it. MacLeod and henchdude zoom around, making lame passes at each other (I mean, they launch lame attacks at each other). If the lame battle scene won’t get us excited, maybe some spicy dialogue will do the trick. “Time to say goodbye Highlander,” leers henchguy. “Why, you going somewhere?” replies MacLeod. Okay, maybe not.

In an awesome example of Super-Science, MacLeod clearly is seen flying around on wires, which presumably hang down all the way from Planet Zeist!

How about some incidental humor? Ducking down in the wreckage to hide from the assassin, MacLeod stumbles upon a bum. The bum asks for a light and (yes) the assassin shoots him, blowing him up. Yep, nothing like slaughtering the down and out for a good laugh. I’ll bet Rush Limbaugh was rolling on the floor for this scene. With all this great humor, rapier repartee and heavy-duty action, maybe we should all stop and let our hearts settle down. Or get some coffee to stay awake

Henchguy shoots at MacLeod, which Mac deflects with the sword. That gun the henchman has seems to have two settings–Flambé-Everything-Instantly, and Wimpy-Won’t-Light-A-Cigarette. If he’d just stop using Flambé on the scenery and the extras and use it on MacLeod, this movie would be over. Hey, give me that gun!

Anyway, henchguy flies towards MacLeod, who yells “Come on! Come, on!” It’s a sure sign that a trap is waiting for his opponent. Sure enough, MacLeod lifts a convenient wire, which beheads the last assassin.

Okay, another lightning scene. This one isn’t as over the top. While being electrified, MacLeod calls for Ramirez. Hmm, last time this lightning thing made MacLeod a young man. Maybe this time it will turn him into a toddler.

We see a streak of this lightning bounce off the shield. Next, we’re looking at a stage. A helpful caption identifies it as “Glencoe, Scotland” (not to be confused with “Glencoe, Planet Zeist”).

An audience is watching an actor do the “Alas, poor Yorrick” scene from Hamlet. Suddenly, a bolt of lighting touches the stage, and poof, there’s Ramirez, sword, clothes, and all. The audiences of Glencoe, Scotland must be a pretty jaded crowd, because the only reaction to Ramirez’s appearance is a slight titter. Ramirez tries to talk to ‘Hamlet’ who tries vainly to carry on with the scene.

Sean Connery has a certain kind of grace and style, and even though this movie gives him very little to do, he manages to be the best thing in it. Most of his scenes are actually played for laughs, and he manages to get one or two. It’s still a total waste of the actor, and we won’t even begin to ask just how he got here (The power of “The Quickening” just won’t cut it).

Anyway, “Hamlet” tells him to get off and calls him a “sh*thead,” a word Ramirez does not understand. He should, but never mind. Instead, they try to force extra laughs by having Ramirez adapt the word into his vocabulary even though he doesn’t understand it. He calls the actor a sh*ithead, gets a standing ovation, and then departs.

Back at the battle scene, thing have calmed down marginally. No cops or fire department, but it looks like the city has stopped burning anyway. Louise is wandering around, looking for MacLeod. Spotting him, she touches his face tenderly. She asks who he is, and he gives her the spiel about his background–immortality and age included. You can read the exchange under IMMORTAL DIALOGUE (no pun intended).

Now that they’ve been introduced, Louise does something that most women would do in her position–having watched a guy she met five minutes ago strip 25 years of his age and slay two assassins from another planet–they begin to kiss passionately. Yep, they love each other already

Sean Connery wonders why this nobody gets to play Hamlet while he's stuck in Highlander II.It might not be Politically Correct, but let's admit it. Chicks dig Immortal Guys! It's true!

With this smoothly introduced love scene, the audience I was with actually groaned and someone yelled “Oh come on!” Really, it’s like the filmmakers had a quota to fill or something. “Okay, we need three sword fights, three explosions, one environmental message and one love scene. Get them in the movie somehow. I don’t care if they make sense, just get them in there.”

Later, Louise is at MacLeod’s place, trying to sort out the rules. Once again this movie makes the mistake of having a character helpfully point out glaring plot holes. Louise tries to recap the conditions of MacLeod’s immortality. We’re supposed to chuckle at her ignorance, being ‘in’ on the joke. The problem is, we’re not.

She raises questions that we’re equally puzzled about. For example, that people from Zeist are immortal on Earth, but not on Zeist. This only serves to remind us, for example, of the fact that Katana, who’s been on Zeist for the last five hundred years, should have been dead at least four and a half centuries ago. Still, it’s nice of her to point out so,e errors we might have missed. Maybe next time there’s an explosion, one of the characters will helpfully say “That’s obviously a model they blew up.”

Anyway, she’s still trying to recruit him to her cause–the Shield Corporation subplot rears its ugly head again. She claims they’re hiding something. Not something, we know exactly what they’re hiding, and so does she–she saw the same damn screen we saw! The radiation levels are normal, the shield is no longer necessary.

All they have to do is go to the already hostile press with this story, and Shield Corporation should start to unravel. But we can’t have the villains die at the hands of a government investigation, so we need to position MacLeod so that he somehow gets things to blow up. Now that’s he’s gettin’ some, apparently, MacLeod’s more interested in being a hero, and decides to check it out.

So, cut to Richard Deckard’s apartment. Sorry, I mean cut to another poorly lit, Blade Runner-style office, sporting the inevitable giant industrial fan in the background. This is someone’s workspace in a big corporation, but I guess the corporation didn’t pay its electric bill.

The Giant Industrial Fan in the background clues in the savvy viewer that this is The Future.

Allan Neyman is pouring himself a cup of coffee. “I can’t even make a decent cup of coffee anymore,” he mumbles. “You always used too much water,” quips MacLeod from the shadows. I see he got past the high security in order to deliver this extremely not funny line. By the way, I wouldn’t let any of the security people in this movie guard my laundry.

Neyman greets his old friend, of course being stunned to see how young he looks. He asks if MacLeod had “a face lift.” MacLeod says “No, I’m immortal,” and then they start necking. Okay, settle down, I’m kidding again. But believe me if they did, it still wouldn’t be as out of the blue as the love scene we saw earlier.

Evil corporation type David Blake is listening to the conversation in his office. Neyman seems to know this, and types a secret message on his computer screen: “The ultraviolet radiation above the shield is normal.” (I guess he isn’t worried about video surveillance.)

Here’s another example of the filmmakers knowing zilch about the ozone layer problem. The Earth is not being bombarded with unusually high levels of UV radiation. The radiation has remained relatively constant, at least to my knowledge. The problem is that ozone absorbs some of the UV radiation. Life on Earth does need some UV radiation, but too much is harmful. Pollutants have been stripping away the ozone, thereby giving us less protection from UV radiation. And that’s the ozone problem in a nutshell. So if anything, everyone should be worried about UV levels below the shield. Incidentally, you can learn this by reading a few newspaper articles or an entry in a children’s encyclopedia.

Anyway, enter Blake to interrupt the reunion. Blake is cold but polite, with the occasional maniacal villain laugh. Blake doesn’t seem to be mystified by MacLeod’s youth, but MacLeod seems to be determined to get Neyman in trouble. He says he supports the shield “as long as it’s necessary.” Oh good, MacLeod, taunt him, let the cat out of the bag. You don’t have to work here.

When asked what he means, MacLeod says “Maybe one day the ozone layer will repair itself.” Actually, the ozone layer will repair itself, with the absence of ozone-depleting agents. Shouldn’t the guy who supervised this project know this?

Mysteriously, Blake responds that it doesn’t matter, because MacLeod built the shield to last forever. What?! The shield covers the Earth and must suck up an incredible amount of power. You’d think this thing would be more than likely to break down. In any case, even if it is an engineering miracle, why doesn’t it have an off switch?

It’s never explained how the shield works exactly, but let’s assume it acts as a substitute for the ozone layer, filtering out some of the excess UV rays. Assuming that ozone-depleting chemicals haven’t come back into style (most are banned virtually everywhere today), the ozone layer repairs itself, and therefore with the shield, more UV rays are being filtered out than necessary. So they would gradually have to weaken the power of the shield, gradually turning it off as the ozone layer returns to normal. And look, this is a fantasy flick. Give us sword-fights, and screw the science fiction Flower Power stuff. You’re no good at it anyway. We paid to see sword-fights!

MacLeod observes cheekily that nothing lasts forever. Yeah, like my patience. Blake laughs that villain laugh, and says MacLeod can find his own way out. Good idea to let him just wander through the building.

Back on Zeist (no caption), General Katana has assumed that his flunkies failed. “I guess if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself,” he says. You know, the title “General” infers that there might be an army on Zeist. Why not, like, use this army? Katana grabs an example of the pinnacle of Zeistian technology (a sword), and zooms down to Earth.

He crashes through the pavement and right into a moving subway. “That was great! Yes!” he enthuses. Well, he’s got to make up for our lack of enthusiasm. Looking out the window and seeing the tunnel flash by, he says “This sure doesn’t look like Kansas, does it?” he says. Would that be Kansas, Zeist, or Kansas, USA? Yes, it does seem unlikely that a warlord from another planet would say this, but that’s okay, because the line is…well I guess isn’t really funny either, is it?

In case we don’t understand that Katana is the bad guy, he picks a stone-faced passenger and beats him to death. Conveniently, the subway lights flicker evilly in his face. Next, he grabs a small boy. “You’re a little one, aren’t you?” They have Kansas on Zeist, but not kids?

“I’ll bet you’ve always wanted to drive one of these,” says Katana. Little boy nods enthusiastically, and Katana says “Me too.” They have subways and Kansas on Zeist, but not kids?

Next, he’s knocking out a strangely non-reacting driver. (Katana’s victims don’t seem to struggle much, as if they’ve read the script and know they can’t get away). He takes control of the train, and a bad heavy rock song begins to play as he cranks up the speed. And now we get this edition’s rip-off of the The Kurgan-driving-real-fast-to-terrorize-the-hostage scene from the original film. It’s featured in Highlander III as well. We watch as the speed gage races towards 400…is this miles per hour? We’re not talking about a bullet train here, but a standard subway car that you’d see in any modern metropolis. I have a hard time accepting that it can go this fast.

Anyway, these cars apparently come equipped with a wind machine too, as passengers are blown screaming to the back of the car, out windows…Is this scene striking anyone else as one, out of nowhere and two, highly unrealistic? Why hasn’t it slammed into the back of another train? Instead, the train bursts through a concrete wall, out on to the street. “Last stop,” smiles Katana, as Michael Ironside mugs for all the scene is worth (not much).

Editorial Note: I hope Jason doesn’t mind me interrupting here, but I have to point out that Ironside’s obviously been ordered to wholly rip-off Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of The Joker from Tim Burton’s then recent and massively successful Batman. Watch the two and see if I’m wrong. – Ken

Actor Michael Ironside takes a break from aping Jack Nicholson in Batman, and instead apes Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Here's Johnny!!

Cut to a cemetery, where MacLeod is visiting the grave of his wife. Originally, I assumed it was Heather, but it is possible that it could be Brenda, the woman he was with at the end of the last movie. It’s impossible to say, but this being Heather’s grave would tie in with some dialogue in the movie later.

He mutters something about how he used to wish she could still see the world, but not anymore. And actually, we wouldn’t know what he’s talking about, since the scene is so claustrophobically shot and the dialogue muted, but fortunately, Katana is here to explain everything.

Katana begins to taunt MacLeod in a manner nearly identical to the scene in the first movie where The Kurgan taunts MacLeod in a church. The key difference is that that scene didn’t suck.

“Always did admire a man who could talk to the dead,” sneers Katana, and kisses a statue figure. They engage in a duel of wits, but both of them are unarmed for this kind of battle (see IMMORTAL DIALOGUE). Katana informs MacLeod that he’s not going back to Zeist. MacLeod says he wasn’t planning to. At this, Katana’s face falls. “What do you mean?” he asks. MacLeod tells him that he had every intention of growing old and dying on Earth, but because Katana came here, he’s back to square one.

Sooooooo…why did Katana come down here in the first place? It was obvious MacLeod was in no shape to go back to Zeist and lead a rebellion (like Zeist is worth having). Even Katana’s dopey assassins questioned the logic of going after MacLeod. And they based their question on the fact that Katana had earlier said MacLeod couldn’t return. So why did Katana suddenly make such a ludicrous mistake? And why has the movie taken great pains to point out this obvious oversight–twice?!?

Katana provokes MacLeod by stepping on Heather’s grave. MacLeod shoves him, and Katana reminds him that they can’t fight on holy ground. This odd little fact helped add to mystical enigma of the first film, but now it just raises the question, Why? In fact, Highlander III doing its rip-off of the The Kurgan-taunting-MacLeod-on-hallowed-ground scene shows what a jerk Kane is by having him attack MacLeod on hallowed ground anyway. I’m guessing Katana doesn’t have much respect for another planet’s religion, so why isn’t he attacking? And what was the purpose of the rule?

Anyway, Katana vanishes (it’s never explained how he does that). But before he does he says “Ashes to ashes to dust to dust, if you don’t take it out and use it, it’s going to rust,” apropos of bugger all.

Now, we get a brief scene of Ramirez wandering around a city. Sigh, it’s one of those old-guy-amazed-by-modern-technology bits. Fortunately, it’s not too long. Seeing his antiquated clothes, a passerby says “Excellent threads, dude.” Ramirez calls him a sh*thead. See, just add some swearing, and it automatically makes your movie funny. Just like adding an environmental message automatically makes it interesting.

Ramirez goes into a tailor’s and forks over one of his presumably valuable earrings for a suit. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe that the staff of this establishment would go into a swoon upon getting a look that this “solid gold” artifact. The problem is that the shop is apparently supposed to be an exclusive, Saville Row type of place. If so, then a bargain basement suit here might run $10,000. Meanwhile, Ramirez’s earring, weighing perhaps an ounce, might have been worth, I don’t know, seven or eight hundred dollars.

Despite this discrepancy, the staff goes utterly berserk. There follows a fast-forward montage set to the William Tell Overture (The Long Ranger anthem) as they make him his suit.

Editorial Note: I hope Jason doesn’t mind me interrupting here, but I have to point out that this ‘comically-insane level of catering’ bit is wholly ripped off from the then recent and massively successful Pretty Woman, wherein Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts shopping and orders the store staff to fawn all over her. I know this sounds unlikely. But watch the two and tell me if I’m wrong. – Ken.

The scene concludes with the shopkeeper trying to help Ramirez further by ordering a limo to take him to the airport. Of course, Ramirez has no idea what he’s talking about. Indeed, how is Ramirez going to get to MacLeod? He’s got no passport, no ID, and he’s carrying a sword, which ain’t going to pass for carry-on luggage. What’s he going to do?

Well if the makers of Highlander 2 were like me, and had seen the first movie, they’d recall that Ramirez was killed at MacLeod’s old home in Scotland, where he lived with Heather. That’s where she died, and where MacLeod buried her. So let’s assume MacLeod is in Scotland visiting the grave, and he and Ramirez bump into each other. MacLeod would be able to get him on a plane.

“Better yet,” say the filmmakers, “let’s assume he somehow gets on a plane by himself. Think of how funny it would be!” Well, let’s see how funny this is. We next see Ramirez on a propeller plane. (Huh?) He’s not comfy with this flying thing. (The yuks are rolling already!). He asks a passenger sitting next to him to explain it to him.

Strangely, this woman is staring straight ahead, and begins laughing in the most stilted, artificial way. I thought that she was wearing headphones, listening to something the plane was playing. Ramirez would then try a pair, react, generating more “laughs.” But…this woman isn’t wearing headphones. We can only assume that being in this movie has driven her insane.

For more “comedy” the plane’s safety film shows the plane plummeting and crashing. Ramirez looks even more uncomfortable–hardy har har! Naturally no airline would ever show this kind of film, but that’s okay. It’s perfectly acceptable to throw realism out the window for comedy. After all, I’m still chuckling about Katana’s line about Kansas.

Later, the filmmakers, who I’m beginning to suspect were for some reason philosophically and morally opposed to story continuity, continue to throw out logic for the sake of an unfunny funny moment. We learn that the laughing woman is Virginia. She has dark hair, and Ramirez is explaining that world’s most beautiful women had dark hair. He cites Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc. The implication is that Ramirez has actually met them. If they had stuck with the continuity of the first movie, this would work. Of course, they’ve established in this movie that Ramirez came to Earth in 1524, 500 years ago. Well after these women were dead.

Ramirez says that “It’s a well known fact that dark-haired ladies…” and whispers the rest in her ear. She laughs the same mechanical laugh. Ramirez turns down an in-flight meal with “No thank you, I never eat anything I cannot identify.” Then looking at Virginia, he says “That’s not exactly true, of course.” Har har. Ramirez was a bit of a rascal in the first movie, but now comes across as a dirty old man.

Isn't it amazing how far Special Effects have come since days of the old Flash Gordon serials?

Now, for an auteur moment, we look down at a spiral staircase in MacLeod’s home. Louise is walking up it while an instrumental version of “Who Wants to Live Forever” plays. Soon, Louise is looking over MacLeod’s momentos. She see a picture of him on a football team in 1902, a trench in WW II, and she also finds a ship’s log. The log is clearly labeled and dated, but we hear MacLeod’s voice-over reading it anyway. Thanks, we’ve got the idea, but you may want to throw in a caption just in case the scriptwriters don’t get it.

Louise also sees a painting of Heather, and for some reason this makes her misty-eyed. No doubt she’s wishing she could have been with MacLeod back then in the first movie, rather than in this piece of slop.

Next scene, we find Katana in a cab. Third-rate rock music is playing. “It’s quite comfortable back here,” Katana says. “Like a coffin.” Yep, fitting for someone who’s committing career suicide, Mike.

They’re driving past burning wrecks, in another apparently scuzzy part of town. The cab pulls up to what we learn is the Shield Corporation HQ! With all the money the Shield Corp apparently has, you’d think they’d reside in a better neighborhood.

A get-on-with-it-moment occurs while Katana trashes the cab. He’s the villain, after all. He may have important plans, but there’s always time to cross the street and kick a puppy or two. “Put all this on my tab,” he leers, skewering the cabby’s tires. In an effort to be “funny” the somewhat mentally deficient cabby is initially intrigued by Katana’s destructive impulses. If only we could say the same thing.

Anyway, Katana walks past a statue of a man holding his privates, and into the building.

Cut to an oddly dark boardroom inside the Tyrell–I mean Shield Corporation. A flunky is reporting to Blake that they’ve stopped another Cobalt incursion against their facilities. Blake says Cobalt will no longer be a problem. I wonder how he reached that conclusion?

In walks Katana. Someone seated at the table tries to remove him (security guards are allowed to sit at a board meeting, or execs have to do their own grunt work?), but Katana grabs him by the throat and drags him over. Katana wants to partner with Shield Corporation for a reason the filmmakers decide to keep from us. Couldn’t be because they were making it up as they went along, could it? Nah.

“Oh, I think I’ve had enough of you,” says Blake. “Goodbye, Attila.” The guard that Katana dragged by the throat shoots him multiple times. “Brilliantly done,” says Blake. Yep, there was a lot of skill and wit displayed at shooting him at point-blank range. I wonder how they intend to dispose of the body?

Katana is immortal on Earth, though I’m not sure why. He wasn’t banished here. He stands and says “You know, guys, this is no way to treat your number one draft choice.” So, they have a sports league with a draft, subways, and Kansas on Zeist, but not children?

Katana grabs the guy who shot him and makes a point of slowly breaking his neck. Charming. I might point out that although this does show Katana to be a killer, it doesn’t show him to be really great villain. Okay, so he can kill mortal humans and trash cabs. That’s real impressive. We knew The Kurgan was a threat to MacLeod because we saw him kill Ramirez and other immortals, making it clear that he could well be capable of killing MacLeod. What’s Katana done? Bully a bunch of people who can’t fight back. We haven’t even seen him wield a sword.

Katana wants to be partners in exchange for MacLeod. Is Katana forgetting that he met him just a few scenes ago? If they can’t fight on hallowed ground, why not invite MacLeod to step outside? But you know, evil people stick together, and they’re part of the same union even if they’re not from the same planet, so Blake and Katana strike a deal of some sort. Don’t ask me what the deal is. To appear in exactly two more scenes together, as far as I can tell.

Next, Blake bursts into Neyman’s office with two armed guards. He reveals that everything Neyman types on his computer gets printed out in his office, so he knows all about Neyman passing the information about the shield along to MacLeod. I wonder why Blake is only now about to arrest/murder/demote/give a stern talking to Neyman, or whatever it is that Shield Corporation does to its enemies?

“What good could you possibly do, old man?” sneers Blake. Neyman asks what he means. Blake says there isn’t enough energy in the world to take the shield down without destroying the Earth. What? It costs energy to take the shield down? Blake says “Stop me if I’m going to fast,” (Yes, yes, stop, you’re not making any sense) and that Neyman should know that because he built the thing.

Neyman says that “That was only in case the shield was threatened.” Huh? You know, they say today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact, but I get the feeling that this Shield won’t be a fact, not tomorrow, not ever.

At Neyman’s protest, Blake does his Patented Villain Laugh.TM “That’s funny Allan!” he bursts out of his chair. “Because I was under the impression that’s precisely what had happened.” Neyman looks totally perplexed, and well, who can blame him. Can you make any sense of this?

“But it really doesn’t matter now, does it,” hisses Blake. No, I suppose it doesn’t. “So why don’t you and I try to relax? No tears.” Huh? “Because it’s business as usual.” Uhh… “Forever.” Whuh? “You’ve allowed yourself to become a traitor, Allan. And as I think you know, we have a fabulous place for traitors.” He snaps his fingers. The scene immediately cuts to the next one, but I think it’s safe to say Blake’s goons know exactly what that kind of snap means. Movie goons always do.

Next scene, we see Louise in bed, wearing a Marilyn Monroe dress. Look, don’t shoot the messenger, all right, I’m just reporting what I see. I can’t believe it either. MacLeod comes in and smiles tenderly. There’s a long pause that I think is supposed to be romantic, but since the love story is even less convincing than the Shield plot, it just looks like the performers have forgotten their lines.

They engage in some chit-chat about MacLeod’s past wives and his loneliness. Suddenly, the lights go out. “Oh no not again,” cries Louise. See, she’s in a movie, so she knows the lights aren’t out simply because of a blown fuse.

But it’s only Ramirez. They engage in a friendly bit of sword fighting. See, the filmmakers have finally remembered that the audience liked the sword-fighting scenes in the first movie, and thought they’d throw some in. This is the second of three sword-fight scenes in the movie. The first one hardly used swords at all, concentrating more on explosions and flying gimmicks, and this one isn’t life threatening. Yep, great job of giving the audience what they want.

Anyway, they engage in some repartee while they duel. I got an idea: how about dueling the bad guy?

The lights come up, and Louise rejoins them. She looks at Ramirez and says “Are you also…” she trails off. I think she meant to conclude with “…stuck in this movie?” because the answer is “I’m afraid so.”

Ramirez drags MacLeod to a window and says “You created that monstrosity?” He’s pointing at the sky, so we know he’s referring to the shield, not the movie.

Suddenly, Louise interrupts them with news that Neyman has been arrested. When did she learn this, I wonder? Is she psychic? She says he’s been taken to the “Max.” What? They actually gave something a name? Ramirez asks what the Max is, and she reveals it’s a high security prison. Groan. Presumably “Max” is short for “Maximum Security Prison.” Brilliant. And knowing what passes for security in this movie, the “high security” Max probably has a “Beware of Dog” sign on the lawn, and plans to get an actual dog later this year, and that’s it.

They gather around a large globe, covered in a plastic shield. Ramirez says that MacLeod must fulfill his obligations on Earth before he can return to Zeist and Katana. MacLeod says that Katana is here, making Ramirez look like a mighty sorry excuse for an all-knowing mentor.

That Katana is here is for some reason “the best news I’ve heard since my resurrection.” Ramirez says dramatically, “Your time is now,” and slams his fist on the plastic, shattering it. You know, I think that might have been symbolic.

By and by, we see Ramirez and MacLeod in a car next to a generic concrete building. A security camera (Wow! This place is high security!) asks them to identify themselves. Ramirez does–presenting his credentials from the time when he was alive. Har har. “Hey take it easy, man” says MacLeod smoothly. “First time in the desert. Which way to Vegas?” Ramirez cries “Hit it MacLeod!” He picked up the lingo fast, huh? The car screeches into the prison. Well, so much for security–the only thing blocking the road into the prison looks like a tollbooth.

More bad rock music. Cut to a checkpoint. There is plenty of time to sound an alarm, but these guards look totally unaware. The car crashes on through, and they spray it with bullets. We see MacLeod and Ramirez getting peppered with shots. The car crashes, and the trunk is opened. There’s Louise. She seems unscratched, which for the amount of bullets that hit the car is clearly impossible.

Louise’s cover story is that they kidnapped her. Good thing that nobody recognizes her very public face. This is after all, a prison apparently run by the Shield Corporation.

Cut to a morgue/sick bay. A doctor is explaining that Louise has some minor cuts and bruises. She should have more holes than a sieve, but anyway. The doctor also mentions that Ramirez and MacLeod took over a hundred bullets.

On nearby beds, the two “corpses” get up. MacLeod speculates that he took 108 bullets, and Ramirez counted 112. This is actually funny, though they look surprisingly good for that kind of damage. They knock out the guards. The doctor, seeing them, does an Abbott & Costello-style spazz-out, then faints.

Okay, apparently Louise knows her way around the prison. At the bottom of the prison, she says there’s a tunnel. Neyman will be at one end or the other. How she knows this is anyone’s guess. She also suggests they split up–Louise and MacLeod together, Ramirez goes off on his own. Yeah, great idea. Like Ramirez should be running around on his own in a world he doesn’t understand, deep within enemy territory to boot.

This prison looks more like a medieval dungeon. You know, high security installations are usually well lit, and have lots of guards. This has neither guards nor lighting. It does have convenient industrial-sized fans to stream lights through, though. Eat yer heart out, Ridley Scott!

Off on their own, Louise and MacLeod hear agonized moans. No, not the audience, Neyman. They open the cell (yes, just like that). “Oh my God,” whispers MacLeod in horror. Yes, this is one brutal prison that treats its prisoners cruelly. We learn this when we see Neyman’s face. Those…bastards…they didn’t let him wash his face! Oh, I can’t watch any more! (For a variety of reasons, too.)

“We did right to build it, didn’t we?” he moans when he sees MacLeod. MacLeod tells him “We did,” and then Neyman dies. Just like that.

Presumably, this was meant to elicit our pity. Instead, the audience I was with just started laughing. We’ve seen this character for probably less than two minutes of screentime. They hatched this half-ass plan to rescue him, and then he dies the moment they show up. The pacing is hopelessly rushed. MacLeod says “I won’t forget you,” but the audience has. Since we’ve not spent any time on character development, we can’t believe that these guys were friends, or that his death would mean anything to MacLeod.

At his office, Blake and Katana are watching on them all by camera. Katana comments “It’s like a high school reunion down there.” So they have high schools, draft picks, subways, and Kansas on Zeist…but not children?

“They’re dead,” pronounces Blake, pressing a button.

Back at the prison, Ramirez, who managed to stay out of trouble, has entered a circular chamber. Before he can exit, the door closes. Turning, MacLeod and Louise are entering. He shouts a warning, but too late, that door closes too (I compliment Blake on his timing, because MacLeod and Louise weren’t in the room when he pressed that button).

A giant fan begins to descend upon them–it’s Ridley’s Revenge! Louise, trying the door, says “The combination! We need to know the right sequence to open the door!” Duh, I get it now. You see boys and girls, the reason they don’t leave the room is because they’re trapped here. Trapped. That’s a big word. Can you say “trapped?” I knew you could.

Ramirez stands under the fan, in preparation for the ludicrous big sacrifice scene. “Most people have a full measure of life,” he says. “And most just watch it slowly drip away. But if you can summon it all up, and one time…in one flinch…” A flinch? What’s a flinch? “…You can accomplish something glorious. ” Ramirez begins to crackle with energy, and pushes the fan up while bagpipes start wailing “Amazing Grace.” No, I’m serious.

“My time here is over,” says Ramirez. Yep, they resurrected him for a few jokes and so that he could break a fan. What a rewarding part. “You must go and search out Katana. It’ll take the power of you both to destroy the shield.”

“Will I ever see you again?” asks MacLeod. “Who knows, Highlander, who knows?” he winks. He’s probably thinking, “Fat chance. Like I’ll ever let my agent con me into doing another one of these turkeys.” He says “Go,” and they run through a suddenly open door. The fan explodes. Do you get the feeling that all moving things in this movie are powered by nitro-burning engines? This is the kind of movie where a bowl of fruit could explode like an H-bomb for no apparent reason.

Back at the office, Blake is furious at their escape. Somehow, he decides this is Katana’s fault. Admittedly, Katana hasn’t done much to go after MacLeod, but how is this his doing? Katana doesn’t take criticism well, and picks Blake up by the family jewels, crushes them (that’s entertainment) and tosses Blake out the window. It should be noted here that, while it’s somewhat harder to make out on your TV than it was in the theater, Blake’s express trip to the pavement is portrayed via the use of what has to be one of the all-time worst ‘falling dummy’ shots ever committed to film.

Blake’s demise doesn’t seem to upset the guards as much as you think it would, as the building seems relatively calm. I think I want to live in this world, and make a living as a thief. You can probably walk into Fort Knox with a shopping cart and retire rich. By the way, what a great partnership. It worked really well, didn’t it? Well, we only saw them working together in one scene…okay, well Katana was just watching in that scene, but it was still a great scene, huh?

Katana steps out on to the roof and bellows “I’m waiting!” Okay, waiting for what? Why didn’t he attack MacLeod earlier? I mean, other than to increase the running time.

MacLeod and Louise are already at one of the Shield stations. Like I said, everything in this movie–the prison, the Shield Corp offices, the installations, MacLeod’s home, Glencoe, Scotland…it’s all within walking distance.

MacLeod knocks out a guard and grabs his gun. Soon he’s gunning down guards, while the guards are adept at hitting the wall next to him–the usual action movie stuff. Ever notice how enemy bullets always strike the wall a hero is hiding behind, but never pass by on the open side?

“Don’t worry, we’ll be okay,” MacLeod assures Louise. “Easy for you to say,” she responds. “You don’t have to worry about getting killed!” Hey thanks for pointing out another oversight. Why is MacLeod ducking? He gives her the gun, and tells her to hold them off. He leaves.

Suddenly, he’s in what looks like a quiet, abandoned warehouse. This is in the Shield generation facility. Oddly enough, we can’t hear any alarms or gunshots. No guards are present either–convenient. A few pigeons do fly up through the light that’s streaming through the industrial fans, though. I’m really going to have to watch Blade Runner after this so I can see this technique in a good movie.

There’s some pointless stalking about and, naturally, Katana appears behind MacLeod. They duel a bit, and they end up at crossed swords. I think there’s a Hollywood bylaw that all sword-fighting movies must have a crossed sword scene. Bravo to Katana though for breaking it by head-butting MacLeod. Still, we spend most of this scene wondering if Katana’s any good with a sword, since we’ve never seen him fight before. For the climatic battle of a movie, wondering this is not a good thing.

MacLeod falls down an elevator shaft. Katana catches up with him and says “Nicely played MacLeod, by the game isn’t over yet.” This scene is shot rather oddly, so it’s hard to tell what happens. Katana appears to twist MacLeod’s head. In other words, it seems as though he’s down and out. But he’s the hero, so Katana decides to disappear instead of finishing him.

Back at the gunfight, Louise is gunning down people, and runs out of ammo. Next, cut to a rejected set for the Emperor’s throne room in Return of the Jedi. This features a large glowing thing, which is presumably what is generating the shield.

MacLeod enters with a totally different sword. Where did this come from? It’s MacLeod’s sword from the original movie. Where did he keep it while he was running around? Why is he only pulling it out now? Because it’s dramatic. Someone should tell the filmmakers that things that aren’t believable aren’t dramatic for long.

So they fight some more, and trash the railings around the shield thing. Katana pins MacLeod down, and pounds him a little. During these punches, the tail of his coat clearly comes off. In the very next shot he has it again. Perhaps it’s the coat he brought from Zeist and it regenerates on Earth also.

Katana grabs his sword and is about to finish MacLeod, but MacLeod thrusts Katana’s hand into the shield generator. Katana screams and stumbles off. Now we can see that the railings have magically been fixed. Don’t worry, Katana, your hand will probably grow back in the next shot.

Speaking of which, yes, they did rip off the ‘loss of the hand’ thing from Star Wars. Hey, they can’t rip off Ridley Scott all the time.

Editorial Note: I hope Jason doesn’t mind me interrupting here, but I have to point out that the ‘cutting off Katana’s hand’ bit has been wholly lifted from Star W…oh. He got that one. Never mind. – Ken.

Actor Michael Ironside remembers the time he choose to leave the cast of E/R to take the lead role in Seaquest: DSV.

Louise enters in time to see MacLeod’s victory. I guess we’re supposed to forget that she was out of ammo in the last scene with guards around her.

MacLeod knocks Katana down, and kicks his sword away. He raises his own. “There can be only one,” he says. I say, there should only have been one. One Highlander movie, that is.

Katana is soon not as tall as he used to be, and there’s a burst of energy. This one is very short. Was Katana low on batteries? MacLeod gets up, and smiling at Louise, he steps into the shield thing. Never mind that a second ago it cost Katana a hand.

Okay, lots of special effects. The satellite we saw at the beginning explodes, the generators explode…see, they can explode, but you can’t switch them off. That would destroy the Earth. The roof of an obvious model catches fire, and explodes. The shield vanishes. We can see stars through the roof and the natural sky again. I thought that both Louise and MacLeod were needed to do destroy this thing. She sure didn’t do much.

We hear a voice over of Ramirez. “Remember, Highlander, you’ve both still got your full measure of life. Use it well. And your future will be glorious.” Freeze on MacLeod smiling, and horribly synthetic rock music starts playing. And since the future includes Highlander III: The Sorcerer AKA Highlander III: The Final Dimension, Ramirez is dead wrong.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

Well gosh, I guess this wasn’t the first time the sequel wasn’t as good as the original, and I’m willing bet it won’t be the last. But what makes my blood boil is that there’s no reason it couldn’t have been just as good. Some sequels are destined to suck because there’s obviously no new ground to cover. Highlander did have room to explore and expand. Sadly, the new information presented in The Quickening–this whole planet Zeist thing–provokes a “That’s it?” reaction, and isn’t even presented with any kind of majesty. A gradual revelation to the characters and the audience might have helped somewhat, instead of just having MacLeod remember it all and say “Oh yeah”.

Ramirez’s parting words of this movie about the future being glorious are misinformed–Highlander III sucked plenty too. In fact, deciding which to assassinate here was one tough decision. I’m ashamed to admit that as much as I hated the second, I did get conned into seeing the third. The reason is that in between the second and third there was an active campaign by the filmmakers to admit that the second one was awful, and they would not make the same mistakes with the third. I got suckered in. When that film was equally awful, I washed my hands of the whole mess. There has since been an animated and two live-action TV series, and there is talk of a fourth movie! I haven’t seen a second of the TV shows and as to the movie–as the man sang: I won’t get fooled again!

There’s also a “Renegade Version” of Highlander 2. This apparently is the “Director’s Cut,” and contains more scenes, and alters the story. A description is available on the Internet Movie Database’s Highlander 2 page. Apparently, they drop the ‘immortals from Zeist’ thing. Too bad they didn’t skip the environmental angle thing too. All the same, you can’t fix this movie by dropping that immortals come from Zeist and adding a deleted scene or two. The entire premise and delivery is skewed. I am not going to see that “Renegade” cut either. The only way to make this movie worse would be to make it longer.

IMMORTAL DIALOGUE

Hero and Villain engage in a witty repartee:

Katana: “The remains of your mortal wife. So frail. So earthy. So very dead.”
MacLeod: “At least she’s at peace.”
Katana: “Peace is highly over-rated.”
MacLeod: “Things don’t change, Katana, I like that. After all these years, you’re still a jerk.”

I’ll bet you say that to all the girls:

Louise: “Who are you?”
MacLeod: “I’m Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was banished from the Planet Zeist 500 years ago. I cannot die.
(They embrace and kiss.)
Louise: “I’m Louise Marcus from Flagstaff, Arizona.”

SPECIAL BONUS: THE MOVIE THEY SHOULD HAVE MADE

Sometimes people tell critics not to criticize the things they can’t do. Personally, I know that I couldn’t make a movie like this or Can’t Stop the Music–and I consider that to be a character strength. Nonetheless, I know I can write a better script than the one used in this movie, because virtually anyone could. Here’s my idea:

It’s the future, a long time after the first movie, perhaps 100 years. MacLeod has moved on with his life, but still hasn’t aged. We have to cheat a bit. Ramirez said that after winning the prize, MacLeod would age normally. Let’s keep Ramirez on as an Obi-Wan like character, occasionally popping up in ghostly form or as a voice in MacLeod’s head, offering advice and clarification. It’s not strictly necessary, though, particularly when they introduce the new mentor (see below).

MacLeod is puzzled that he hasn’t aged. Ramirez explains that he was wrong–it isn’t over, and the stakes are much higher than previously suspected. It turns out that other worlds in our galaxy also have warriors fighting for the prize of their world. Some of these worlds had good immortals win, and they’ve done their best to guide and help their worlds. Some worlds have seen evil types win the prize, and they’ve turned their worlds into chaotic playgrounds for their evil desires. We can even throw Zeist and Katana into this equation, but let’s give Katana a different personality, so he’s not a clone of The Kurgan.

A new “round” of the Contest is about to begin, as the champions from each world are going to seek each other out. This will give us an opportunity to throw in some nice alien creatures, some good, some bad, plus we’ll get to see strange alien weaponry that they use to fight. We should try to keep them melee weapons as much as possible though. Any moron can pull a trigger, but a sword requires an artist.

Using the knowledge they acquired from winning the prize, the Immortals assemble people from their worlds that can build ships to take them to other worlds, where they find their opponents. Some of the evil Immortals might invade whole other worlds just to find their resident Immortal. The Contest could cause galactic warfare between races, as some of the planets are likely to look on Immortals as gods, and wouldn’t take kindly to seeing their’s killed.

Let’s introduce a new mentor and love interest for MacLeod, someone who will teach him the new rules of the game. Let’s say one of the new rules is that Immortals can visit but can’t fight on a world that isn’t capable of faster than light travel (necessary to travel to other inhabited worlds). Evil Immortals are just waiting for the minute Earth is capable of this so they can invade and find MacLeod. MacLeod is supervising the construction of such a drive, and the mentor comes to warn him off. Unless MacLeod wants Earth destroyed in the crossfire, he’s first got to build it up militarily before the drive is complete.

Let’s also have Mentor and MacLeod work together through the ages to prepare Earth, and fall in love. Over the centuries, the contest once again narrows down to a handful of immortals. We have another big evil dude stomping around, who will become the key antagonist. For the sake of argument, let’s say it’s a revised Katana character. But in order to raise the stakes, let’s not have Katana and MacLeod be the last two fighting for the prize. Instead, let’s have MacLeod kill the villain early, leaving just him and his Immortal love interest left.

This will create an interesting conflict between love and duty. Neither side is eager to begin the battle, but they both know they have a destiny they can’t escape. MacLeod overpowers his lover, but can’t bring himself to finish her. Like Ramirez, she’s a firm believer in the sanctity of the contest, and forces MacLeod to kill or be killed. In the end he kills, gaining a new level of enlightenment, but ever more saddened by the burden of his immortality. He contemplates what the next level of the hunt for the ultimate prize will bring. Perhaps in another sequel, MacLeod fights for the prize of the universe on a God-like level, and the winner gets to recreate the universe in his or her own image, concluding the trilogy.

I like my treatment, imperfect and speculative though it is. I was just thinking that this could give new depth to MacLeod’s relationship with Heather, his first wife. Being forced to kill his new lover, he could see Heather more than ever as a symbol of the normal life he wants to lead, but can’t. It can also present an interesting new galaxy–one where MacLeod might reluctantly be forced to turn the Earth in to a giant military dictatorship in order to save it from destruction. Correct me if I’m wrong, this treatment doesn’t blatantly contradict the first movie (we didn’t see any female Immortals in the first movie, but there’s no reason that can’t change). It raises the stakes while preserving the mysticism, and leaves room for romance and tragedy.

Sadly, it’s a moot point, isn’t it?

There should only be one.

  • They spent so long yammering on about how there could only be one on the first movie that I naturally assumed nobody would be dumb enough to try to make a sequel. Boy, was I wrong.