The Crappening — Highlander 2 : The Quickening

Making a sequel can be a risky business. If the first film was a hit, there will be big expectations. You must walk a fine line, on the one hand you have to ensure that the winning ingredient from the first film is recaptured, and on the other hand you must be careful not to repeat yourself.

In other words, you have to brave, but sensible.

One sequel that offered a new definition to the word “bravery” was Highlander 2 : The Quickening. You have to admire its chutzpah. Highlander 2 ignores everything we are painstakingly told in the first one and makes up a whole new back story. In Highlander we are told that Connor MacLeodis one of the last remaining survivors of a race of immortals. Every now and then, the immortals have a gathering, much like The Apprentice, and someone will be decapitated (this is the only way they can be killed). Eventually Connor is the last immortal left and utters the immortal line, “There can be only one”.

Highlander 2 starts off by telling us that in 1999 (giggle), the O-Zone layer (remember that?) is close to failing and that Connor MacLeod is a top, super scientist who, together with another scientist, has come up with a “shield” that will protect us after the O-Zone layer is gone. Soon after the amazing news that MacLeod is a scientist, we are transported to 2024 and are then hit with the bombshell, via flashback, that MacLeod is also from another planet (called Zeist) and that he and his “Spanish” friend, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) are old buddies (or brothers from another space mother) and that they were actually exiled to Earth by the evil General Katana (Michael Ironside) for leading a rebellion against him. The two captives are put on trial by Zeist’s priests, who sentence them to be exiled and reborn on Earth as Immortals (0h no!! the evil, heartless bastards!). Before they are exiled Ramirez drops the additional bombshell that if he dies, all MacLeod need do is call his name and he will come back (If only that worked with my nan). This is ingenious writing I trust you’ll agree.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVpugKnrc5w

MacLeod in 2024 is a frail old man (who sounds like a wheezy old gold prospector who has just come back from a very long French holiday) and most normal people of 2024 don’t like him very much. They aren’t very keen on the shield he has built as it creates a constant purple haze (Hendrix would have loved it) which must have really put the brakes on the new series of The Sky at Night.

We soon discover that the evil General Katana (any relation to Kerry?) is obviously bored, so he decides to send a couple of men (that look like hedgehogs) to go and kill MacLeod (for some reason).  After a small battle with the hedgehogs (which ends in them literally losing their heads), MacLeod is rejuvenated into a young French man. He then shouts for his Scott…I mean Spanish/Egyptian/whatever colleague to come back from the dead.  Ramirez then appears on a stage in London during a performance of Hamlet, with hilarious consequences. Connery gets paid and the world is OK with him.

“Wait, what’s going on?”

There is a sub-plot about eco-terrorists attempting to destroy the shield because it turns out that the O-Zone layer has repaired itself. The only problem is that the shield is now a giant corporation run by John C. McGinley, who just shouts a lot like he was kicked in the balls on the way in to the shoot.

Just how everyone agreed to do this film is a bit of a mystery. Surely the script was enough of a clue that this was going to be a horrible mistake for all involved? Just how can you change everything in a sequel? It would be like The Empire Strikes Back revealing in the opening crawl that Luke, Han and Leia were actually cats, it just wouldn’t wash (though I don’t want to give George Lucas ideas). If that is what you have to resort to to get a sequel out there, then clearly you have no ideas and, more importantly, the franchise has no legs.

This film basically killed the career of the director Russell Mulcahy, who after directing the first Highlander (and many “cool” music videos for Duran, Duran, Elton John and The Buggles) was considered a hot shot.  Mulcahy had also directed some interesting films early on such as Razorback (a killer boar in the Australian outback) and Derek and Clive Get the Horn.  After Highlander 2 his name was obviously mud. He was last seen running away (at a fast pace one would imagine) from The Scorpion King 2 : Rise of a Warrior.

In 1995 Mulcahy released a “director’s cut” of Highlander 2 (known as “The Renegade Version“). All references to the Immortals being aliens from another planet were eliminated; instead, this cut reveals that the Immortals are from an unspecified, distant past on Earth, banished by priests into random locations in the future.  While the reception for The Renegade Version (and the subsequent 2004 “special edition” cut) have been more favourable, the damage was already done. Highlander 2 will always exist one way or another and different cuts merely paper over the vast chasm of cracks.

There really should have been only one.

Originally posted 2012-02-01 19:15:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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