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Blu-Ray Review: Highlander vs. Highlander II

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Highlander is one of those ’80’s movies action fans look back on fondly. The movie isn’t great, but it is what it is. A tale of immortality and a battle to end all battles, Highlander is an adequately done action-drama that shifts in between character Conner MacLeod’s past and present. In the 25 years since its release, it has lost some of its edge but is a perfectly watchable, mildly entertaining flick.

Highlander II. Wow. That’s another story. Both movies come to Blu-Ray for the first time on November 2, 2010.

As the title suggests, this article was originally intended to talk about the positives and negatives between Highlander and Highlander II. I’d seen Highlander before, of course, but hadn’t seen its sequel. I had no idea it had such a… unique reputation. As being one of the worst movies ever made.

Needless to say, the battle is all one-sided, as Highlander is pretty good, while Highlander II is a complete cluster.

Highlander is directed by Russell Mulcahy, his one real claim to fame (he recently did the awful Resident Evil: Extinction, but otherwise has been relegated to mainly TV movies and the like since, well, Highlander II). The movie is entertaining and features an adequate performance by Christopher Lambert (one of many ’80’s stars who found success despite a lack of acting talent). The movie succeeds by keeping it simple: Lambert, as MacLeod, is an immortal and must face his arch nemesis in modern time to become “the one.” It features some decent (albeit dated) action and is easy to follow.

Highlander II is not easy to follow. In the misguided sequel, which at times feels like a cheap, lame version of Blade Runner, the world’s ozone has been depleted and replaced with a man-made electromagnetic field that covers the Earth, which is good except it casts the world in eternal darkness. While there are plenty of scientific holes in this setting (how was such technology invented in just 30 years? How does anything survive with no sunlight?), the real problem with the movie is that it completely ignores the simplistic conventions the first Highlander established. MacLeod was an immortal human in the first movie. In this one, he’s actually from another planet – a planet of immortals who have mastered time travel. Sean Connery is brought back to aide his counterpart, even though he died 500 years earlier in the original. More immortals have arrived from another world to battle MacLeod. Oh, and MacLeod himself was a warrior on this other world, long before the events of Highlander.

The movie makes no sense, destroys everything established in the first movie and is just a terrible, terrible movie.

The one thing Highlander II has going for it is that the Blu-Ray has much better bonus features than the first film. Whereas Highlander comes with some deleted scenes and an audio commentary with the director, HighlanderII comes with documentaries, deleted scenes and a variety of other featurettes that explore the music, cinematography, promotion and even the film’s reputation.

So yes, Highlander II has a better Blu-Ray, but frosting on a piece of dog crap is still dog crap.

Highlander wins, but that’s about as shocking as the Yankees beating a little league team.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews
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  • Malcolm

    I think you are missing the whole point about the sun block technology. When Macleod won the prize at the end of the first film he won the abiblity to have the accumulated knowledge of the world’s greatest minds therefore, he was able to invent the shield. Which is why people were pissed at him for blocking out the sun for so long.
    Highlander is a terrific film!

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