Sunday, 19 August 2012

25/07/2012: Highlander 2: The Quickening [1991]

Over half a year ago now, I watched Highlander expecting some kind of cheesy sci-fi movie. Instead I got an extremely well done story of an immortal Scottish swordsmen, and knowledge as to the origin of “There can only be one.” Now, I have finally brought myself to watch its sequel, The Quickening with no idea as to how successful it was. But hey, Highlander spawned five sequels and a T.V. series, it must have been good. Well, after watching The Quickening, I am only glad to hear that the entire thing was disowned by everyone involved and stricken from the rest of the series.                                        It really was that bad.

Highlander didn’t leave much for one to construct a sequel from. It tied off most of its loose threads and gave us a fitting conclusion for such an epic story with little need for a sequel. However, Highlander had been so great, and the idea so interesting, it would undoubtedly spawn a sequel. The Quickening shows exactly what happens when you try to write a sequel to a closed book. With most of the mysteries solved and only the hardest ones left, the wasn't much left to be told. It also shows what happens when a studio, or in this case apparently the insurance company, begins to take over and hamper the creative freedom of writers and directors. Just because something sells one movie, doesn’t mean it can be transplanted into any other movie in order to get the same response. The Quickening shows us that too many ideas, as well as to many demands and badly done fill in the blanks are more than a sequel can take.

I can’t remember how much of Highlander’s origins were explained in the first movie. He was an immortal swordsman who would only become mortal upon defeating the rest of his kind. The immortals were an colourful array of men, ranging from Scotsmen to Samurai and spread across the world. The first movie, told over centuries, was an epic fantasy sci-fi tale amazingly crafted over a couple of hours or so. The Quickening is a bunch of sci-fi garbage shoved down our throats in just under an hour and a half. I mean right from the get go we are being bombarded with information and changes, with no explanation. Even though the pieces may feel like they are from a different puzzle entirely, some large monkey is going to hammer them into the puzzle anyway. I’m being quite honest here. The movie is terrible, throwing in so many bogus and unwanted ideas that it never even really gets off the ground. By the time it is done with new concepts, we suddenly only have 15 minutes to wrap things up, and sloppily is the only way it can be done.

We really couldn't explain immortals without an entire other planet?

So what are these new shitty ideas we are force fed? Try, setting the movie in the year 2024, with an old Macleod living in a futuristic dystopian metropolis.  Gone are the beautiful Scottish highlands and the like, instead we are given a dark and ugly city, with a sprinkling of terrible CGI backdrops at random places where they aren’t even needed. Apparently, the sun’s radiation almost destroyed the earth and Macleod created a force field to protect us. Of course, 25 years later we live under a dark blanket of some unexplained magical energy, with one powerful evil corporation controlling us. Then there is the explanation of where Macleod and the other immortals came from, Planet Ziest, banished to earth after some failed rebellion or another. The movie spends over an hour setting this all up, giving us only a couple of swordfights to satisfy our craving for the action. Don’t even get me started on the love story that they try to cram in amongst all the rest of that bullshit.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, The Quickening managed to acquire a strong cast. Christopher Lambert returns as Macleod and does the role as much justice as can be done. Did he ever really go on to become anything beyond Highlander? As for the biggest surprise however, Sean Connery returns for this sequel. Now, you may think that Ramirez was pretty god damn dead and done with after the first, but just wait until you see the preposterous way they bring him back to life. Only to kill him off again by the end, because you know, there can only be one. The newcomer is Virginia Madsen, who was one of the biggest and sexiest stars of the 80’s. I actually confused her with Sharon Stone for a while, but Madsen is quite the actress herself, regardless of how badly her character may have been written. I have to assume, that for all these stars to sign on, there must have been a good script originally.

This movie gave us one good thing, a Sean Connery suit montage.

I did read something online about there being a renegade version of The Quickening, which included commentary and different scenes, that explained things a little more and stayed true to the original script. While this interests me, and I would love to hear from any Highlander fan who has watched it, I don’t think I can bring myself to try it. Knowing that the rest of the Highlander series has pretty much disowned The Quickening completely and it is not considered Highlander cannon, I feel I can hopefully press on and burn this sequel from my mind. 

As for positives, The Quickening has very few. Sure we get to see Sean Connery as Ramirez again, but this is outweighed by the outrageousness of his resurrection. The futuristic sci-fi world isn’t impressive, and looks rather sloppily put together. The answers this sequel gives to any of the questions you might have still had from the original are terrible, ignoring all previous Highlander mythos and with this movie stricken from the records, none of the answers really matter or affect anything in the future movies. The few swordfights we get are okay, but not as good as the ones from the original, and Highlander’s enemies seem rather random and crazy. So if a movie is this bad how did I sit through it all? Well, by the time the movie stops trying to explain things and introducing its numerous ideas it is almost over. It feels like you get one very long first act, followed immediately by a rushed third act.

This face perfectly summarizes how the movie makes you feel.

Overall, The Quickening is not a movie I would recommend. My first time saying that. Yes it has some entertainment value, but the only reason to watch it would be because it is part of the Highlander series. However, since apparently The Quickening was disowned and never referenced again in any of the future movies, there is no need to watch it. Do yourself a favor. If you are watching the Highlander series skip it, and if you’re just looking for something to put on, there are infinitely better choices. The Quickening stands as a prime example of how not to make a sequel, disowning all of the Highlander mythos and cramming some shitty sci-fi ideas into a world where they don’t belong.

Highlander 2: The Quickening IMDb

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