Director: Russell Mulcahy
--Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez
Running time: 111 minutes
Connor Macleod was born in 14th century Scotland. After surviving an attack in battle that should have killed him, he is ostracized from his hometown. He meets Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. Sanchez teaches Connor that he's an immortal, just like Sanchez, and that they can only be killed by having their heads chopped off. Sanchez also teaches Connor how to fight with a sword, the weapon of the immortals. Eventually, when all but two immortals kill each other, there will be a stand off, and the winner will truly live forever.
Highlander has to have one of the greatest basic plot ideas even created:
- Immortals walk the Earth and they can only be killed by another immortal
- They fight with swords, chopping each other's heads off, gaining each other's powers when they do so.
- In the end, there can only be one.
There aren't too many sci-fi/fantasy worlds that are as cool as that there. And they didn't just pick any weapon, they choose swords. There is no cooler weapon on Earth. This idea would fail if they choose guns. This idea would fail if they choose nun-chucks. But they choose swords, the sexiest, most stylish weapon in the world.
Now, I wouldn't say Christopher Lambert can't act, but...Oh no wait. That's exactly what I'd say. Christopher Lambert can't act. And strangely enough, it doesn't detract from the movie in the least. Lambert has the acting skills of Jean-Claude Van Damme, combined with the English speaking skills of an early-Schwarzenegger. He actually worked for a dialogue coach for a long time, so rather than a distinguishable accent, he's got a muddled together European-ish thing going for him. Not to mention the fact that he had just learned English in the first place. But it works!
Sean Connery plays a Spanish immort...wait a minute...Spanish? Or wait, is he Egyptian? Well, anyway, Connery plays Connor's immortal mentor, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez who teaches Connor how to fight. Sean Connery improves the movie drastically, simply because: he's in it.
Roxanne Hart is the love story, which itself is nothing special, but nevertheless is a prerequisite element for a sci-fi/fantasy movie. Sheila Gish plays an Alfred (Batman's servant) type character to Connor, as his secretary. He saved her life in the war, when she was just a child, and she's been with him (unromantically) ever since. I found this minor subplotsurprisingly uncorny. And the villain of the movie is played by Clancy Brown, whom I truly hated. I guess he did well.
There are very few things to find wrong with Highlander. Most of the time, it's a solid movie. The flashbacks aren't tasteless, the one-liners are usually funny, and the sword fights are well done. My biggest problem with the movie was there was a huge chunk of the storyline that was skipped over, obviously for time constraints. I'm referring of course to the sword fights between the immortals to the death. We only saw a few, the best of which began the movie. We can guess that Connor did most of his fighting (off camera), or that most of the immortals killed each other (off camera), or that the Kurgan killed them all (off camera), but it still would have been nice to see a few more of those damned cool sword fights. I know for a fact that at least one of them was cut.
The other, perhaps unfair complaint deals with Highlander's one huge special effects scene, which was the climax of the movie. It suffers from a disease many sci-fi/fantasy films that were made before 1995 suffer from: poor special effects. Special effects that weren't based on computers had done impressive things long before 1986, but computers are a different story. Even today computerized special effects are in the process of improving.
One of the best things about Highlander would have to be the soundtrack, which was by Queen. Everybody loves Queen. The movie was stuffed with Queen songs. Everybody wins. And to boot, one of them has lyrics that could actually be related to the movie! Who would've thought?
*For good reason too, lagrange informs me, as the band actually wrote Who wants to live forever? after viewing a rough cut of the film.
There should only be one
Highlander was originally written as one movie. They had to, it would be way too risky to do anything else. They made it into one movie, and didn't think about a sequel or a TV show. Highlander both opened and closed its own storyline. In the end, there was only one. That was the problem; it left no room for a decent prequel or sequel. But movie execs love to make sequels out of sleeper hits, and they decided to go along with it anyway, and made a TV show and what are considered some of the worst films ever. Both the movies and the TV show desecrate what was a wonderful fantasy world, adding idiotic (aliens?) things to the storyline, most of which contradicted something else. And in the end, nothing makes sense. So what should you, the faultless movie-watcher do? Don't see the sequels. Pretend like they don't exist.
One of the screenwriters for Highlander visited my film class and talked about the film, one day. He talked about how Gregory Widen had the idea of "An immortal guy who wandered the Earth with a big sword" and how they turned it into something decent. He also expressed the same remorse for Highlander; if the Highlander idea was given to a bunch of experienced sci-fi screenwriters today, who knows what they could do with it? Alas, the franchise is far beyond remedy. Which is really too bad.
But in the end, Highlander is still a very good movie, one of the best in its genre.
But, oh, how great Highlander could have been, if they would have realized what they had in their hands.