Tuesday 29 May 2007

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) Russell Mulcahy

You know something's seriously wrong when the studio can't even make up its mind on what the film's called. Originally titled Highlander II: The Quickening, that made no sense whatsoever since the first film made us very aware that The Quickening is what arrives when an immortal kills another immortal and by the end of the film there was only one left. So, it's been rereleased in a special edition as Highlander 2, or at least that's what the box says, while the screen title keeps Highlander II but drops the subtitle. Reading up online I find that there's also a Renegade Version that director Russell Mulcahy put together in despair at being locked out of production.

To add to it all, the effects have been completely redone as per George Lucas's messing around with the original Star Wars trilogy, adding in all sorts of scenes where they weren't welcome. So much for consistency, but then consistency was not something that this film was any good at. After all it decided that killing off Sean Connery's character in the first movie was a bad call so just resurrected him without any explanation whatsoever for the sequel. All the explanation we get is when Connor Macleod points out to Ramirez that he's been dead for five hundred years and Sean Connery says 'So?'

It's now 2024 and the ozone layer is gone, leaving the planet protected only by an artificial electromagnetic shield that's been there since 1999. Some believe that it's all sorted and the shield is no longer required, while others aren't so optimistic. Connor Macleod is old now, having gained the ability to age along with The Prize. He's at the opera and then all sorts of weird things start happening. What is real and what's just fantasy brought on by being asleep throughout the first half of Gotterdammerung is up for grabs, and I don't think theat the scriptwriters really had any clue either. The cast certainly didn't.

Suffice it to say that Michael Ironside is around so at least there's someone fun to watch as the evil General Katana, and given that the only depth to his character is by having it named after a sword, Ironside makes up for it by overdoing everything possible to an amazing degree. The only thing more amazing is that the people who made the film obviously thought he was character acting. Oh and Virginia Madsen is in there too which can't hurt, except that she gets to be another throwaway character. Now if you're going to have a throwaway character you need to cast some teenybopper singer or such to keep the kids interested, but they chose Virginia Madsen, a serious actress with powerful skills to bring to bear. Of course, when there's nothing of substance for them to save, it's not too surprising to find that neither of them can save it.

As an IMDb reviewer, Bothan, pointed out in his or her excellent review, 'there should have been only one!' I couldn't agree more. Reading further I find out stuff about Planet Zeist and five hundred years in the past and the fact that, as Bothan aptly quotes, the key line appears to be one of Virginia Madsen's: 'You're mortal there, but you're immortal here, until you kill all the guys from there who have come here, and then you're mortal here. Unless, you go back there, or some more guys from there come here, in which case you become immortal here, again.'

Erm. Yeah. Erm.

With a complete absence of any sort of clarity in the movie, let me be absolutely clear here. There's a tie for the worst science fiction movie of the last fifty years: there's Battlefield Earth and there's this one. Nothing else comes close.

Beyond the abysmal script, the dialogue is jawdroppingly awful, the effects either suck royally or are completely out of place, the technology is badly extrapolated and inconsistent, the characters are embarrassing and annoying, the fights are dumb and boring, the acting is terrible because the cast haven't a clue what's going on, the humour is misplaced and frankly unfunny (hell, the serious bits are funnier than the funny bits), the romantic angle is instant and unexplained and there's nothing on the positive side to offset any of the negative. The best bits are Sean Connery getting fitted for a suit and Michael Ironside falling through a train roof, hardly what you'd call highlights anywhere else. Indescribably bad.

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