Highlander 2: The Quickening/Renegade/Special Edition – Re-review
This movie needed a re-review. So I learned a bit more about the movie with the special features of the Special Edition 2 Disc Edition. Yes, I own the Special Edition of Highlander 2. Much of the information is on an odd special feature oddly named “Seduced by Argentina” Yes when came time to find a place to film the sequel they were wooed by people from Argentina. In fact half the DVD are the producers of the film giving the country a BJ about how great the food is and how great a time they had. The producers were promised cheap permits for shooting and even cheaper labor which would save the film millions in budget. Well…in theory.
Turns out when they got to Argentina there was cheap labor, but very few qualified laborers. And the laborers they did have were lazy workers. The producers on the DVD explained it as when the clock hit noon the workers had “siesta”. Argentinians (according to the DVD) have a poor work ethic and take several hour lunches with alcohol and after noon they are all but worthless. The longer the shoot went on, the more technicians Mulcahy had to ship in from the US. Argentina also had little to no equipment and the equipment they did have was unsafe. Inflation was one of the biggest obstacles for producers as the value of the dollar fluctuated by the second. Shoots dragged on and investors were getting upset. Eventually the film was taken from Mulcahy with several scenes (the army battle on Zeist and the Mountain chase scene) not completed. The investors hired a completely new editor who used crappy effects shots and pieced the movie together as best he could.
After the movie was laughed out of theaters and the renewed interest in the TV show, Mulcahy was allowed to recut the film and complete it as he originally envisioned. Mulcahy rehired some of the cast four years later and filmed the Battle at Zeist and the mountain chase scene. They changed the effects, re-edited the film, and changed Zeist to “the past”. The new version was dubbed the Renegade Version and is the most complete version of Mulcahy’s vision.
What is truly odd is that Mulcahy and the producers are all glowing about the movie as finished in the Renegade version. Despite the stupidity of the whole Zeist thing, they all compliment the sequel as being just as good as the original. Delusion is a powerful thing.
Now I stand by my statement Highlander was a series that was 100% wrapped up after the first movie. But I guess I love to be a contrarian so I will somewhat defend Mulcahy’s reasoning. Mulcahy wanted to do two things with the sequel: explain where the immortals came from (which is a huge mystery) and add some more depth to Connor. They future setting is supposed to give the audience a glimpse to what it is like for Connor to be immortal. Much like 1980’s New York is a huge culture shock for him, for Connor to now be in an alien Cyberpunk future is a shock for us. And yet again, Connor has lost more people he has loved and we see more of why immortality is not all its cracked up to be. For all my attempts at being devils advocate, the idea of a sequel still sucks.
First the idea of revealing what the source is is a bad idea. When will Hollywood learn that sometimes keeping a mystery is a good thing? Inevitably when we talk about a reason for immortality is alien technology or a god (or magic which leads to a god). Whether you choose aliens (Highlander 2) or a god/magic (Highlander: The Source) your story is still crap. The problem becomes obvious the moment you try to push this crap on us. We have seen Connor grow up from his clan in Scotland. We have seen the first time Connor and Ramirez ever met were in Scotland. So it makes no freaking sense to all of a sudden say they knew each other before that point, knew they were immortals, and engaged in the contest prior to their knowing about it in the first movie. Its like if someone showed you a picture of a circle and asked you what the drawing was and you said “Circle” and the guy bitch slaps you and says “Its a square motherf*cker!!!” And as much as Mulcahy likes to gloat that the Renegade version is his vision he cannot deny the fact Zeist was his idea. It is such a monumentally bad idea that The Quickening is a joke subtitle people put on for movies that f*ck up the series. A lot of hate has been heaped on Lucas (much of it by me) for f*cking up (of Lucasing up as I say) both the Star Wars franchises and even Indiana Jones. Mulcahy though is the gold standard though for bending over continuity and having his way with it.
Well I could fill a book with the plot holes of Highlander II (look how much I’ve already rambled) but I will just focus on my review of the Ultimate Edition.
Now I will start off by actually paying the Renegade version some compliments. The biggest improvement is the editing which is a million times better than in the original. Your really do notice how an editor matters when you see the two versions side by side. Scenes transitions much better, the narrative flows smoother, and everything is more coherent. I remember a scene in the original version where Connor fights Katana with a short sword then immediately after falling down an elevator shaft Connor has his trademark katana sword. In the Special Edition we see the elevator fight happens as a completely separate scene about 20 minutes prior to the final fight with the katana sword in the shield generator. The effects are much improved, and the reshot scenes work well. The Special Edition runs about and hour and forty minutes where the original is a scant 85 minutes. The Special Edition is to its credit a much better film than its predecessor. That being said, the movie still sucks.
Changing Zeist to “the distant past” still doesn’t work. It still presumes Connor and Ramirez know each other before Scotland. It also makes little sense that people in the past are fighting with machine guns in an alien landscape in the burnt out hulls of spaceships! The writers try to also repair the gaping Zeist size plot hole in the original version. You see, after Connor wins the prize he has the choice to return to Zeist or to live his life on Earth a mortal. Connor obviously chooses to live a mortal life. Yet despite this Katana make the bone head move to try kill Connor. WHY!? It serves no purpose! Connor made his choice and he can’t go back to Zeist! In this version they try to justify it by saying that Connor always has the choice and even though he is an old man he could still potentially go back to Zeist at any time. It still makes no sense though. If Connor lived most of his life as a mortal man and was due to die in a week or so, it makes no sense he would choose at the last second he would decide to go to Zeist. What, is he going to conquer Zeist with the aid of a walker? And if he was going to go back to Zeist (or if Katana wanted to preempt his decision) wouldn’t Katana still send more assassins after winning the prize? Whatever, it’s stupid.
Another moronic decision is bringing back Ramirez. I get it; he was popular and you want him back. But he is dead. His head was cut off. There is no amount of bullshit or drugs in the world to make that work. The supporting cast from the cackling bird men to General Katana (Michael Ironside) is embarrassing. Like Deathstalker III, I don’t buy a villain who is middle aged and balding. They once again try to repeat the success of the first movie with an over the top villain. But where Kurgan was campy and enjoyable, Katana is a 90 minute facepalm.
While the movie tries to do something new with the future setting it doesn’t work. The major set piece for th emovie which is the hoverboard fighting scene is lame and uninvolving. Let’s all face facts here; Highlander II was a movie that was rushed because of a want to capitalize on the success of the first. In doing so they made a terribly written and overall shoddy mess. Even at its best, Highlander II is a piss poor excuse for a sequel. This movie needed years more work and a ton of rewrites to even be a semi decent sequel. As it stands Highlander II still sucks and is still an embarrassment to the franchise that should have died after the first movie.