Thursday, February 17, 2011
I would be lying to you if I said that HIGHLANDER is the story of an immortal (Christopher Lambert) who is trained by a large talking peacock (Sean Connery) to help fight and prevent an evil immortal called the Kurgan (that guy from SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) from being the last immortal and claiming the "prize". Nope, that is not what this movie is about. HIGHLANDER is about swords. This movie is hugely popular in the nerd community and nerds love swords. CLING-CLANG CLASH SPARKS! COOL! Look at all those cool swords. COOL! Look at the Kurgan's cool broadsword. COOL! Wouldn't that be cool hanging on my wall? COOL! Oh, my gosh! Sean Connery's sword is a samurai sword. COOL! I want it in my mouth!.............Cool? In fact the only way to kill an immortal is by cutting his head off. That's convenient. The swords themselves seem to have all the power. They slice through steel and concrete causing major sparkage like maybe the immortals have super strength. But this super strength is never demonstrated unless they are fighting with their damn swords. It just makes me wonder is all.
I find it strange that so many regard this film as a classic but crap all over the sequels. HIGHLANDER is just as bad as HIGHLANDER 2,3,4, and 5. There really isn't that much difference in quality. They are all hokey with weak protagonists and convoluted stories that are filled with plot holes galore. If anything HIGHLANDER is the grand daddy of poor storytelling. It laid the foundation of stupidity that the rest merely followed up on. I do like the Kurgan though. Maybe that is just because I like to say the word "Kurgan". He is totally badass at the beginning with his huge sword and skull helmet. But even his lovable evil antics get WAAAY over the top by the end. You can tell he was a huge influence on the creation of the Guardian character in HIGHLANDER part 5: THE SOURCE.
The story for the first HIGHLANDER fails to explain where immortals came from. They are born like everyone else. Wouldn't that mean immortals can be born at anytime creating an unlimited supply of immortals? Why wouldn't more immortals be born throughout time? How does Sean Connery know so much about the "gathering"? How does the Kurgan know that Conner Macleod is an immortal? Remember when Conner is trying to fight in the big battle in the highlands and none of the bad guys would fight him. Why didn't they fight him? Because they knew he was immortal but when he is stabbed and is walking around perfectly fine the next day his own people kick him out and even try to burn him alive. How come they didn't know? You can see how the writer had two neat scenarios for Conner to demonstrate the drama of being immortal but they rub against each other the wrong way. They contradict each other. Its called bad writing, folks.............Yeah, I know I am guilty of that too.
A lady forensics officer shows up to investigate Conner's kill in the parking lot of a wrestling stadium. Those were weird looking wrestlers by the way. Conner sees that she has discovered a piece of his sword that was stuck in a concrete pillar. At this time Conner is the main suspect of the murder. Her part in the story would have stopped right there with her investigation coming to a dead end. It would be impossible to connect that piece of sword (that should not exsist by the way according to history) to Conner. Instead Conner tries to hit on her in a bar which makes her follow him and see him fight the Kurgan. She isn't even interested in finding the killer she just wants to see the sword that the piece of metal belongs to. Conner grabs the girl to protect her from the Kurgan who he senses is nearby. Suddenly the Kurgan just stands up right next to them like he was sitting there the whole time in plain sight! Does that make sense to you? How could you miss that guy? He's ten feet tall! I like how the two immortals are fighting and then this random police helicopter shows up to interrupt things and everyone just kind of walks away and the police don't even bother to follow. Kind of lame if you ask me.
Speaking of random. Everyone makes a big deal about the planet Ziegst (or whatever its called) but I don't hear any complaints about the crazy marine character. For a brief moment the movie kind of turns into TAXI DRIVER or something when this crazed ex-marine loads up his car with guns and starts driving around looking for something crazy to shoot at, I guess. Boy, does he find it. He just so happens to find two immortals stabbing it out in some alley somewhere and he decides to investigate things with his machine gun. He sees the Kurgan kill one of the last immortals. The crazy ex-marine's response is to shoot the Kurgan. Of course nothing happens and the Kurgan impales the marine with his sword and hoists him into the air. Then he is flung off the sword like poo from a stick and lives. The crazy ex-marine ends up in a hospital to give the cops a description of his assailant. The guy had a broadsword in his guts! This character serves no purpose except to see one of the last immortals die. Surely there is a better way to show that there are only two immortals left.
That is my biggest problem with HIGHLANDER. The story needed to be focused on the immortals and their unique relationship with each other. The immortals can get along with each other and be good friends but they all know that eventually they are bound by the rules to fight each other to the death until there is only one. What a great premise for a story but instead the script follows more of a classic cop movie formula in part with too many scenes involving police and interrogations and questioning eyewitnesses which all of this adds up to nothing. Only once when Conner and (Sean Connery's character's name goes here) are sparring does this dilemma come up. Conner asks what would happen if they were the last two and for a moment Conner has the upper hand to kill his friend right then and there. He doesn't of course and the issue is never brought up again. You get the sense that the movie is about to get interesting but then it just goes poop. Wouldn't it be more interesting if Conner and the talking peacock had to fight it out at the end? It would be hard to predict that fight. It could be that the main antagonist of the film is the rules of being a immortal themselves. They could come to an agreement to not kill each other and leave the "prize" a mystery. Then if you wanted to make a sequel you could say that because they stopped seeking the "prize" that more immortals came into existence over time drawn to the "prize". Shoot! I should have written HIGHLANDER.
So let me get this straight. The "prize" is to gain ultimate knowledge and the ability to die. Does that make sense to you? How is being able to die a prize? Being able to die is only a prize if you work in retail. If you are immortal that is the last thing you want. It kind of defeats the purpose of preventing the Kurgan from getting the "prize". In fact if I was the second to last immortal I would let him cut off my head. Then I would haunt him as a ghost and be like "Ha-Ha, sucker! The prize makes you dead too." If I can't turn into a ghost then I would say it very loudly so he can hear me from Hell.
HIGHLANDER had great promise of being a truly great classic. The story of immortals forced by the unknown to kill each other makes for great drama. Unfortunately the movie stays away from such interesting concepts. Why is Christopher Lambert in this movie? He talks funny and looks like a neanderthal. The movie strives to make him badass and a little humorous but he can't pull it off. He's no Clint Eastwood is all I am saying. They should have casted somebody better. In fact before the writer ever wrote a single word down for the script he should have watched a ton of westerns with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson to know what it takes to make a badass hero. It takes more than a weapon to have a stoic presence in a film. And don't think having Sean Connery makes the movie watchable! Lets not forget Sean was the main star of the artsy-fartsy-wtf movie ZARDOZ. What the hell was going on in that movie? I don't know. I kind of get this weird "STAR TREKIAN" feel to HIGHLANDER. Its hard to explain. If you like STAR TREK then you have to like HIGHLANDER. Its in the nerd guide lines or something. Conner himself is kind of stiff like every single character in STAR TREK. The badassness of Conner is defined by his samurai sword like a nerd would define Klingons as great warriors because they got those stupid moon shaped swords. What is so great about Klingons anyway?
Hey, while we are on the subject of STAR TREK! Wouldn't it be cool if a Highlander, uh, I mean immortal lived so long that he made it to the future and joined the crew of the Enterprise and went with them on their many adventures into space and fought Klingons and crap!?!
The answer to that is "No." No, it would not. The end.