Highlander

Highlander.Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment 1986.

Before watching the movie:

While I know the basics of the Highlander series, I’ve never seen the television series or movies. I know the fact that there are movies plural is bad, but this is the good one.

I guess the plot is just a bad Immortal hunting a good Immortal, which as I understand it is pretty much the television show boiled down into a one-installment plot.

Sean Connery mentors the centuries-old main character, because he needs training for some reason.

It sounds like an excellent example of modern fantasy or magical realism, depending on how much the Immortals’ magic is involved.

After watching the movie:

Connor MacLeod died in battle on the Scottish Highlands in the 1500s. Then he got up the next day. It turns out he was born different, an Immortal. As he learns from an Immortal who comes to mentor him, the Immortals can only be killed by beheading, and an Immortal can gain all the knowledge of another Immortal by killing them, and at some far off time all the surviving Immortals will be drawn to a far away land to compete down to the last man for the Prize. Four hundred years later, MacLeod is living in New York City, there’s been a string of beheading murders in town, and the Kurgan, the man who killed him the first time, is coming for him.

If this movie was the beginning and end of the Highlander story, it would be enough. The narrative goes back and forth between MacLeod’s origins and the Gathering, crafting a complete story that doesn’t need any more embellishment. Every story that follows this has to ignore the end, because it is the end of The Game. If the television spinoff was a retelling of the movie, with more time spent in episodes on encounters with individual Immortals, training, and such, without being set explicitly after (most) events of the movie, I’d like the concept more. But with the plot wrapped up in one movie in this way, the only problem I have with it is that it’s tied up so neatly that the main villain who’s slaughtering the other Immortals for his own gain (MacLeod never initiates his duels) is the one who killed MacLeod the first time, ruining his comfortable first life, and had a second encounter that might be considered a spoiler.

Connor has had hundreds of years to learn new languages and pick up different accents, trying to blend in, and by the time he’s living in America, he speaks with… a Scandinavian accent (or German, can’t quite place it). I assume that’s because it’s the actor’s native accent, but he demonstrates a pretty good Scottish accent in most of his flashbacks, and then in the 1940s he demonstrates a passable, though perhaps intentionally exaggerated American accent. If you’re trying to hide as a normal person living a normal life, maybe getting people to ask “where are you from?” isn’t the best idea, even if “from a lot of places” can cover it.

The effects seem pretty unremarkable for the most part. I’m always a little impressed by hand-animated lightning and the like because it seems like a remarkably tedious thing to animate. There’s one scene where a character is lifted on a sword that is a little too obviously done with wires, and in the Quickening scene at the end the energy takes such a demonic-looking form I was worried that something had gone horribly wrong.

This was a pretty enjoyable film, and I’m completely satisfied with the story, though somebody’s ledger books apparently weren’t.

 

Watch this movie: As a swords-and-magic action flick with an impressive mix of eras.

Don’t watch this movie: For appropriate accents.

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One thought on “Highlander

  1. Jenny December 30, 2011 / 7:03 am

    One of my favorite aspects of “Highlander” is the soundtrack by Queen. Freddie Mercury’s voice is absolutely haunting. So, here is my movie suggestion (on the wrong page, I know, but there’s a connection): have you watched “Flash Gordon” (the circa 1980 version)? It was one of my childhood staples, but as an adult in 2011 I watch it differently. I would like to read your thoughts on it, since you seem to be able to look past a movie’s age.

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