THE JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Highlander 2: The Quickening’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Highlander 2: The Quickening.”

The info:

The Movie: “Highlander II: The Quickening” (1991)

Starring: Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, Sean Connery.

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Plot Summary: (From Rotten Tomatoes) Connor MacLeod (Lambert), now dwelling in a future world, battles to save the earth from the threat of a globe-covering shield.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 0 percent.

Our Take:

Froemming: Let me start this out first with an apology to Joe Brown, because I made him sit through this turd of a movie and I hope it doesn’t taint his enjoyment of the first “Highlander” movie, which we both agree is pretty good.

I sat down and rewatched this sequel for the first time in years. And it is just as bad as I remembered it being. But before I get too far into this, Brown, what were your thoughts on this?

Brown: HERE WE ARE! BORN TO BE KINGS! … Oh wait, that song isn’t in this one. Great…

I know you’re more of the resident loremaster when it comes to the “Highlander” franchise, but man, just on its own, this movie was a chore to watch. I saw the first “Highlander” and enjoyed it for what it was: a fun fantasy movie with a cheesy 80s vibe. And in five minutes, “Highlander II” went and destroyed the first movie by completely retconning the plot. Hell, “Star Wars” retconned The Force in the fourth movie almost 30 years later. This movie has an audacity that I haven’t seen since Axl Rose sampled himself in “Chinese Democracy.”

I’m going to open the floor to you, Froemming, to start on what made this movie hot garbage.

Froemming: Where to begin. It seriously made a mess out of the franchise for years to come. I can’t remember if the version we watched (on Hulu Plus) even mentioned the fact that these immortals are now aliens. And they are from a planet called Zeist. Because that is part of the plot of “Highlander 2” for some reason. Even if they retconned that (which I think they tried to do), we have immortals being shot into Earth from the past in a plot to kill old man Connor MacLeod, which makes no sense because he is looking like he is on death’s bed already. To be honest, of all the “Highlander” films, this one still just starts to blur for me by the time I get to the end. It takes a lot of the fun out of the whole premise of the films and TV show.

Brown: You can excuse that line-blurring a little bit because it’s the second movie in the series. There isn’t a canon that you have to incorporate, which is a problem many video games come across. But turning this race of immortals into aliens is just dumb. And that’s saying a lot about a movie franchise where people are lobbing each other’s heads off for something as ambiguous as The Prize.

I can say this: I appreciate that they made MacLeod an old man when they started this movie. That was the one bit of continuity they carried over from the first movie. Then, it becomes the beautiful disaster that we had to endure. Seeing that this movie takes place in 2024, please Froemming, give us the rundown of what we can expect the world to be in eight years.

Froemming: According to this film, 2024 looks a lot like a bad knock-off of a Nine Inch Nails video.

Brown: I think they thought, “Hey, how much can we rip off the setting from ‘Blade Runner’ and not be called plagiarists?’”

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Froemming: OK, I see you point above about a new canon for this world, but I believe they were already putting the TV show in the works around the time they were making this film (this came out in 1991, the series debuted in 1992), which raises all sorts of WTF questions for people like me, who dorked out on this series growing up. That aside, this movie does look good, and there are interesting shots and angles used. But the wretched storyline sinks it. And you should be grateful, because until recently, that blue grid that covers the Earth was red. An obnoxious, confusing red that never made sense, since everything is at night and dark in this film.

Brown: You want obnoxious? Let’s talk about our main antagonist.

OK, our villain in “Highlander 2” is Gen. Katana, played by Jeremy Ironside (who of course is the villain). Which on the immortals’ home planet of Zeist, makes him look like the king of the Jawas?

Froemming: Not to get too off topic, but I want to put this here: They asked Clancy Brown to reprise the role of the Kurgan for this, and he turned them down because they refused to let him read the whole script.

Brown: A whole lot of things just started to make sense.

Froemming: Yeah, when I read that, I started to see why Ironside was a less-threatening (non-threatening) version of the Kurgan.

Brown: If Kurgan is that bully from your high school that threatens to beat you up when school’s out, Ironside is the obnoxious kid who’d tattle on you if you forgot to bring your textbook. He’s no threat at all. He’s just a nuisance.

Froemming: I agree, Gen. Katana was more of snotty punk than a threat. I actually enjoyed Ironside’s performance here, I just wish he would have been a side character, and not the main bad guy. And yeah, what was up with those Jawa-looking things as the beginning, what the hell kind of planet is this? I was so confused by that, and the shoehorning of Sean Connery reprising his role of Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez. In the confusing flashback, sure, I get that to a degree. But bringing him back to life in the 2024 timeline of this movie made no sense at all.

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Brown: In researching this film, we both found out that a lot of the problems came from trying to keep the film under budget. Know how they could have saved $3.5 million? Don’t cast Connery! His character was completely useless, except for reminding us that the first “Highlander” was so, so much better.

With that said, I’ll explain some of the absurd plot. After winning The Prize in the first movie, MacLeod is now mortal and on the verge of death, watching the dreary, dystopian Earth suffer while being covered by The Shield. The Shield is an invention by MacLeod because a hole in the ozone layer caused people to die from the sun’s radiation, including MacLeod’s main squeeze from the first movie.

But, we find out that the ozone layer has naturally repaired itself and there’s no need for The Shield, thanks to our main female protagonist Louise Marcus, played adequately by Virginia Madsen. After this movie, I think she was hoping to be back on the set of “Dune.”

Froemming: I hope you had to Google the plot, otherwise you had a better understanding of what was going on than I did.

Brown: There’s one point in the film where Louise is trying to understand what’s going on herself, with all this talk of immortals, aliens and these assassins coming from a distant planet, and I swear, that was the internal monologue I had watching this movie.

Froemming: Let’s get to the anti-climactic fight scene at the end.

Brown: Before we get to the ending fight scene, I have to talk about the fight between MacLeod and Katana’s henchmen near the beginning.

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Froemming: Oh, you mean the porcupine-looking, awkwardly cackling henchmen named (I had to Google this) Corda and Reno who are — again — from the past?

Brown: The very same. So these two warriors try to attack old MacLeod, who they say is weeks away from death, making this whole fight, and film, entirely pointless! And they fly in on Marty McFly hoverboards and cannot mortally wound a feeble, old man. Instead, MacLeod manages to fight them off, killing one of them by decapitation via train. Because of this, MacLeod turns young again and regains his immortality from the first movie. Shouldn’t the train become immortal because it killed this henchman?

Froemming: Here is my nerd beef with MacLeod turning young again. Immortals (according to canon) stay the same age at the point when they die. So his turning young again makes no damn sense! He became immortal again when more immortals returned, so that is technically when he became immortal once again. He should have stayed old.

Brown: And then there is the inconsistency with the weapons the porcupine guys use. The first shot they take, it hits a building and sparks fly everywhere (I’d love to see the pyrotechnics bill from this movie). The next shot hits a railing and it just falls apart. Next shot blows up a police car. After that, they get a direct hit on MacLeod and he gets hit like a bullet. Then, as a joke kill, they fire at a bum looking to light a cigarette and he blows up.

Froemming: That whole scene was a mess. I have no idea what they were trying to go for there, but it wasn’t cool or fun.

Brown: Then toward the end of that fight, MacLeod and the last henchmen battle swords on hoverboards. Cool concept, right? Nope. It’s as tedious as any of the sword fights from these movies. Sword fights can look cool: look at “Star Wars.” But every sword fight in the first two movies, it’s like they’re fighting slowly underwater. I’m watching “Highlander,” not “Thunderball.”

Froemming: Which brings me to that end fight scene between Katana and MacLeod. At least his fight with the Kurgan was entertaining; this was a couple of minutes and then he lobs Katana’s head off. Say what you will about these films and show, those sword fight scenes are usually fun to watch, but not here.

Brown: At least we got to hear MacLeod say “There can be only one” after killing Jeremy Ironside. One of the few parts of this film I genuinely enjoyed. Along with John C. McGinley being a smarmy corporate jerk similar to his Dr. Cox character in “Scrubs” and the scene where MacLeod and Connery  break into The Shield by using their immortality to their advantage.

Froemming: That, and Queen’s brief moment in the bar when “A Kind of Magic” plays.

Brown: Yeah, we could only get 10 seconds of Queen, but we can shoehorn a Sean Connery suit montage, a Connery flying scene where he flies in a plane made during “Indiana Jones” and Connery interrupting “Hamlet.” Jeez, Connery really was useless here.

Froemming: I think we hit on most of what I wanted to discuss here. Any final thoughts on this before we go to the recommendations?

Brown: I could go on and on about things that irritated me about this film, but I’m like old MacLeod: I’m ready for this to die.

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Would You Recommend?:

Froemming: No. This movie not only doesn’t work as a sequel, it doesn’t even work as a coherent movie. Again, the cinematography is at times pretty well done, but this movie just made no sense. From a canon perspective, it has been basically (SPOILER!) retconned by “Highlander: Endgame” because Connor dies in that one. None of the sequels after this were good by any means, but they look like “The Godfather II” in comparison to this drivel. I say, let this movie remain mostly forgotten. It is not worth the time.

Brown: No. I tried my best to not hold this movie up to its predecessor and judge it as a standalone movie. And on that standard, it’s still unwatchable. It’s amazing that not only did this movie get a sequel, but there were four more after this. This series is immortal somehow, so I propose we buy these films on DVD and cut them in half with a sword. Then, we can win The Prize.