In a time where men have to fight with swords, victims do not die until they get their heads cut off; the mentors are not wise unless they have a beard and where justice lies in the hands of the stronger opponent, in that time lives Highlander Connor MacLeod. However, not any longer it seems. In this abomination of a movie from Russell Mulcahy, CONNOR MACLEOD (Christopher Lambert) comes from a Planet called Zeist, and due to his rebellion, he is punished with an exile to Earth, which makes him an extraterrestrial out of the immortal man who lived in the middle ages, in the first film. The film’s main crew allowed a change in the mythology of Highlander in this sequel, with unfortunate results. Fans were outraged; moviegoers furious and even the kid who lives in the neighbourhood cannot accept that kind of twist. Nonetheless, this movie has its sparks that entertain a big audience, judging by the release of a blu-ray edition. Blu-ray releases do not happen to movies that no one will buy, so let us see what’s inside this turkey.
CONNER MACLEOD’S CHARACTER
In order to make sense of his character I will not refer to the previous movie. This movie is not a direct sequel, so I will treat the character as if he just appeared. On Planet Zeist, he was chosen by the Quickening to be the next leader of the rebellion after RAMIREZ (Sean Connery). Judging by his reaction, he didn’t want to lead his men to certain death. Fear and anxiety was written all over his face when he accepted to be the leader. And because of his insecurity, the bad guys won, capturing him and Ramirez, and killing everybody else. He lost his fellows and his fighters, but there was no reaction to that loss. Even as they punished him, he didn’t show any kind of emotion, like regret, or loss, or even sadness. He accepted his faith. On earth, now as an old man, he has a bad reputation, but his pride is strong and he manages to control people’s outbursts when they realise who they are talking to. People are angry because he invented the shield around the earth to protect the civilisation of high radiation rays of the sun. During his ‘prison time’, he had two wives (which both died) and he was a successful engineer, last but not least, he was rich.
Driving a Porsche, living in a luxury flat with Greek statues and enjoying Operas became his everyday occupation. The job for the TSC did pay off. No longer an employee of the firm, he can enjoy his ‘retirement’ as he’s waiting for his death.
When he meets LOUISE MARCUS (Virginia Madsen), his first response is to have sex with her. It didn’t matter if he just met her, or that she would refuse, no, he was charged after he battled two warriors from Zeist and she was the release button. His second wife died from deadly sunrays in 1995, and 29 years, up until 2024, is a long time to be alone. Beside this incident, MacLeod has his emotions under control. When his wife died, he didn’t shed a tear, he just walked away. He is not a cold-hearted bastard; he just doesn’t want to deal with such occurrences. Later on, we see how he still visits his wife’s grave and he still speaks fondly of her. When in trouble, he doesn’t plan in advance, but he manages to fix any problem there is. The only bad thing he has to endure is close people dying on him. It’s tough to be immortal.
Although he was the leader of a rebellion on Zeist, he has not an ounce of ‘bad’ in him. In the end, it’s almost inevitable to sacrifice himself for greater good, and of course, he beats the bad guy, gets the girl and comes out without a scratch.
SYMBOLISM AND METAPHORS
Throughout the film, many themes occur that are worth mentioning. The first one being life and death. Many people die and many people want to inflict pain and death. However, it all seems irrelevant. Deaths are not mourned, life isn’t precious and immortality feels like a disease.
MacLeod’s close ones that died:
1. Connor’s wife. He just said ‘I love you’, and walked away finding a way to save everybody on the planet.
2. Dr. Alan Neyman, his former partner. He told him the coordinates for the shield and MacLeod said ‘We did the right thing’, and then he walked away to save the planet.
3. Ramirez, his mentor. He saved MacLeod and his hot new girlfriend from losing their heads by sacrificing himself. MacLeod said ‘Will I ever see you again?’ and Ramirez responded ‘Who knows.’ MacLeod smiled and then walked away to save the planet.
The villain GENERAL KATANA (Michael Ironside) did the worst thing possible. He didn’t let Connor die of natural causes, no, he send his warriors to Earth to kill him, but they made him young and immortal again.
‘After all this time I was ready to kick back, grow old and die. You changed everything. And now I’m back to square one. Immortal. Again!’
It’s never clarified why Katana had this sudden urge to kill MacLeod.
Something that WAS LEFT OFF is PICKED UP again:
Louise’s terrorist attack in the beginning of the movie has a set of camera shots that are shown again later on, when she and MacLeod brake into the TSC to shut down the shield.
Alan Neyman and MacLeod talk by writing on the computer what they want to say, because Neyman knows his boss, David Blake, is watching him. When David enters the office, he interrupts the conversation, dragging Neyman out of the office. One would assume, he would tell him that he knows what MacLeod said to Neyman, but not until the next scene, where David storms into Neyman’s office declaring that he knew what he and MacLeod were talking about. This doesn’t make sense.
Many scenes include some kind of a visual effect that is showing a hole. It is a metaphor for the Ozone shield around the planet and how many times it’s been destroyed by the people. Also, many rooms include an air conduct that symbolises the ozone holes. It can be taken as a subliminal warning, which people should take seriously, but it’s a shame how bad the execution ended up to be.
It’s significant how the warriors and MacLeod have the same kind of goggles. MacLeod and his scientists try to protect their eyes from the laser beam that sends off the shield around the planet, what is the warriors’ excuse for wearing the same light protecting goggles? And if the warriors wear it, does it mean it is alien technology and MacLeod brought an invention from Zeist to earth? Is the sun on Zeist also death threatening? It’s never explained, but it raises curious questions.
An interesting notion is presented so sublime that one needs to pay close attention to see it. When MacLeod is going into his usual bar, he drives past graffiti on the wall that says ‘VERDE‘ (ital. Green). There is no green in this dystopian future. Because the shield blocked out the sun, the vegetation could not sustain and died. People of this ‘New York City’ crave fresh air and green plants, but they cannot have them. That is why the outraged woman attacked MacLeod.
From the Opera, along the neon sign of RAP to the jukebox that played Queen. Music references are all over the movie. They are hidden, but still there. Seems like music is the only entertainment that is left in this kind of future.
A truck comes loose and the wagon with giant lips on the front comes towards MacLeod. Conner just killed someone after a long time and he got his soul and became younger. These lips represent the ‘welcome back’ gesture to point out he’s back on his game.
STRUCTURE OF THE FILM
- ESTABISHING THE GOAL: It’s not clear what the goal is. It could be the awaiting death of MacLeod, or Katana’s wish to kill MacLeod, or Louise’s goal to find out what’s wrong with the shield.
- CONFLICT: Katana sends his warriors to kill MacLeod and he kills them.
- DISSAPOINTMENT: MacLeod is not dead, he’s immortal again. This is Katana’s disappointment. MacLeod’s disappointment is that he’s not dead.
- REACTION: Katana’s doing everything he can think of to stop MacLeod. Connor is going to find out if he can stop the shield.
- DILEMA: Ramirez dies sacrificing himself to save Louise and Connor. Can Connor stop the shield and save the planet?
- DECISION: He sacrifices himself by going into the laser beam of the shield. He doesn’t die, so he saves the planet.
Highlander II is not made with a structure, that’s why the movie feels uneven and chaotic at times. It has no clear purpose and no clear goal. Audiences are devastated by the changes made by the director but also they couldn’t enjoy this movie, because it fails to create a clear connection with the moviegoer. Unidentifiable characters bring lousy storytelling to the surface and the moral of the story can’t be established.
It’s well known that the movie has many cuts. Director’s cut, theatrical cut and many changes were made to please the audience. In this version there are many flashback scenes during MacLeod’s visit in the Opera. It’s not great editing, but it’s sufficient. Besides the bad editing of the whole movie, there are some good transition decisions made, how to show the flashbacks.
1. The singer in the Opera spins his cloak and the transition begins within that spin.
2. MacLeod and Louise talk about the blue sky and the transition happens when the shot of a blue sky appears on the Planet Zeist.
‘You ever seen the blue sky?’
3. MacLeod put the goggles in 2024, spins and he’s in 1999 taking his goggles off.
4. After the fight with Katana, Connor falls down on an elevator and breaks half of his body. He stays lying on the top of the elevator. The transition occurs when the next shot shows Louise sleeping safe and sound in Connor’s flat. That contrast of happenings is a very good transition.
One of the funniest gags is the recitation of Katana talking about a penis:
‘ASHES TO ASHES
DUST TO DUST
IF YOU DON’T TAKE IT OUT AND USE IT
IT’S GOING TO RUST’
Just about every scene with Ramirez! From a mentor with honour and dignity, Ramirez has become the comic relief in this movie. The jokes work, but it’s also a shame to see that character perform these low brow comedy.
The scene in the subway where Katana takes over the control is so over the top, it seems like a scene from a different movie.
In the beginning of the movie MacLeod asks a frantic woman:
‘There are some people in this world who know when to stop and some that don’t. Which kind are you?’
This question could be pointed directly to the director, because the first movie was great. So, what happened on this movie that he lost sight of how ridiculous the scenes are? A good director would make a bad movie into an, at least, ordinary movie. It looks like the director didn’t know when to stop.
CONTRADICTIONS OR MISTAKES
There are so many contradictions present in this movie, that are without a justification. To name a few:
RAMIREZ was beheaded in the first movie. Immortals die without their head. How did he come back?
Katana’s actions couldn’t be more unclear. Nothing he does has a result; he is always falling two steps behind. For a general, he must be just plain stupid.
1. Sending warriors to kill MacLeod. He was going to die anyway, like NIMROD said, but Katana wants him dead without explanation.
2. Taking the subway to maximum speed. This scene has no purpose at all. There is no explanation why Katana needs to take this subway like a maniac to high speed, no explanation whatsoever.
3. Fighting on Holy Ground. Katana said ‘the golden rule: We must never fight on Holy Ground‘, but later on, they fight in an abandoned church, which still qualifies as Holy Ground.
4. Joining the TSC Corporation. For what purpose exactly?
5. Losing so easily in the fight with MacLeod. Katana is big on words, but his fighting skills are weak. In the final battle, he was easily overthrown.
1. The moment Katana arrived on earth and fell into a subway he asked: ‘Where am I? This ain’t Kansas?‘. This is a direct reference to ‘Wizard of Oz’ when Dorothy first came to Oz. And ‘Godzilla’ is shown briefly.
The truck MacLeod and Louise are driving is overrunning Katana. Katana isn’t dead; he comes back from behind the truck. This is a reference to the same scene from ‘Big trouble in little China‘ from John Carpenter.
During the break into the MAX Prison, Ramirez and MacLeod are being shot at with machine guns. Not only are they heavily injured, they are also butchered. This scene is reminiscent of the end of the movie ‘Bonnie and Clyde‘.
The beginning of the movie plays out in the desert where the rebellion happens. This desert reminds too much of the desert in ‘Dune‘. Only the Sandworms are missing.
The ‘hover-board’ scene reminds not only of ‘Back to the future‘ but also of ‘Masters of the universe‘, where the bad guys had similar toys.
This film is not only full of references from older films, it seems like the Wachovski brothers were very fond of this movie, because there are so many clues in the ‘Matrix trilogy’ that could be traced back to this film:
1. These two moron-warriors remind too much of the ghostly enemies in ‘Matrix reloaded’.
2. Morpheus said that the humans scorched the sky, which devastated the planet. The same thing happened in Highlander. MacLeod’s shield looks like fire in the sky, and because of the shield the planet became a dystopia like in Blade Runner.
3. In ‘Matrix revolutions’, on the way to machine-city, Neo and Trinity fly above the scorched clouds and see a beautiful blue sky for the first time in their lives. Louise said she wanted to see the sky before she dies and that wish was fulfilled.
4. In the end, the only way to destroy the shield is for MacLeod to get inside the laser beam. In Matrix revolutions, Neo had to get into the Matrix, and after the fight, a huge light came from within his body and he died. MacLeod didn’t die, because he’s immortal and Neo wasn’t.
This movie is nothing like the first movie. This one has broken every rule established in the first one, but it has offered a new perspective on the franchise. This film has all the qualities a CAMP MOVIE should have; it doesn’t take itself seriously, ridiculous over the top acting, illogical happenings, too many contradictions, bad editing and plenty of untactful jokes.
‘GOD DAMN. SHIT. FUCK. YEAH.’