Highlander movie full length review - Fun, cool, but unremarkable
Ah, Highlander! An epic tale of immortals locked in a vast struggle, slowly decapitating each other over the centuries until there is only one, who shall win the mysterious Prize.
Things don't get much cooler! My first experience of Highlander was through the Queen soundtrack, which is, to say the least, amazing. I had a brief encounter with the TV series during my youth, but I was far too young to understand it while it was still on the air. Still, the concept and the soundtrack (which pretty much tells the story by itself) left me with high expectations.
To be honest though, I felt very disappointed. It's painful to think that someone could take all this good stuff, throw in some brilliant actors, have some (for the day) stunning special effects, and churn out something so average.
Christopher Lambert does his best as Connor MacLeod, The Highlander, who we are lead to believe is suffering constant anguish from his immortal life, seeing everyone he cares about die one by one while he lives on. Sadly the script doesn't explore this in a particularly creative way. As we all know, all 80's movies - even really good ones - must have a pointless and poorly explained love interest, and in this movie she comes in the form of Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart). The idea is that she resurfaces the pain of Connor's wife's death centuries ago, but more time is dedicated to cliché "romance" scenes than to Connor's development as a character, and Brenda just comes over as annoyingly superfluous.
By far the best character in the movie is Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, played by Sean Connery, who as well as bringing a lot of good humour to the movie, also gives a good sense of what being an immortal is all about; his Scottish accent, claim of Spanish nationality and long deceased Japanese wife really give a feeling that he's lived long enough to really see the world, and at a time when travel was slow and dangerous. Connery is lively and exciting in his role, in stark contrast to the awkward character development of MacLeod, or the boring two-dimensional nature of...
The Kurgan (Clancy Brown). Now, immortals, by nature, go around slicing each other's heads off purely in pursuit of a Prize that they don't know the value of. They're killers - not nice people. Even McLeod, a "good" immortal, is a cold, ruthless serial killer. So it would make sense that his greatest enemy would be truly vile. Sadly, Victor Kruger comes over as laughably fake. He looks evil, sounds evil... he goes into churches and extinguishes prayer candles with an evil laugh and threatens mortals just because they irritate him. You half expect to see him beating up eight year old kids for their lunch money. In all fairness, he comes across as truly terrifying, but just not realistic - and there's certainly no explanation for his evilness, nor any character development.
For all of these things I would still rate Highlander as a great movie based on this. I can do without strong character development for a story this cool. However, what drives the movie down is that the filmmakers succeeded in then ruining its main virtues! Firstly, the Queen soundtrack... If you haven't watched this movie yet, I suggest you purchase a copy of "A Kind of Magic" by Queen and try to build up the story in your head from that. When I did this, I got the idea of a sort of explosive rock-opera - an all-action musical. This may sound a bit cheesy, but at least it would be a good use of great music, and probably a hell of a lot of fun too. Instead, Highlander throws in the occasional minute and a half of Queen as and when the producers felt like it, interspersed with more boring yet appropriate music in between. This just makes the Queen music seem obnoxiously abused and out of place, in the same way that a bunch of Film Studies students today would think Linkin Park is an appropriate choice of music for the tense moments in a murder mystery. Yes, I've seen that done, so I have a good idea of what they were thinking when they made Highlander: "omg kewl!!1"
Also, I didn't feel that the scale of the plot was being used to its full extent. We have a plot covering centuries, and you'd expect new immortals to be coming about all the time. So why did we only see half a dozen immortals in the whole movie? The whole Gathering - the time when all immortals are drawn to one place to fight to the death - was so low-brow, in fact, that I didn't even realise it WAS the Gathering until near the end! I expected the whole thing to be immense, with New York in chaos and the whole thing finally being exposed to the world. In fact, when the movie finally gets to the climatic battle between McLeod and the Kurgan seems to occur without a single ounce of cinematic ceremony. The battle ends, however, in a way that screws up something awesome even more spectacularly boringly than before. The Highlander wins the Prize by besting the Kurgan in single combat. There is nothing else to say about that. He simply wins the fight by fighting better. Nothing clever, meaningful, or that has anything to do with the rest of the plot. Worse yet, it turns out that the Prize is that McLeod can have kids and grow old and die. And apparently he gets universal knowledge, which he promises to use to end poverty and cure cancer in an aggravating Miss Universe-like speech.
I'm probably being too harsh. Highlander is a good fun to watch, and has a lot of good material in it. But quite simply, don't expect anything out of the ordinary.