Highlander II: The Quickening, part two

A tale so stupid it needed two rants.All right. I’ve taken my medication, stopped placing threatening calls to Davis-Panzer Productions, and cleansed my palate with a couple episodes from Highlander: The Series. I am now ready to dive back into Highlander II.

While Connor is suddenly remembering his time on Zeist after being ignorant of it decades after he gained absolute knowledge through winning the Prize, a woman named Louise breaks into the Shield Corporation, a standard evil cyberpunk megacorp that is taxing people into poverty in order to keep the Shield up. Louise learns that the ozone has replenished itself, rendering the Shield unnecessary. That, of course, raises the question of what happens if people don’t pay their taxes to the Shield Corporation? Does the Shield get taken down, forcing that person to live in…gasp…sunlight? Well, that actually can’t be it, because the Shield is revealed to have been meant to be permanent, meaning that it can’t be taken down.

Whatever…let’s just move on.

And…oh boy, do I need to take some painkillers. The stupid plot is really wearing me down. Louise tries to get Connor to help her to take the Shield down, but Connor is too old and tired to even try. Meanwhile, on Zeist, General Katana launches the stupidest plan ever. Take what we know from the movie so far: the immortals were exiled to Zeist to fight until only one was left. That last person had the option to either return to Zeist or to grow old and die. Connor chose to grow old and die. Ergo, he is no threat whatsoever to Katana. But, if Connor is not the last immortal left, he loses the Prize and becomes immortal again – a potential threat. So what does Katana do? Why, naturally he sends two minions to Earth to kill Connor. Why did he wait until forty years after Connor had won the Prize? Why does he feel the need to kill Connor now, after he’s an old man who has given up? This plan is so stupid that even his own minions points it out. What does Katana do? He just smacks his much smarter minion.

Oh, and speaking of the minions…my god…if there was any chance that anybody could possibly take this movie seriously after the planet Zeist reveal, this tanks it entirely:

Yes, this is really from the film.

Come on…those aren’t immortals. They’re hedgehogs on hoverboards.

The hedgehog twins (known as Reno and Corda in the credits) bring up yet another on the rapidly growing list of problems with this movie: a matter of style. The original film was filled with 80s cheese, with the Kurgan being the prime offender, but it embraced its style in a way that worked. First of all, the Kurgan wasn’t introduced with a bald head and biker leathers, but rather on a medieval battlefield decked out in badass armor. Secondly, he embraced the style because it made him seem dangerous in the time period. He even played it up as a way of taunting Connor. The cheesiness in Highlander worked. But these guys…no one can see them as a credible threat. You can toss out ideas of aliens, time travelers, a cyberpunk future, or whatever. It just doesn’t matter. These guys are not a threat to anybody – they are a total freaking joke. And they prove that in the next scene, where a geriatric Connor kills them both. And that leads to yet another stupid problem with the film. Jeezus.

In the flashback on Zeist, Ramirez told Connor that they could not be separated, even by death. All Connor has to do is call out his name and they will be joined again. Connor does just that while fighting the hedgehog twins. The quickening from the first one gives him his youth and immortality back (and also allows him to survive an explosion without causing any damage to his clothing). When Connor takes out the second one, he calls out Ramirez’s name, and in a burst of unexplained magic, Ramirez appears alive and well in Scotland where he last died.

Really, movie? You’re saying that all Connor had to do was call out Ramirez’s name and he gets resurrected? So in 400+ years after his death in the first film, he never said Ramirez’s name? Heck, I know that’s not true because he says it in the first freaking movie itself, in the church scene when he says, “Ramirez didn’t cut you deeply enough” to the Kurgan. Was it a volume issue? Maybe he had to really bellow it so Ramirez could hear him all the way in the afterlife.

Look, I know that Christopher Lambert wasn’t going to do this movie without Sean Connery, but why bring him back like this? This is Highlander, a franchise about immortals. You can have a large portion of the movie in flashback. Hell, Ramirez wasn’t alive in the present day in the first movie, but they still had him as a major supporting character through the power of flashbacks. Why do you have to insult the audience even more with this shit?

So once Connor is back to being young, he and Louise have sex. They share about one line of dialogue and then go at it like rabbits on Viagra. It seems like in these movies Connor always gets the girl once he reveals his immortality. I guess chicks just dig a guy who can’t die or something. Either way, the sudden romance is one of the least stupid parts of the film. More stupid is their post-coital talk when Connor explains the whole Zeist thing to her. She calls him out on the bizarre stupidity of the logic, and Connor just blows it off. This is the second time in the movie that a supporting character has pointed out how stupid the plot is. Why would you do that in your own fucking movie?! Was this Russell Mulcahy subtly getting back at the bond company for screwing with his film?

Connor and Louise then visit the Shield Corporation to try and figure out how to take down the Shield. During their time at the corporation, Blake (John McGinley’s B villain) comes in, sees Connor totally young and energetic, and doesn’t even treat it as anything bizarre. Weird; since this movie seems to love pointing out its own stupidity, I would have expected some more of that here.

Meanwhile, Katana decides that he needs to go to Earth. Yes, he even delivers the cliché, “I guess if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” He teleports into the subway and immediately tries to pretend that he’s the Kurgan from the first movie. Let’s see if you can tell the difference…

This is the Kurgan tormenting Connor’s loved one in order to mess with Connor’s head prior to their climactic battle:

This is Katana doing the same thing because…um, he loves choo-choos?

What a weird thing for the filmmakers to turn into a Highlander trademark. This type of thing happens in the third movie, too. Why would the creative team pick “cheesy villain terrifies city by driving recklessly” as something that needs to define the franchise? Big guys hacking at each other with swords, explosive quickenings, and the catchphrase “There can be only one” weren’t enough?

This is a pretty pointless scene, but it also raises yet another question: does Zeist get cable or something? One of Katana’s first sentences upon landing on Earth is a reference to The Wizard of Oz. Later on in the film, he mentions a sports draft. Was there a reason to have the alien general from another world spout out random pop culture references? I don’t remember seeing those references in the original script. Was it ad-libbing by Michael Ironside? Did the folks involved in this movie just decide to sabotage it when they realized how bad it was going to be?

Katana soon encounters Connor on holy ground and basically struts around talking about how his dick is bigger. Connor then takes his turn in calling out Katana on his dumbass plan, pointing out that he was just going to grow old and die until Katana interfered. That’s three times now in this movie that someone has either pointed out that Katana is a dumbass or that the whole plot makes no sense. Seriously, why do that? Is this somehow meant to be a comedy and not a kick to the balls for people who liked the first movie?

Meanwhile, Ramirez pays for a trans-Atlantic flight and a custom tailored suit with a single pearl earring. This is supposed to be the comic relief portion of the film, as though we haven’t had that from the beginning, as Ramirez gets used to a world full of weird technology. Except that he clearly remembers Zeist, which had technology easily eclipsing Earth’s, even in the dark future. Why is he afraid to fly when he comes from a planet that has spaceships and teleporters?

Luckily, at this point it’s easy enough to gloss over the details. Connor and Ramirez are reunited, Katana teams up with Blake in a bid to hunt down and kill Connor before he can shut down the Shield. There are a lot of contrived scenes, such as when Connor and Ramirez break into a secured facility and let themselves get shot up so they can be taken to the morgue and then wake up and kick ass (even though that’s not how “death” for immortals worked in the first movie) – except that Louise is in their trunk, which is remarkably unharmed by the thousands of rounds of gunfire that hits their car.

Later on in the march through the Shield facility, Blake reveals that the corporation apparently uses the same architects that Bond villains hire out for their lairs when Connor, Ramirez, and Louise are trapped in a room with a razor-sharp fan lowering toward the immortals’ heads. The solution? Ramirez gives some vague speech about summoning up all his life force, then promptly explodes, destroying the fan and saving Connor and Louise. WHY? WHY WHY WHY? Why go through the trouble of bringing Ramirez back only to kill him moments later? Ramirez was in numerous pointless comedy scenes, then has a talk with Connor and then explodes? Whatever.

Oh, and nice job pulling yet another thing completely out of nowhere. Ramirez can perform one-time miracles with the whole “summon your life force” thing at will? Then why didn’t you go and kill the Kurgan that way back in the first film, thus sparing Connor and everyone else a lot of pain, you stupid Spanish Zeistian peacock?

You know what? This rant is going to be novel-length if I point out all the plotholes. Sorry. I just get a little touchy about atrocious, gouge-your-eyes-out-it’s-so-bad filmmaking.

After Ramirez magically foils the stupid death trap, Blake joins the party in pointing out how stupid Katana is and is promptly killed for his troubles. Then Katana and Connor fight. Katana gets the upper hand by knocking Connor down an elevator shaft, but then leaves instead of finishing him off. Connor finds him again, and they fight again…only this time, Connor mysteriously has Ramirez’s katana again, even though he hasn’t had it for the entire movie and it was last seen exploding with Ramirez.

Regardless, spoiler alert about the final battle: Connor wins! Katana’s quickening destroys the Shield, the Earth gets its sky back, and everyone lives happily ever after except for the fans.

If you watched the original release or one of the multiple director’s cuts, then the film ends when Connor decides to stay on Earth with Louise. I myself prefer the ending used in the European release, where Connor and Louise instead travel to Zeist:

Why do I like that piece of shit ending, which features Connor and Louise flying into space like Peter fucking Pan? Because it perfectly sums up Highlander II: incomprehensible, paper-thin, and almost hilariously bad. I think the movie needs that extra bit to just remind the audience on the way out that yes, the movie was that bad.

Roger Ebert summed up Highlander II nicely with these lines:

Highlander II: The Quickening is the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I’ve seen in many a long day – a movie almost awesome in its badness. Wherever science fiction fans gather, in decades and generations to come, this film will be remembered in hushed tones as one of the immortal low points of the genre.

You know, say what you will about Roget Ebert, but the man had a prophetic moment right there. It is twenty years this month since this movie was released, and it is still the example of a shitty sequel. No matter how bad other sequels are, people take comfort in the knowledge that it is not Highlander II.

For some reason though, Highlander II didn’t manage to kill this franchise. Attribute it to the power of the first film, which somehow kept fans interested even after this cinematic equivalent of someone pouring chum in your eyes and ears. There was still much to come for Highlander. Some of it was good, some was bad, and yes, one was even worse than this film, but all of it thankfully ignored the mess that is Highlander II.

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One Response to “Highlander II: The Quickening, part two”

  1. “That’s three times now in this movie that someone has either pointed out that Katana is a dumbass or that the whole plot makes no sense. Seriously, why do that?”

    For the same reason that Gremlins 2 did it: to send up the first movie while recognizing how superfluous a follow-up really is. Clearly, Peter Bellwood and Russel Mulcahy were not too thrilled about Bill Panzer’s premise for the film, so they went about crafting a tongue-in-cheek madcap sequel that reveled in its own purposelessness. Throughout the whole movie, everyone is stopping and asking themselves, “Why are we even doing this? The story was over!”

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