Highlander: The Source, part two

Adrian Paul looks so pissed off to be in this movie.Picking up from where we left off last time

After forcibly kidnapping Duncan, Joe reveals two facts. First, the Watcher organization no longer exists. Wait, what?! Second, Methos and the other remaining immortals are looking for the Source, and Duncan is required to come along because Anna is joining up with them. Wait, what?!

As to the first fact: seriously? You’re just going to toss out the Watchers with one single line? This organization has canonically survived the Dark Ages. And don’t tell me that the Dark Ages are better than the post-apocalyptic world we’re seeing, because a global communication grid is still intact. People talk on cell phones in this world. They video chat. If the Watchers could survive an era where the average life expectancy was 20 years old and literacy didn’t exist outside of the Catholic Church, I think they can survive an era where computers, cell phones, and complex databases still exist. Oh yeah, and to confuse matters even further as to how this post-apocalyptic future works, Methos’ band includes a priest named Giovanni, who looks like Billy Idol’s deformed clone. Giovanni is in the Vatican and steps onto a clean Italian street and drives away to the meeting in a fine luxury car. In fact, all three immortals in Methos’ band seem to have it nice – the streets of Italy are clean, Methos lives in some random mansion, and the other no-background stock immortal Reggie leaves from an observatory. To recap, this dark future includes luxury sedans, peaceful mansions, a Rome whose streets are cleaner than they are now, and A FUNCTIONING OBSERVATORY. Judging from the costume designs for the character, it also includes dry cleaning and an ungodly amount of hairspray. And in the background of all of these locations, we see tourists and pedestrians calming walking around, wearing fine clothing and not behaving at all like one would expect after the fall of all society. Are we in a fucking post-apocalyptic future or not, movie?! The only sign of an actual apocalypse we’ve seen so far is Duncan wandering around central Europe, which even then doesn’t look worse than the modern-day Balkans. How is this future so bad that the Watchers have totally dissolved? HOW???

Left to right: Giovanni, Duncan, Anna.

Left to right: Giovanni, Duncan, Anna.

As to the second fact, why is Anna so important? Okay, we find out later that she has a psychic connection to the Source, but the significance of that is never explained. Moreover, the Source is easily trackable via satellite (yeah, the Internet and GPS systems still work, too) and the fact that every planet in the solar system is aligning directly above it. Anna exists only to provide romantic tension with Duncan, and that fails because the actors aren’t even trying – Anna’s actor is either terrible or just phoning it in, and Adrian Paul is looking like he’s wondering why he didn’t just stick to his original career ambition of being a model. The stupid is even getting to the actors.

The Elder

The Elder

The immortals all meet at a church, and Duncan and Methos get to verbally spar a bit. It seems that Methos doesn’t like Duncan anymore because he’s a sad sack after getting dumped and Duncan doesn’t like Methos anymore because…um…because. Inside the church, the immortals meet a giant blue muppet. I’m only half-kidding. The thing looks much worse than a muppet would on screen, but I couldn’t help but think of it as one. The fat, bloated, immobile muppet immortal is the Guardian, a 10,000-year old immortal. Um, yeah. Apparently Methos has been wasting his time being so elusive and getting hunted as the world’s oldest immortal, because there’s someone else twice his age sitting in a church somewhere. The Elder, as he is called, gives us what is supposed to be an explanation about the Source, but is hindered by an insipid script and the fact that we seem to have another actor in this film who just doesn’t give a damn (not that I can blame any of them). You can see the video here, since the movie is so bad the YouTube won’t let me embed most of it on this page.

Okay, I guess there is one flashback aside from Duncan and Anna in neutral space: this scene. But I don’t know if it’s a flashback or an acid trip. How were these guys running around fighting with swords in 8,000 BC? The world was just emerging from an Ice Age back then. The sword wasn’t even invented until 5,000 years later. Is this film trying to connect with Highlander II by giving us a distant past where everyone dressed like rejects from a Flash Gordon movie? And turning to the present day, why hasn’t anybody wacked the Elder and gained his power? He’s just sitting helpless in a church. Oh, I’m sure some of you might be saying, “He’s on holy ground. No immortal would ever fight there.” But Endgame established that the holy ground rule means precisely dick. And to emphasize that point, we’re about to have two immortals fight on holy ground without even a single mention of that rule.

Notice all the crosses in the background? THIS IS HOLY GROUND, IDIOT!

Notice all the crosses in the background? THIS IS HOLY GROUND, IDIOT!

Yeah, if you had, “Immortals can’t fight on holy ground” on your list, check that sucker off. The Guardian approaches the church, and Reggie, one of the immortals in Methos’ little pack, draws his sword and goes after him. The two fight on holy ground with no repercussions or even a mention of that most sacred rule among immortals. The Guardian easily dominates the fight because he’s fucking unstoppable, but then Joe steps up and shoots at him. The immortals in the church come out and attack the Guardian, with Duncan throwing his katana into the Guardian’s neck. The Guardian then removes said katana, breaks it, and uses it to kill Joe. Then he runs off, despite the fact that we still don’t know why he’s attacking and that he could easily kill all the immortals right now.

Oh yeah…in case that’s not enough, we get the Guardian singing “Who Wants to Live Forever” before his attack. Yeah. The 10,000 year old Guardian sings a Queen song. And he sings it badly. But don’t check off “awesome Queen music” on your list yet – we’ll revisit that soon.

If you had any mention of a MacLeod wielding a katana as an iconic Highlander image, though, check that off. The katana is shattered, and Duncan literally picks up a pair of butterfly swords off the ground later to fight with. And if you liked Joe as a character, shed a tear for him, because the cast doesn’t. Methos just walks off like an asshole and Duncan sits around staring blankly as Joe gives up the ghost.

Do you see what you did, you fucking creators? You created a movie so bad that even Jim Byrnes couldn’t save it! Jim Byrnes made the stupid “Duncan fights the Devil” storyline from the series palatable! His appearance as a guest star on The Raven signaled a huge upswing in the quality of that show! How can you create a monstrosity so bad that even the manly charm of Jim Byrnes can’t salvage it?!

Yeah, these are soooo much better than a badass katana.

Yeah, these are soooo much better than a badass katana.

Moving on, Anna can sense the Source with her psychic powers of plot convenience, but it doesn’t matter because Reggie can track it with his computer. Why is Anna necessary again? Did I mention that the whole freaking solar system is aligning at this one spot, to the point where Jupiter and Saturn are bigger than the moon in the night sky? That alone is filled with so much astronomy fail that it breaks the suspension of disbelief. The Earth itself should be ripped apart by the sheer gravitational force of that! Oh, but maybe it’s just “orbital wobble” like the asshole in a Methos mask stated earlier. Fuck you movie! Read a fucking textbook!

Joe gets buried and Duncan chooses to leave. Methos calls him out on betraying Joe’s memory by quitting on the mission, and he’s actually kind of got a point. I mean, the world has fallen apart (maybe), Joe is dead, some psycho with cheesy speed is killing immortals, and Duncan just wants to quit because some chick dumped him. Duncan gets pissed at Methos making a good point and decks him, then draws a sword. Now the holy ground rule gets mentioned, but Duncan blows it off by saying, “I don’t care.” Anna tries to intervene, but Reggie holds her back saying, “This is what we do.” Sorry, but no. This is not what immortals do. They don’t punch their old friends and then threaten them with swords on holy ground, especially not when Methos is absolutely right.

Duncan winds up staying with the group because Anna tells him they have to find the Source. So the heroes board a ship and sail to a random unnamed island inhabited by a pack of cannibals. And thus the immortals battle cannibals. And then…oh, and then…

Remember how I mentioned awesome Queen music? Yeah, you can now check that off your list. Remember “Princes of the Universe,” the iconic Highlander song that introduced the franchise? Well, feast your ears on this if you dare…go ahead, click the link and suffer.

That’s right, they butchered Queen. Think about what had to happen to get to this point. The movie had to pay Queen for the rights to “Princes of the Universe,” a song that introduced both the movie and the TV series. And then they paid another band to do a cover of the iconic song. And that band sucks. Dear God, they just suck. I could sing better than this, and I’m fucking tone deaf!!! This is some sort of unholy abomination of sound and agony!

Duncan fighting a cannibal with a metal pole. How can this even be identified as Highlander?

Duncan fighting a cannibal with a metal pole. How can this even be identified as Highlander?

At the beginning of the clip, you might have noticed that they show the same explosion from multiple angles. I actually cut out a couple of angles there, too. That’s a trick the director uses quite often, and it’s lame every single time. It’s basically just filler, since they obviously had to meet a certain running time and so needed to pad things out with big booms in hopes that the audience would get distracted from the unholy mess before them. I’m only mentioning it now in an attempt to think about something, anything, other than that cover of “Princes of the Universe.” These guys provide all the music in the movie, and it all sucks. It’s at this point for me that the movie went from being merely bad to something far worse than anything I had ever seen. Say what you want about Highlander II, but it kept the characters somewhat consistent with what had come before and it didn’t butcher Queen. Freddie Mercury, one of the most talented vocalists in all of history, is probably going to be spending a lot of time haunting the assholes responsible for this mess. They might as well have dug him out of his grave and slapped around his corpse. This single moment represents the rock bottom of the franchise. And even after the movie has hit rock bottom, it continues to try to claw its way even deeper.

The immortals take refuge at an abandoned service station…in the woods…with no roads around it. They post a watch that night, and it’s Reggie…the same guy who nearly got killed by the Guardian 24 hours earlier. And he’s drinking. And Duncan and Anna are going off in the woods to have sex. If this film really wanted to be more like Saw, it should have had the horny couple die right here and now. Instead we get a bunch of pseudo-philosophy from Duncan talking about how he always thought he’d learn why he spent 400 years of his life chopping people’s heads off to survive. Um, Duncan, you just answered your own question there. You did it to survive. Moreover, the Highlander mythology has never had to worry about this question, because up until now it has always been an obvious good versus evil scenario. The good guys have to keep fighting, because otherwise the bad guys will win the Prize and plunge mankind into an eternity of darkness. In The Source, though, that eternity of darkness seems to be here already. But at least the last immortal, if he’s a good guy, can use the Prize to bring humanity out of this darkness, right?

Heh…no. In fact, at the risk of spoiling things for you, just scratch “The Prize” right off your list. If you have, “There can be only one,” scratch that off your list, too. This movie reveals all of that to be total bullshit.

Oh my god...this movie is still going on?

Oh my god...this movie is still going on?

Instead the Guardian shows up and attacks Reggie, hacking at him with his sword but not beheading him before he disappears. The immortals never sensed him, and while they’re wondering why he managed to sneak up on him, they realize that Reggie isn’t reviving like an immortal should. That’s right – as the immortals approach the Source, they stop being immortal. This is the end result of Lionsgate demanding a grittier movie – immortals and swashbuckling action is not “gritty” enough, whatever that term even means, so we need to turn our heroes into mortals who fight roving packs of cannibals in a post-apocalyptic future. That idea sucks. Now as we enter the last act of this movie, we have no immortals in a franchise that is about immortals. How can a movie fuck things up this badly? At least Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin actually had Batman and Robin in it. This movie has systematically destroyed everything about the Highlander franchise. There is literally nothing recognizable as Highlander left. This should not be possible! No one should be this incompetent! The people responsible for this were paid money! It was aired on national television! This movie is the biggest argument for atheism out there. How can a universe that has any sort of just and loving God not only allow this dreck to exist, but to allow people to profit from it?!

So the remaining mortals in the band travel on the island. At one point they sense the Guardian, which directly contradicts the scene a few minutes earlier that says they can’t sense him. And then the whole gang is captured by a roving gang of cannibals who chain them above a massive fire pit but for some reason don’t just eat them. Giovanni manages to cut himself free with a hidden knife, then runs off without releasing the others because he’s a rat bastard. The Guardian shows up and cuts Anna loose and then runs off. Then Duncan manages to free himself and Methos, retrieve their swords, and head off after them. Giovanni, meanwhile, makes it to the Source and gets his head cut off by the Guardian, rendering him completely pointless. In fact, every scene that he’s been in has been pointless. His only purpose seems to be to present the most clichéd over the top Roman Catholic in existence, always talking about how God has a plan that involves the Source. And it—

Methos, why didn't you kill Giovanni at the beginning of this movie?

Methos, why didn't you kill Giovanni at the beginning of this movie?

Wait a minute. A painful movie that makes me question the existence of God? The outright defilement of the deceased Freddie Mercury? A character who seems to exist only to get people pissed off at organized religion? Aha! This movie isn’t an argument for atheism, it was created by the Devil! It wants us to cast aside any sense of righteousness in the universe and embrace Satan as the only way we can erase the trauma done by this film from our minds! It all makes perfect sense now! Highlander: The Source is a tool of Satan.

Okay, I got ahead of myself with Giovanni getting his head chopped. First he gets caught by the cannibals, to which Duncan leaps in to the rescue and saves him despite Methos urging him not to. Giovanni then runs off instead of helping in the battle, then gets his head cut off. Sorry. I was rushing through the events in an attempt to end the pain more quickly.

With more cannibals on the way, Methos rides away to distract them. Before he goes, he urges Duncan on to the Source, saying that Duncan is destined to unlock its secrets because he is, “the best of us.” Wait, what?!

Duncan MacLeod is not pure of heart. He’s a good guy, but he’s totally not pure of heart. Look through the series and see how many friends of his he killed. The man spent a generation or so cutting apart innocent Englishmen because they had harmed his Scottish clan, despite the fact that said Englishmen often had nothing to do with the battles that had scarred Scotland. His rigid adherence to a code of honor that has proven to be anachronistic has time and again resulted in innocent people dying. He beheaded his own pupil and friend because he was too weak of mind to see through Ahriman’s illusions. Even in this movie, he showed absolutely no purity of heart, spending the entire film sulking about being dumped by a chick who has shown no redeeming characteristics and even going so far as to walk away from the chance to save the world. If anything, the Duncan of the TV series was a man who tried to be good but constantly found him put in situations where he had to compromise his ethics because his attempts to break the world into good and evil just didn’t work. The Duncan in this movie is a moping morose moron who would rather be sitting on a rooftop crying than actually doing something productive. But now we’re supposed to believe that he’s pure of heart and the only one who can unlock the truth of the Source? Bite me, movie.

Not possible, movie. Just not fucking possible.

Not possible, movie. Just not fucking possible.

And so we reach the final battle. Duncan arrives at the Source and finds Anna there. In the Russian version, the Guardian appears by drilling his way out of the ground like Bugs Bunny after he missed a left turn at Albuquerque. The Syfy release cuts that out and just has the Guardian appear out of nowhere. For some reason, Duncan has cheesy speed now too, even though the Elder said he would get weaker as he approached the Source. And so we get this fight.

How bad is the fight? Well, like the butchery of “Princes of the Universe,” you can torture yourself by clicking on the following link.

This is the fight in its entirety.

Someone actually thought this would look cool. Just like everything else in this movie, it is a wasted chance to do something entertaining. Adrian Paul, despite all his flaws as an actor, is a very good swordsman. But instead of use that talent, the film gives us this crap that looks like someone running the film in fast forward. And this is the edited down version, too – the Russian release included Duncan and the Guardian fighting with magic sand as hopping into some other dimension for a bit. I have no more emotion at this point. No screaming, no ranting about this scene. I am just numb.

Duncan shows the Guardian mercy, which turns out to be the one thing that can defeat it. Wow, that’s not clichéd at all. The Guardian explodes (in the Russian release, he says, “I am cursed forever!”), and Duncan steps into the Source with Anna.

So now the planets move back into their alignment and everything goes back to normal, right? Wrong. You wanna know the secret of the Source? Do you really, really want to know?

The magic of the Source makes Anna pregnant.

Yep, that’s it. All this bullshit was not to save the world, but rather so this selfish bitch could get knocked up. Anna tells Duncan that she feels the life inside her, and Duncan smiles – at least I think he smiles. It looks more like Adrian Paul is grimacing, as though being in this ending scene is actually causing him physical pain.

Incidentally, the first movements of a fetus are known as the quickening. I doubt the writers knew this, or we’d have some parallel as to the irony here.

The climactic battle from the awesome first movie has now been rendered utterly pointless.

The climactic battle from the awesome first movie has now been rendered utterly pointless.

The movie ends in one of two ways. In the Syfy release, it ends with narration by Anna that explicitly states that the premise of the entire franchise has been bullshit. “There can be only one” was just a saying without meaning. The Source could only be accessed by the pure of heart, and its only reward was to give the “winner” a fucking baby. All the suffering, the angst, the lost loves of the series meant nothing. Connor MacLeod fought the Kurgan for nothing, because the Kurgan could never have entered the Source because he wasn’t pure of heart. Duncan and Methos teaming up to stop the Four Horsemen meant nothing, because the world still fell into chaos and Kronos could never have accessed the Source. Darius dying meant nothing because the thing James Horton feared – that immortals would one day rule mankind – could never have come to pass because the Source offered no power and no wisdom – it offered nothing beyond the chance to have a fucking baby.

The Russian release is even worse, but it takes a moment to really let things sink is. Just before we get a big CG image of Anna’s unborn baby, Duncan whispers, “He is the one.”

He is the one.

He is the goddamned poultry fornicating whale fisting goat humping mother fucking ONE!!!

As in, “There can be only one.”

As in, this entire franchise has been a buildup to this pathetic pitiful goddamned ending. With every immortal in fucking history locked into an eternal struggle just to see who can have a baby.

GAAAAAAHHH!!!

Oh yeah, and good job bringing a new kid into this crapsack world, Duncan. This fucking world with roving gangs of cannibals and an Earth that is probably doomed because the Source did nothing to stop Jupiter and Saturn getting so close that they are larger than the moon in the night sky. Good luck getting off the island of heavily armed cannibals with your pregnant bitch, Duncan. And good luck trying to give this kid a world worth living in, even if it doesn’t get ripped to shreds by the massive gas giants in its orbit.

To make matters worse, the end credits include more fucking music from that fucking band who ruined “Princes of the Universe,” including an equally painful rendition of the other classic Highlander song “Who Wants to Live Forever.” We get one more kick in the nuts on the way out the door.

The final image in the Highlander franchise: a CGI fetus.

The final image in the Highlander franchise: a CGI fetus.

Believe it or not, this movie was not made by people who wanted to permanently kill the Highlander franchise. This was supposed to be a trilogy, theoretically kicking off a new generation of immortals led by Duncan’s kid. If there is anything to be thankful about this movie, it’s that it was so bad that it finally killed the franchise once and for all. This is it for live action Highlander movies – there is no more Duncan MacLeod, no more Methos, nothing. And after this film, I am nothing but thankful for that fact.

So, what have we learned from this journey through the Highlander franchise? Well, I personally have been reminded of how much damage executive meddling can do to a series. The first movie was innovative and creative, written by a film student rather than someone in the studio system. From then on, the production company and movie studios took hold and drove the franchise into the dirt, each thinking they knew better as to how to create a successful film than people who were supposed to be the actual creative team. Aside from the movie, the only part of this franchise that was guided by people who were associated with the creative side rather than the financial side was the TV series, which turned out to be pretty damned good. Highlander: The Source is the end result of a production company trying to squeeze every last dime out of a franchise with no regard for quality control.

What’s even more disturbing about this whole thing is that Davis-Panzer Productions is still in control of the Highlander license and is currently working on a remake of the original movie. I initially had some hopes for the project, since it would actually be kind of nice to see Highlander rebooted and given a proper franchise with a coherent continuity, rather than the mess we got as the creators tried to work around the fact that the first movie never really left room for a sequel. But this movie, tentatively titled Highlander: The Reckoning, is a straight remake of the first film, with Connor and the Kurgan fighting as the last immortals (albeit with a ham-fisted nonsensical sequel hook tossed in at the end). It’s currently set to be directed by Justin Lin, whose name is attached to such artistic projects as Fast & Furious. In short, it looks like one more attempt to pull this franchise out of its grave and make some money off of it, this time by cashing in on (and possibly ruining) the original, magical film that once held such promise.

Currently, Highlander: The Reckoning or whatever its final title will be is in developmental hell, and I hope it stays there for all eternity. Even if it does come out, I doubt you’ll see a rant from me about it, as I never intend to sit down and watch it. Davis-Panzer, please let this franchise rest in peace. Find another project to milk money out of rather than trying to go back to the well on a movie that saw its best day all the way back in 1986. And Highlander fans, just move on. We’re like a bunch of abused spouses, never leaving this thing that has caused us so much pain. Just walk away, finally. If you need more incentive to finally leave this brutal, painful franchise behind, just take another good look at Highlander: The Source.

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One Response to “Highlander: The Source, part two”

  1. gentle_current Says:

    If you ever wondered what it might feel like to receive a Dark Quickening: watch The Source.

    However, in all fairness I have to say that the basic story really had potential. Only, sadly, nobody made use of it.

    The actors certainly did their best under the circumstances. It’s hard to act well in a bad movie, but somehow they all managed.
    Jim Byrnes: as good as always (come to think of it – I’ve not once ever seen him acting badly. This man is truely amazing). Adrian Paul and Peter Wingfield were not at their best but still very good. The young gentleman who played Reggie (my appologies, I can’t remember the name atm) was excellent. A straight, honest, flawless performance. He managed to give the character a life.

    A complete nightmare: the make up. With the ancient immortal and the Guardian they really exaggerated it. Less would have been so much more! Half a pound of silicone shared among the two actors would have been more than sufficient.

    On the whole, a movie one won’t forget that quickly. Though not exactly for the reasons intended by the producers.

    If I had the money, I’d do a remake with the same cast. With a few expurgations (the final showdown – most literally screwed up – and the whole cannibal stuff), better makeup, proper research on cardinals (manners, looks and minimum age – the vatican has very strict guidelines there) and a few minor changes to the script, this could have been a glorious movie, possibly even as good as the double-epi Comes A Horseman/Revelations in the series.

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