Saturday, April 14, 2012

REVIEW: Highlander 2 (1990)

This sequel to the 80s bastion of moldy cheese that was Highlander is reviled by many fans of the original movie for reasons that...well, let’s be honest, the reasons why people hate this sequel become apparent about a minute and a half into the movie. Maybe even before that. But is it really one of the worst sequels of all time? Is it really such a travesty? Well, why don’t we do that thing I always do and figure it out together?!

Director: Russel Mulcahy
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Sean Connery, Michael Ironside

So before we even get to the actual film, how about the Netflix envelope? This movie is so half-assed and confusing that even the envelope it comes in from a movie rental service is apologizing for it, admitting that it is so stupid that nobody could for even one second find it credible. These are the words, printed verbatim from the outside package, that come with Highlander 2: “This sequel to the cult sci-fi action film largely discards the original’s premise of mysterious immortal swordsmen, revealing Connor McLeod and Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez to be long-lived aliens.”

Yeah, “largely discards the original’s premise.” As if they’re just warning you not to rent this crap! And yes, this is real; the Highlanders are aliens, complete with a plot about what amounts to saving the world from global warming. Are we still in the same universe? How does this have ANYTHING to do with Highlander? And it’s by the same director as the first one?!? Did he just get a surprise back-alley lobotomy in between films? There’s only a three year difference! What the hell happened? Well, I guess we’ll never find out if we just sit around bitching about it all afternoon.

The film begins with a text scroll explaining that the ozone layer just mysteriously deteriorated so much by the year 1990 something that scientists had to construct a “shield” to protect humanity from radiation poisoning, which eventually backfired and almost entirely eclipsed the sun. Now an evil corporation controls the “shield” and uses it to blackmail the public. Yeah, sounds like Highlander to me, too! I guess this could be a good plot for an entirely different movie, but for a Highlander sequel…this is just out of left field.

And remember how the last movie started with a wrestling match flashing back to medieval Scotland? Well, this movie starts out with an opera:

…and then flashes back to the warlike planet Mars as alien tribes ready themselves for battle! And no I swear I am not making this up:

Yeah, apparently the Netflix envelope was telling the truth – Connor McLeod (Christopher Lambert) and…well, Sean Connery, since let’s face it, none of you are going to call him by his character name…are aliens in some space war, captured by this alien warlord Highlander guy named Katana. This character is played very poorly by Michael Ironside, a great actor stooping to an almost unheard of low by acting in this dreck. He banishes McLeod and Connery to Earth, where the events of the first movie transpire over hundreds of years.

…you know, there are just some things that remained better unexplained. Honestly, who ever thought the story of the first Highlander involved aliens from Mars? Nobody, because IT’S A DAMN TERRIBLE IDEA. It’s like pretending the story behind Michael Myers from Halloween involves ancient voodoo rituals and Pagan crap…oh, wait. Carry on, then.

So McLeod, apparently, became mortal for some reason after the events of the first movie and before the whole “shield” debacle started. He is living out his days as a crusty old man with just about the silliest old-man voice imaginable. I don’t really have a sound clip, but seriously, just picture the goofiest old man you ever heard in a Nickelodeon cartoon – McLeod is worse. It’s a really bad sign when I can’t take the MAIN CHARACTER OF YOUR MOVIE seriously for even one damn second.

I'm just a doddering old fool! I should probably be in a nursing home, but hell, it's the future! We've outgrown those primitive institutions. So now I just walk the streets getting harasseed by everyone.

But it’s OK, because Michael Ironside is ready to one-up this ridiculousness as he commands his two BDSM Cenobite minions to go and kill McLeod. They point out that he is so old that he will die on his own soon anyway, but since we wouldn’t have a movie in that case, Ironside rejects that sensible idea and tells them to go to the future and kill him anyway. Hooray for illogical decisions!

Ha ha ha...they look like something Tim Burton would dress his kids up as for Halloween. Edward Scissorhands-lite.

They attack him and he fights them off really well for an old coot, and then he even turns back to his younger immortal self, because the two goons messed with the time stream or something. Now, this begs the question…if they can just go anywhere in time, why not just go back to when they first put him on Earth and cut his head off before he awakened his powers that first time? Or why not just go back to when they had him enslaved at first and kill him while he was bound in chains? Oh, wait, because then we wouldn’t have a movie. Silly me!

Is he really riding on flying shoes? Seriously? That's really lame...I don't even have any other jokes.

Also, I’m SO GLAD Ironside sent his two goons back to kill McLeod thus bringing him back to his younger and more powerful state! This guy is a GENIUS!

To distract you from the stupidity of the movie, we then see McLeod having hot steamy sex with a woman he doesn’t even know, the head of some kind of terrorist organization that was only written into the script as an afterthought:

I really can’t even describe how strange this scene is – not with just still pictures. She confronts him after his fight with the two goons and asks what happened, and then he…hypnotizes her, I guess, to start making out and screwing him right there on the spot. It’s less “sexy” and more “incredibly uncomfortable and creepy.” Mostly just makes you feel like you need a shower.

But if THAT wasn’t ludicrous enough for you, apparently McLeod can bring back the dead Sean Connery by just…shouting his name at the sky, as he returns like he never got killed by The Kurgan in the flashbacks of the first movie. He interrupts a performance of Hamlet and doesn’t seem to realize it’s a show:

Truly how Shakespeare was meant to be performed, with the added inclusion of a buffoon who has a Scottish accent but whose character and name are supposed to be Spanish.

So they just never had minstrel shows or anything in old Scotland, then? I’m calling bullshit on that. But it does give us a stale and unfunny attempt at a comedic scene, which is pretty much all you’ll be getting from Connery for the entire film. Oh, he’s confused and doesn’t understand modern slang and technology? HOW INVENTIVE AND GENIUS! Great comedy! Well, about as funny as my grandma’s leftover spinach from three weeks ago.

And then we see Michael Ironside’s grand entrance to Earth as he just falls from the sky and crashes right through a subway train moving by:

I didn't have space in the review itself, but there's a part where he goes up to someone on the train and says "We're not in Kansas anymore," or something like that. How does he know that reference? Bad 90s writing of course! Man I need a drink. Of the alcoholic persuasion.

Okay, for one, how did he not do that more elegantly? Nobody else we’ve seen teleporting in the movie is that clumsy – hell, even Ironside’s minions did it better! And two, if he had the ability to do this, WHY DIDN’T HE JUST DO THIS FIRST INSTEAD OF LETTING HIS MINIONS DO IT? Oh yeah, because there would be no movie that way! Silly me!

So Ironside goes on a joy ride with the train in which he tries, and fails miserably, to reach the hammy heights of the Kurgan from the last movie. He’s pretty silly, yeah, but you just can’t beat a big muscular bald guy sitting in a church and making faces at the preachers. Or a crazy after-dark ride with an old lady. But I digress – the main reason Ironside pretty much sucks is because after his joy ride, in which he kills pretty much every passenger of the train, he opens the door looking all frazzled like a cartoon character and says “Last stop?”

Seriously, this shit is like Wile E. Coyote written by people with no grasp of comedy. IT’S AWFUL.

Oh, what’s that? You want more garbage comedy attempts puked out of the collective depths of the writers’ bowels? Well, how about like three different scenes of Sean Connery on a plane with the subtitle “Somewhere over the Atlantic” – which makes no sense seeing as it should only take him a few hours, and yet at least a day’s worth of events happens in the movie’s time and he still isn’t there – making chit chat with the passengers and flirting creepily with women?

She was paid a lot of money to laugh at Connery in this movie...

I also really love the future's airline etiquette: they don't show the safety video that tells you to buckle your seatbelt and that your seat can be used as a floatation device until NOW. Yeah, they wouldn't show it before the plane took off - they'd wait until the plane was "somewhere over the Atlantic" to inform the passengers of what to do in case of an emergency!

Yes, to keep the passengers as calm as possible, this airline shows a video of people panicking and the plane crashing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLIGHT. Gee. I didn't know United Airways went downhill so much in the future!

So McLeod goes to visit this old professor friend of his who helped him back in the day with that shield thing that stopped the ozone from killing everyone. The weirdest part is that the friend doesn’t realize that McLeod has de-aged. He just thinks McLeod “got a face job” or something…how is this guy a scientist again? I wouldn’t trust him to bag my groceries.

But apparently the government doesn’t trust him either, as they have him arrested and thrown in jail for possibly knowing that there could be clean unpolluted air outside the shield, and the exact coordinates at which one can find it. McLeod, however, is busy fighting Ironside, although the fight is not actually resolved so much as just…temporarily stopped. The movie then fades into McLeod’s new love interest sleeping – I really don’t think transitioning from a fight scene into someone sleeping is a good way to get your audience hooked.

McLeod finally meets up with Connery again after the longest plane ride in history. The two take the love interest chick and run off to save the world! They find Mr. Unreliable Scientist Friend and tell him everything is OK, and then he just dies right there, like his life’s purpose is complete. How sad…? No, sorry, I really can’t get emotionally invested in any of this. If it seems like I’m rushing this review, I am – there’s too much to talk about and not enough space to do so.

So some more really boring sword fight scenes – like you have no idea how boring these things are – McLeod and Connery make it through the maze. Connery sacrifices his life for no reason. McLeod and Ironside finally square off right by the generator machine, and Ironside is beheaded in typical Highlander fashion. Connery’s voice narrates from beyond the grave somehow and says they must work together to destroy the shield and break down the walls under the sky.

Now, keep in mind, this generator thing has been BUILT UP TO ALL HELL before this scene, with everyone saying it was impossible to get to and acting like it was completely impenetrable. So HOW does McLeod finally beat it? Get ready for the most exciting, nail-biting, ground-breaking, intense scene to EVER…yeah, he just walks in and then the shield is destroyed:

What the---?! How---?! Why---?! Oh, screw it, there was no thought put into this, so I’m not going to waste my time. He seriously just…walks in and everything is fine. That’s how easy it was the whole time to return the Earth to normal! How did the ozone layer just randomly return itself to its normal state and make the air habitable again? Who cares, the movie is over! I’m happy with that as it is!

This movie was stupid. Everything was so convoluted and such a mess that the film just collapsed under its own weight. This series isn’t that complicated, guys! It’s immortal swordsmen duking it out until only one remains. How did all of this bullshit about aliens from Mars and global warming and the ozone layer get filtered into the mix? Not to mention the awful “comedy” from Sean Connery and Michael Ironside and the contrived romance, along with the terrible special effects - pretty sure even the first movie had better special effects than the ones here.

It’s really no wonder that future Highlander sequels disregard this film entirely as part of the series canon, and that almost every fan hates it with a passion. I won’t say it’s absolutely unsalvageable, as there are a few good ideas here and there (I kind of like the whole idea that McLeod tried to save the world but ended up backfiring with the shield, causing everyone to hate him), but the haphazard way the story is put together as well as the numerous plot holes just makes it too much to bear. Highlander 2 is a dud.

What’s that? You want me to review a sequel that is equally, if not more so, horrible, that people actually LIKE? Well, okay then. See you next week!


DISCLAIMER: I have nothing against United Airways.
DISCLAIMER 2: The pictures in this review do not belong to me. They are copyright of their original owners.