Highlander II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The DVD’s package touted all the improvements made for this transfer, and indeed, it did look quite good most of the time.
Unfortunately, one factor kept the image from greatness: edge enhancement. The haloes popped up somewhat too frequently during the film, and while they didn’t create enormous distractions, they marred the presentation slightly.
Otherwise, the image looked fine. A smidgen of softness showed up in some wider shots, but not frequently. Instead, the flick remained tight and concise. I saw no signs of jagged edges, though a little shimmering on a couple of occasions. As for print flaws, a few specks appeared but that was it, as most of the movie seemed clean.
Not exactly a film abundant in vivid hues, Highlander II mainly stayed with blues and dark tones. These came across as clear and appropriately lively, without any bleeding or noise. Blacks were dense and firm, while low-light shots appeared clean and smooth. Lose the edge enhancement and we’d have an excellent transfer. As it stood, the image still earned a solid “B+”.
Even better was the audio of Highlander II. This release provided both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS ES 6.1 mixes. Frankly, I detected no significant differences between the two; they seemed largely identical.
That was fine with me, as the audio seemed much better than average for a film from 1990. The soundfield presented a lively affair. The track used all five speakers to an active degree. The rear speakers even kicked in with a reasonably amount of split-surround material. Elements meshed together well and presented a surprisingly seamless piece.
Audio quality also came across well. Stewart Copeland’s score occasionally sounded a bit wan, but the music usually seemed lively and bright. Dialogue was consistently natural and distinctive, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Effects sounded dynamic and vivid. They boasted good range and the entire mix featured tight, warm bass. All in all, the soundtrack fared well and nicely complemented the film.
A mix of supplements appear on this two-DVD set of Highlander II. On Disc One, we get The Deconstruction of Highlander II. This presents a branching feature; hit “enter” when prompted during the movie and you’ll split off to watch the programs.
Or you could do what I did and watch them independently; happily, the DVD lets us check out all 11 without interrupting the movie. These last between 64 seconds and two minutes, 57 seconds for a total of 21 minutes, 43 seconds of material. These all consist of “B”-roll footage that shows behind the scenes glimpses from the set. Nothing tremendously fascinating appears here, but the clips let us have an interesting look at the complexities of the shoot.
Over on DVD Two, we launch with a 50-minute documentary entitled Highlander II: Seduced By Argentina. We get a mix of movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from producers Bill Panzer and Peter Davis, director Russell Mulcahy, screenwriter Peter Bellwood, production designer Roger Hall, visual effects designer Sam Nicholson, editor Anthony Redman, special effects designer John Richardson, costume designer Deborah Everton, stunt coordinator Frank Orsatti, casting director Fern Champion, and actor Christopher Lambert. We learn about the reception of the original movie and pressure to make a sequel, shooting in Argentina and its challenges, the visual practical effects, bringing back Sean Connery and issues connected to extending the first film, casting, sets and props, story issues, stunts, planned but unrealized shots, the bond company’s shut-down of the production and its effect on the final film, and the later reworkings of the picture.
The worst aspect of “Seduced” stems from its construction. It jumps through its topics in an odd way so that it doesn’t follow them in the natural progression. Normally we hear about the script and then move to something else, but here we get snippets of each subject that then reappear later. Why not discuss them fully and make them more self-contained? I don’t know, and this seems particularly odd when we learn of the bond company’s closing of the production but have the tale interrupted with other issues before it resumes.
Happily, the information provided makes the odd pacing much less of an issue. Many documentaries put a smiley face on everything, but not “Seduced”. Instead, it tells us the nitty-gritty of the production and gives us a frank look at all the problems. It’s consistently informative and entertaining as it offers a terrific look at the movie.
Next we find The Redemption of Highlander II, a 13-minute and 45-second featurette. Visual effects designer Sam Nicholson chats about the limitations of the work he could do the first time and the changes made for the new version of the movie as well as some he left alone. The best parts show us the original effects and the altered elements. We also walk a session in which Nicholson and the producers examine a shot and discuss ways to alter it. Nicholson’s explanations seem a bit dry, but we get a fairly good feel for the subject here. (And is it just me, or does Nicholson have a serious Billy Bob Thornton vibe happening?)
In The Music of Highlander II, we get a nine-minute and four-second featurette. Composer Stewart Copeland discusses his score and the approach he took to the material and the methods he used. Copeland seems honest and personable as he goes through his intentions and mistakes in this lively program.
For a look at the film’s outfits, we go to The Fabric of Highlander II. It fills 10 minutes and five seconds with remarks from costume designer Deborah Everton as she relates notes about collaborating with the director and various design choices. It’s another informative and useful piece.
Shadows and Darkness: The Cinematography of Highlander II runs for five minutes and 49 seconds. Obviously this one looks at photographic choices as we hear from cinematographer Phil Meheux. Recorded back in 1989, he talks about the use of light in his work and various approaches used for the film. He offers a reasonably nice take on the subject.
A collection of Deleted Scenes takes five minutes and 47 seconds. We get approximately eight of these, but since some of them present very small snippets, it’s occasionally hard to differentiate one scene from another. The segments largely fall into the category of exposition, and some of them probably should have made the final film, such as the one that attempts to explain Ramirez’s resurrection. Others were very good cuts, such as a bizarrely magical one that would have ended the flick between Connor and Louise.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get the Original Cannes Film Festival Promotional Reel. The nine-minute and 28-second clip basically acts as a very long trailer. It consists of movie snippets and highlights the flick’s moody photography. It’s interesting for archival reasons and that’s about it.
How does this set’s extras compare to those of the original Highlander II DVD? It appears that nothing from that package shows up here. We lose a stillframe gallery, a featurette about the creation of the “Renegade” cut, and most significantly, an audio commentary from director Mulcahy and producers Panzer and Davis. Why didn’t they port over these extras to give us the definitive Highlander II DVD? I don’t know, but it’s an unfortunate choice.
And Highlander II is an unfortunate movie, at least if you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck watching this stinker. Half environmental screed, half campy action flick, Highlander II is all bad. On the other hand, the DVD seems very good. It presents mostly excellent visuals with strong audio. Even without the audio commentary, the new supplements are informative and give us a pretty complete look at the making of the movie. I definitely recommend this new version of Highlander II to fans, as it presents a satisfying package. However, if you don’t already like the film, I can’t steer you towards it – the movie simply is no good.