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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Russell Mulcahy
Cast:
Sean Connery, Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, Allan Rich, John C. McGinley, Ed Trucco, Steven Grives
Writing Credits:
Gregory Widen (characters), Brian Clemens (story), William N. Panzer (story), Peter Bellwood (screenplay)

Tagline:
It's time for a new kind of magic.

Synopsis:
It's 2024 and MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and Ramirez (Sean Connery) are back to save planet Earth. Ozone depletion, time travel and corporate greed are at the core of all the thrilling twists and turns in this stylish action sequel. Featuring new state-of-the-art special effects and digital remastering, it's Highlander 2 like you've never seen or heard before.

Box Office:
Budget
$30 million.
Domestic Gross
$15.556 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English DTS 6.1 ES
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/20/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• “The Deconstruction of Highlander II
Disc Two
• “Highlander II: Seduced By Argentina” Documentary
• “The Redemption of Highlander II” Featurette
• “The Music of Highlander II” Featurette
• “The Fabric of Highlander II” Featurette
• “Shadow and Darkness: The Cinematography of Highlander II” Featurette
• Original Cannes Film Festival Promotional Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Highlander 2: Special Edition (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 20, 2004)

Back in college, I worked at a restaurant where the bartender adored 1986’s Highlander. When its first sequel finally emerged in 1991, he eagerly went to see it. I asked him his opinion when I next saw him, but all he could do was hang his head in shame.

For me, I liked the original Highlander okay but had no great urge to see the sequel. I eventually did so when it hit the local bargain theater, as I’d see pretty much anything for cheap. My reaction didn’t lead me to hang my head, but I felt more compelled to lop off the noggins of those responsible for the atrocity that was Highlander II.

Not surprisingly, I never bothered to see that terrible flick again, but I became tempted when I heard of the film’s extended cut. Released as the “Renegade” version, this added about 18 minutes of footage and allegedly improved on the terrible theatrical rendition of Highlander II.

Though the longer cut came out years ago, I never bothered to see it until the release of this new special edition. Does it work better than the theatrical cut? Yeah, but Highlander II remains a deeply flawed movie.

Set in 2024, we learn that the ozone layer went bye-bye, so scientists developed an electromagnetic shield to protect the Earth. Unfortunately, this leaves the planet in perpetual gloom, and rebels believe that the layer has healed itself in the 25 years since the shield’s creation. Called Cobalt and led by Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen), they bust into Shield Control and find evidence that radiation levels are normal above the shield

The film flashes back to the distant path to show evil General Katana (Michael Ironside) and rebels who fight against him. Led by our pal Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) from the first flick, he and partner Ramirez (Sean Connery) get captured and are exiled into the future as punishment. We learn that the last one to survive will have to eventually choose to grow old and die in the future or return to this alternate region. Since MacLeod cemented his status as the last immortal in the prior flick, it looks like he’s chosen the former route, though he still has time to change his mind. For reasons that never become clear, this peeves Katana, who sends assassins to the world of 2024 so they can kill MacLeod.

We also learn that MacLeod helped create the shield back in 1999, so Louise tries to get his assistance in her fight against it. When MacLeod kills the assassins, he absorbs their energy and restores his immortal status. He also bangs Louise on the street and calls for Ramirez, who reappears in Scotland and then journeys to find his friend. MacLeod explains his situation to Louise and then goes to meet with his old pal Alan Neyman (Allan Rich), the co-creator of the shield. Neyman explains that the radiation really is normal above the shield and instructs him where to go to get proof. Since the Shield Corporation makes jillions off of the device, its head honcho (John C. McGinley) opposes the exposure of the truth. In addition, Katana comes to finish off MacLeod himself.

As I wrote that synopsis, I found it tough not to include lots of uses of “I think that” or “I suppose that”. So much of the story to Highlander II makes so little sense that a lot of my synopsis might be wrong. That’s the plot as I interpreted it, but the damned thing is so confused and convoluted that I could be off target.

Many elements left me befuddled. Much of the problem came from the prologue with Katana, Ramirez and MacLeod. This seemed to set up the characters and apparently occurred prior to the events of the first movie, but that makes no sense since Ramirez and MacLeod didn’t know each other until that story. Did they forget each other? But that’s nonsensical, since MacLeod clearly leans back on Ramirez’s instructions to call for him in times of need. The film also barely attempts to explain Ramirez’s resurrection.

The film also eschews believability when it goes for some laughs. For example, it favors edgy video footage of the sort Paul Verhoeven used so effectively in Robocop’s news breaks. Here, however, director Russell Mulcahy inserts elements like a terrifying on-flight safety video. Yeah, this probably gets a few laughs, but it also takes us out of the movie since it’s so absurd.

Even the parts of the story that aren’t confusing become so because of the muddled exposition. The film explains itself poorly. Madsen gets saddled with most of the explanations, but although she tries to spoon-feed us, the tale still makes no sense. It bops back and forth between the aspects devoted to the shield and those with the immortals, and it shows no rhyme or reason in the way it alternates. Instead, it careens about wildly and fails to coalesce.

The acting doesn’t help. Poor Connery clearly looks like he’s in Highlander II for a paycheck. He can’t hide his disdain when he gets saddled with lines like “hit it, dude”. Lambert never was much of an actor, and he seems even less effective than usual here. I have no clue why he adopted a heavy New York accent for his scenes as the older MacLeod, and he brings little flair or passion to his other sequences.

Perhaps to compensate for the inert heart of the flick, some of the performers went way over the top. I usually like John C. McGinley, but his turn as the dastardly corporate honcho comes across as campy and absurd. Michael Ironside also errs on the side of scenery chomping, but he can’t bring any life to his bland character.

One needs to reserve special condemnation for Katana’s assassin sidekicks. These guys present wildly goofy characters who make the flick feel like an episode of the Power Rangers. They demonstrate no menace at all and look like refugees from a bad Duran Duran video.

As I mentioned, I never felt wild about the original Highlander, but it did offer something stylish and compelling. None of those sentiments transfer to its first sequel, which simply plods through a confused story and fails to portray any excitement or passion. It was a dud in its theatrical incarnation and it remains a clunker in its longer rendition.

Footnote: As I stated, this DVD includes a version of Highlander II that runs about 18 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. From what I’ve read, this matches pretty closely with the “Renegade” cut, but some small cuts may occur. In addition, the new DVD touts a number of redone visual and audio effects.

One other change: the title of the movie. Originally they called the flick Highlander II: The Quickening. However, this DVD calls it Highlander II and drops the “Quickening” appellation. The disc’s packaging always refers to it as Highlander 2, however. The credit sequence for the flick still uses Highlander II; I don’t know if it included “The Quickening” theatrically. Anyway, I went with Highlander II since that’s what it says in the movie itself.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.4375 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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71:
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