Friday, September 16, 2016

Highlander (1986)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I remember first becoming aware of Highlander in high school. (It was right around the time that the TV series began.) There were a lot of other students that were fans of the movie and the series. It took a while, but I finally got into the show, and then the movie.

The movies are about an Immortal called Connor MacLeod. This movie, the first in the series, starts out with MacLeod in Madison Square Garden watching a professional wrestling match. He has to leave in the middle of the event because he senses another Immortal approaching. They meet in the parking garage and have at it with swords. You see, the only way that an Immortal can be killed is by having his head chopped off. An Immortal that isn’t good with swords is a dead Immortal. When an Immortal is killed by another Immortal, the victor gets the loser’s quickening. In a show of stunning pyrotechnics, the victor gets all of the loser’s memories, skills, and energy. In the end, there can be only one. This one will rule the Earth.

After the fight in the parking garage, which MacLeod wins, we go to a flashback. The movie is basically a series of flashbacks. In the flashbacks, we get to see how Connor MacLeod became an Immortal. Basically, Connor went into battle with his clan and was killed by this other Immortal that goes by Kurgan. This was his first death, apparently. (Once an Immortal initially dies, they stop aging.) After Connor is brought back to his clan and prepared for a funeral, he comes back to life. His clan freaks out and banishes him.

He’s destined to wander the Earth until he meets Juan Ramirez, a Spaniard from Egypt who talks with a familiar accent. (Sean Connery plays him.) Ramirez teaches MacLeod everything there is to being an Immortal. For instance, there are some basic rules. You can’t fight on holy ground. When you do fight another Immortal, it’s supposed to be one on one. For some reason, Immortals can’t have kids, even though they’re born as ‘normal’ humans. Also, don’t lose your head, and that’s meant in a literal sense. As I said, the only way for an Immortal to truly die is to be decapitated. (Otherwise, they keep coming back.)

The part of the story that takes place in the present has to do with Kurgan coming after MacLeod. (At first, Kurgan comes across as just wanting MacLeod for his quickening, but MacLeod ends up with good reason for wanting Kurgan dead.) Those that are into the swordfights, science fiction or the sound track (done by Queen) probably won’t mind the storyline. Other than that, the strong point of the story is setting up the other movies and the TV series. The movie offers no reason and little explanation as to why Immortals exist. Ramirez asks why the sun rises. Are the starts just holes in the night sky?

The movie is good versus bad. Kurgan is definitely bad. While MacLeod isn’t someone you’d necessarily someone you’d want your daughter to bring home, he is trying to fight evil and is good mostly by default. He does show other likable characteristics, some of which don’t appear in this movie, but measuring your age in centuries does take its toll. (Ramirez is over 2,000 years old when he first meets MacLeod.) For instance, MacLeod has to keep changing his name and leaving everything to himself. (One point I’d like to bring up is that while his name has changed over the years, his signature shows a great deal of similarity. While I’ve had the same name my whole life, no two of my signatures are the same.)

If you’re just seeing this movie for something to watch one night, I’d suggest you skip this movie. If you’re a fan of the show and are looking for the history, go for it. The main draw seems to be the swordfights and the science fiction aspects of the movies. If not for the fact that the flashbacks were 450 years ago and in another country, they would get a little confusing. Also, the movie shows the actual decapitations, which may be too much for some of people. (The TV series didn’t show the actual decapitations, partly to appease TV audiences and the network and partly to meet budget and production constraints.)

Basically, when deciding whether or not to watch this movie, I’d recommend using your head. 

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