‘…gloriously deadpan fantasy epic…’

There’s been a reboot of Russell Mulcahy’s film in the works for over a decade now; how hard can it be to revamp such an appealing property as Highlander? Five sequels, a tv show and many a rain-soaked holiday in Scotland has been inspired by this wonderfully daft bit of world-building. Highlander is a great-looking, funny and often dazzling fusion of The Terminator with sword and sorcery; if it seemed indigestible to critics in 1986, perhaps the time has come to embrace the story of Connor Macleod. Certainly, letting the John Wick’s Chad Stahelski loose on the Lionsgate property seems like a good idea, since when it comes to great Highlander movies, it would be a real shame if there could be only one.

‘I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1538 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal…’ is the line that introduces our hero, played by Christopher Lambert after Mel Gibson turned the role down. Lambert was, and still is, something of a dude’s dude; his shock-haired turn as the evasive thief in Subway built his reputation as an unpredictable but charismatic leading man. Lambert’s French accent was widely mocked, but there’s always been a close historical connection between France and Scotland via the Auld Alliance, so that mis-step could be forgiven, even if Macleod’s inability to pronounce Glenmorangie seems like a genuine gaffe.

Macleod is an Immortal, doomed to walk the earth listening to a Queen soundtrack, brooding in an awesome New York apartment, watching wrestling matches and heeding the advice of his foppish mentor, Egyptian metallurgist Ramierz (Sean Connery). A reckoning, a quickening, a happening, whatever it is, something nasty is a-coming and it’s likely to take the form of bad boy The Kurgan, played by the perennially awesome Clancy Brown.

The European cut has some key scenes for the Highlander universe; during WWII, he rescues a little girl from a Nazi and casually machine-guns him to death with the line ‘Whatever you say, Jack, you’re the master race.’ This is a striking, irreverent and surprisingly brutal throwaway scene that opens up a potentially interesting world. If the Highlander is immortal, then he’s an old soul with a uniquely educated and evolved historical perspective, and his instant recognition of the Nazi foe is delightfully fleet and sour at the same time. More such flashbacks would be welcome, although training and soul-searching are centre-stage, this being the 80’s and all.

As with the John Wick films, the first in the series offers an imaginative springboard that the later films can only limit in terms of choices. The second Highlander film killed the idea stone dead by positioning Macleod as an alien. But Gregory Widen’s script taps into specific Scottish folklore with regards to magic and immortality, and there’s every reason to think that a reboot could boil down the existential philosophy of the Highlander films to an organic, granular level. There’s a reason why Scotland punches above its weight in terms of talent, in terms of acting, writing and ideas, and that eternal struggle finds one of its most entertaining manifestations in this gloriously deadpan fantasy epic.


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  1. I watched the movie because of Sean Connery (he sort of gave respectability to what is essentially a totally bonkers movie) and I ended up loving it. BTW, if memory serves me well, the film wasn’t a hit so I was surprised to see that they went ahead and made a sequel.

  2. I would also welcome a remake, but I wonder if it might be better served as a series that starts with the first immortal and winds its way through the centuries. Just food for thought. As for the original movie, it’s a blast. However, there needs to be some sort of investigation on why the Scotsman (Connery) ended up playing a Spaniard while a Frenchman played the Scotsman. Great write-up.

  3. Trying to comment has been a problem again:
    Every Sunday in Seattle I would go to my friend Joan’s house. We would watch the Highlander TV series. Of course I’d love a new movie. I’d be over the moon happy! Joan got me hooked.

    • It’s working! I hear you in Scotland! And I’ve been to Seattle! Not been round on Joan’s house to watch the Highlander tv show, but I’ll put it on my list! There can be only one!

    • I hear you. I don’t want what they did with Robocop or other franchises. This is a rich piece of material, and should be able to support more films without rethinking the entire thing. Even that historical period of Highlander would make a great prequel, there’s literally tonnes of canon storylines to develop.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this flashback to this great Scottish film, kudos for being the first to mention the sequel… and sooooooo glad Gibson didn’t take this role. This and Outlander are probably in the Top 5 reasons people hit Scotland for as you say “many a rain-soaked holiday”… thanks for bringing Connor to my blogathon.

  5. I see that “granular” is the word of the day. I shall remember that for this afternoon. On to this movie….

    I love this movie. There are about 20 films I could put on a thumb drive, plugin to my bluray player and just watch on loop. this is one of those. Objectively, it shouldn’t be. The Queen soundtrack. The implied rape scene. Lambert not being able to speak english. The utter ridiculousness and random nature of the rules (what happens if they DO fight on Holy Ground?).

    And yet. It works and it works fantastically. I came to this movie in my early 30’s so I don’t have nostalgia goggles like I do for Star Wars and I still like this movie. I watched the first season of the tv show and let it go because it was so preachy and annoying. I did watch the 2nd movie and couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on. Then I tried to watch another movie starring the guy from the tv show and gave up after 10minutes because the acting was worse than the tv show. But none of that has tarnished in any way the original movie.

    I for one would love to see a reboot, just to see if they could do it without completely messing it up. And if they did mess it up, I’d just go re-watch the original and then I’d be fine 😀

    • The franchise is an utter disaster, although people tell me that the director’s cut of II makes more sense; it could hardly make less. But I’m with you here, this is a full-blown daft advanture, full of visual flair, and the faults become charms (although I agree on the implied rape scene, but it is just implied). Top notch nonsense!

      • Before watching Snyder’s cut of Justice League, I never could have imagined that a directors cut could make sense out of nonsense, But I suspect they may be right about H2.

        Why can’t they make nonsense like this today? It truly boggles the mind….

                • It’s a committment I’m absolutely reluctant to make, although a reputable friend told me it was good. So many awful things in the first version, can’t imagine how these images could be knitted into anything but twaddle.

                    • I don’t get much from anything these days other than the quiet thrill of blocking miscreants. They’ve been filming The Batman round the corner, Indiana Jones too. All happening here.

                    • Yeah I’ve heard you’ve been on a blocking spree recently.

                      I read an interview with Ford where he baldly stated that Indiana Jones dies with him. While no on has stepped up to take his place, I really wonder if the studios would let that happen.

                    • There’s a similar agreement about Back to the Future. But I’d imagine in both cases, it’ll be hard to make that stick.

  6. Back in the day imagination just about outweighed daftness but now viewed through a Marvel/DC prism it looks positively logical. I doubt if audiences these days would have any problem with structure, story or acting, maybe just moaning about the sfx. Embrace the madness and go with Lambert and I’m sure this has a good chance of winning over

    • That’s the spirit; yup, you could go to town on the VFX today, and my guess is Lambert would come back for this….

        • Not heard of Reeves being involved, above the line talent seems to have switches a number of times. You can make a case for Connor having any accent, since he’s lived through centuries of history. Any up and comer would do, all they have to suggest is Scottish ancestry, something a lot of people can relate to. Being in New York and having home thoughts from abroad is part of his character, a self imposed exile.

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