NOTE: This review is for the 2004 Renegade Version of Highlander II. The original version of the film was released in theaters in 1991. Due to this review being the re-edited version, the release date above reflects that time. As far as I know, the original theatrical release is unavailable.
General Katana (Michael Ironside) travels to the future to kill Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who is old after winning The Prize from Highlander; MacLeod has also assisted in creating a shield that protects the planet after the Ozone Layer failed.
Highlander II: Renegade Version is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. It is exponentially better than the theatrical cut of Highlander II: The Quickening, though. While it fits nowhere in the Highlander mythos, and is ignored by it’s subsequent sequels, it is an interesting film to watch and is fascinating in it’s take on the mythology of the immortals. With superb special effects and wonderful set designs that recall Blade Runner, the film is a train wreck that is infinitely more entertaining than any of Michael Bay’s Transformers films.
In 2024, Connor MacLeod is an old man, having won The Prize at the end of the first film. That Prize was the ability to grow old and die, among other things. General Katana, an enemy from MacLeod’s distant past, sends assassins to finish the job of killing MacLeod once and for all, even though MacLeod is near his natural death. Once they arrive, Macleod fights them off and becomes young again (?). Katana then travels to the future to finish off MacLeod himself. Oh, yeah, along the way MacLeod and Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen), with the help of Ramirez (Sean Connery), discover that the Ozone Layer has repaired itself and set out to turn off the shield that MacLeod helped build to save the world. Did I mention that MacLeod brings Ramirez back from the dead just by calling his name? (Ramirez was killed in the first film.) Yes, the film is a disjointed mess with far too many plot lines.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, Ricochet), this film is a mess from conception to completion. Honestly, I don’t blame this on Mulcahy. In an effort to chase the almighty dollar, they dumped a ton of them into a sequel for a cult hit and completely discarded any mythology established in the original film. While I actually like the idea of setting the sequel in the future, the way that they went about it was completely absurd.
The one good thing about this film is the special effects. From the gloomy, under-the-dome settings, there was clearly a budget at work in this film. The environments are clearly inspired by Blade Runner and are effective in their futuristic decay. What boggles my mind, though, is why some of the effects are top notch and others are straight out of a B movie. Bodies are clearly dummies, models are clearly models. It is an interesting and unique visual style that just doesn’t form a cohesive package. One scene will look terribly expensive followed by a low budget, laughable dummy falling out of a window. I can forgive this if the film actually pulls together with a well done story. That is not at all what we get here.
Obviously, the film makers felt the old adage ‘bigger is better’ applied to the story and threw in every possible plot line they could think of. While MacLeod has his motivation to shut down the shield, shoehorning in Katana is a silly move. In fact, the film would have been solid and unique if MacLeod’s mission was just to finish off the shield that he helped start, minus the immortal antagonist. Instead, we have a nonsensical story that cuts and flashes with no concept of time passing. They move from point A to point B with nary an explanation of why they are going there and they get there fast.
Honestly, I have wasted too much time discussing this film already. While the Renegade Version is, by far, the better version of this film, it is still not a good film. It completely eschews the mythos established by the original film, features a convoluted plot, and acting that is questionable at best. It is an interesting film, though. While I hated the theatrical cut when it was released, I found myself enjoying this more than I should have. From a critical aspect, it is a disaster. From a fan perspective, it is an interesting and unique oddity in the Highlander universe.
** out of **** (Yes, I am rating this ** stars. I enjoyed it, slightly.)
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- According to the filmmakers, the reason the film contradicts the original is due to inflation in Argentina, where the film was made. The film’s insurance company took control of the production and attempted to make a film that would make more money.
- Clancy Brown was offered a cameo to reprise his role of The Kurgan from the first film. He declined.
- Director Russell Mulcahy walked out of the premiere after 15 minutes.
- Russell Mulcahy tried to have his credit changed to ‘Alan Smithee’, the generic name filmmakers used when they weren’t satisfied with the finished product. Unfortunately, his contract stated that he couldn’t publicly attack the film before release. The producers said that if he changed his credit it would be considered an attack on the film and he would be sued.
- Christopher Lambert wanted to drop out of the film after seeing the reworked script. Due to his contractual obligations, he was unable to.
- Virginia Madsen auditioned for the role of Heather in the original Highlander.
- The theatrical cut of Highlander II: The Quickening, had the immortals hailing from the planet Zeist. All mention of Zeist is removed from the Renegade Version. . .other than a credit at the end for Zeist Chief Justice.