Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sequel in Name Only: Highlander: The Final Dimension

And we are back! Yeah hold the applause because I haven't even described the movie. As many of you know, I am a huge Highlander fan. I have endured the movies, TV series and hell even the Amanda spin-off. I vaguely recall the cartoon and managed to skip the horrific video game for the Jaguar console but I own both Connor and Duncan's blades so yeah I am pretty nerdy for this franchise. When I was almost 15, The Quickening my brother and I begged our mom to go to it. No sooner the line, "Yes, yes I remember. The beginning, 500 years ago, on the planet Zeist. We planned rebellion, we met in secret, always careful to avoid our deadly enemy, General Katana." It was this point my bro and I looked at each other, looked at our tickets, looked up at the screen and realized we were in for some hurt. Retcon! SoOoOo... imagine a universe where Highlander II didn't happen but apparently the Kurgan wasn't the last immortal to do battle with Connor. Confused? Good, you are clearly on the right path. This is Highlander: The Final Dimension.

So I am not really an alien.  Sorry about that.

Miramax going through its transitions of alternate titles like they did with the nip and tuck or outright neutering of Halloween 6, Highlander III alternative titles on the board, posters and TV ads were thus: Highlander III: The Sorcerer, Highlander III: The Magician, Highlander 3: The Final Conflict, Highlander 3, Highlander: The Magician and Highlander: The Sorcerer. Hell I have more enough comic books to point out the alternative titles via posters. Moving on, NO MORE ZEIST! Yup that storyline just completely ignored with no explanation. I would like to think Ramirez and MacLeod were in Brazil licking toads and tripping balls but that is just my theory. Instead Connor (Christopher Lambert of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, To Kill a Priest, Fortress, Gunmen, The Hunted and Beowulf) has journeyed to Japan after the death of Heather, his first wife in search of a mentor, the ancient Nakano (Mako of M*A*S*H*, The Incredible Hulk, Romance Theatre, Hawaiian Heat, Conan the Barbarian, Kung Fu: The Movie, Conan the Destroyer, Taking Care of Business, Robocop 3, Red Sun Rising, Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack), a sage to some, a wizard to others.

Anyone curious what we ate or where we pooped for 400 year in a cave?

In no time at all (wipes and 360 pans) they become friends and Nakano teaches MacLeod the art of illusion when...dun dun dun!!! The nearby village is be sacked, pillaged and plundered by Kane (Mario Van Peebles of Jaws: The Revenge, New Jack City, Posse, Gunmen, Solo, Ali, The Hebrew Hammer and A Letter to Dad) and two immortal henchmen at his side as Kane plans on taking the sorcerer's head for all his knowledge and experience...y'know bad guy immortal m.o. Nakano knows he will not survive against Kane and offers his head to Connor who cannot kill his friend so YOU GETS NO MAGIC!!! Doofus. A big confrontation between Nakano and Kane causes an earthquake during the quickening (the transference of life energy, chi and so on) sealing Kane and his men up in the cave...for 400 years. Dude you cats are immortal and none of you had the idea of start digging!?!

Men in those days trusted their shaving partner.

Connor is off in the deserts of the Sudan when he feels a disturbance in the Force or Immortal Spidey senses kick in, whatever. So he heads home to his adopted son, a young boy John (Gabriel Kakon of Great Performances and Highlander: The Final Dimension) but catches a news plot point on a dig in Japan about an ancient cave yet somehow they missed the three cats alive and still in feudal 1500 Japanese armor.

Kane swears vengeance against MacLeod and swings into full-on gravely Kurgan voice and even plows a hooker, drives a car against the flow of traffic and camps it up something fierce. The lovely lady archeologist Alex Johnson (Deborah Kara Unger of Whispers in the Dark, Till There Was You, Highlander: The Final Dimension, The Game, The Hurricane, Payback, Silent Hill and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D) bears an uncanny resemblance to a noblewoman MacLeod once loved long ago. She seeks out that the legends of Nakano are based in fact and the proof is in that cave.

With Kane misbehaving and having the ability to cast illusions that fool the human eye, he plans on using John as bait to get MacLeod to come out and plaAaaaay!!!

Can Connor defeat Kane? Will Alex be hopelessly attracted to Connor?

Okay so we will get the nitpicks out. With tats, a tribal nose ring and a growling Kurgan like voice, Peebles is clearly the bad guy but come on dammit. You could have him decked out like a Moordish warrior wielding Italian steel.   I wanted a deep basso voice holding MacLeod in contempt.  Maybe sending one of John's fingers to him via bike messenger to ramp up the urgency of his arrival. Arrogance, sadistic and smug about it and not Kurgan again.  A monster that plays with his victims a bit more than we got.  Yeah I know, I'm not in charge nor have a TARDIS handy.

Now the good stuff. The fight scenes are pretty impressive, the story overall is good and the film is entertaining. Peebles looks menacing as hell and he does bring out a creepy villain.   Lambert and Unger do have chemistry together and the score by composer J. Peter Robinson (Police Story, Rumble in the Bronx, Charmed, Spawn the animated series, The Bank Job and Seeking Justice) is damn amazing still does not excuse banging out a katana in like a week. Shot primarily in Montreal (fake New York) they also went to Scotland and Morroco and Japan so the frequent flyer miles were racking up. Yeah there were New York scenes like outside the antique shop where Russell Nash (Connor) still had property to live at but most was Montreal. With a budget of 26 million in the kitty, this sadly only made a little of 13.8 million back and was considered a flop. Personally I think after the huge disappoint that was Highlander II, the fans were just not ready to be in theaters again. This fell more to the VHS/Laserdisk crowd.

While a lot of it feels like they are retelling the first film, it keeps more to the theme of magic, immortality and a hidden culture within humanity. These men and women warriors did not ask to be made immortal but the one of good feel the need to interfere or guide humanity to a better path. The problems were the releases. The same treatment as Halloween 6 is what happened to Highlander III as I have seen releases of 87 mins, 90 and finally 99 mins so trust me the full 99 minutes makes the better story.

Yes there are the passionate love making scenes and a wee bit of raunchy sex scene with Mario but it was going to happen for the "bad guy" getting down but it is over in a short span. MacLeod has flashbacks while making love to Alex of Sarah which...felt a bit off. Not that he was cheating on a long dead lover but his mind wandered with his current one?   Harsh bro.  Hope you were paying attention during the pillow talk or it's your butt.

MPAA made some of the decapitation scenes back-lit or shadow-cast so not to screw up future generations or avoid an NC-17 rating or whatever their BS reason for it. The 99 minute version has all the sex, blood and fantasy that was placed into it and gives a much more coherent story.

While many fans feel the first film and the TV series are the only thing worth paying attention to, this is not a bad addition to the ranks and you would be less of a Highlander fan to simply dismiss it.

Got my good side?  Hope so.