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IN SHORT: For all the historical baggage the Highlander series carries, not a bad popcorn flick. [Rated R for violence and some strong sexuality. 88 minutes]
As always, no comparison is made to Source Material.
That's an important point, since we believe that you shouldn't have to have read the book or seen an earlier movie/teevee series to understand a new film. We waffle sometimes when it comes to sequels, but in the case of the new Highlander movie, we clued some fanboys (women, actually) into the critics screening and they answered all of our questions afterwards. And, yes, there are several questions left unanswered by Highlander: Endgame, enough that the fans have no doubt that there will be a fifth installment somewhere down the line.
Highlander: Endgame, to these untutored eyes, looks very much like film adaptations of those 800 or 1000 page novels, where the screenwriter makes every effort to get every single detail from the (book) into the movie. Honestly? Screenwriter Joel Soisson didn't do a bad job of getting most of the history -- three movies, two teevee series and a multitude of other spinoffs -- into this flick, though the first half of the film sometimes feels like watching visual Cliff Notes. There are flashbacks all over the place detailing the life stories of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and his mortal wife, Heather (Beatie Edney) . . .
I didn't mention that there are Immortals walking the earth -- Connor, himself, is at least five hundred years old (see the last 'graph) -- all participants in something called The Game. One by one, each immortal must battle and, once decapitating an opponent, can take all the power and experience of the deceased and all the immortals previously killed by said corpse, into his being. The more you kill, the stronger you become.
Immortality is triggered by a violent event, usually death, which brings Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) and his soon to be immortal wife Kate (Lisa Barbuscia) into the saga -- living forever has some drawbacks which turns this happy loving couple into bitter enemies once Kate achieves her Destiny. Four hundred years on, Kate has taken a new name, Faith, and is allied with the strongest, most vicious immortal of them all, Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne), whose quest for vengeance against the Clan MacLeod will bring death to all.
Except the one who stands victorious.
Here's where it gets confusing for a novice like me. There is a mysterious band called Watchers who seem to referee and keep stats on the battles. There is a place called Sanctuary maintained for Immortals who don't want to play The Game any longer. Both these things are played up in the first half of the flick and then vanish, as is mention of "The Prize" -- whatever it is that the sole surviving immortal gets for winning The Game (notes on the website indicate The Prize is control of Planet Earth, but this is a bit of info strangely missing from the film). The Watchers indicate that their purpose is to ensure that there never is a winner, but that's a dangling plot point that leads to speculation about what happens if there ever is a Highlander 5.
Visually, Highlander:Endgame was fun. The story is a little clunky, though the flashbacks were smoothly integrated and not confusing, and the swordfights were pretty cool. But for all the big screen special effects, it still felt like a decent popcorn flick that could be best seen on the small screen. The fans behind me were not unhappy, but they were not frothing at the mouth with excitement on the way out, either.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Highlander: Endgame, he would have paid...
Pay per view level. Speaking strictly as a novice, this movie works well enough that it is a good starting point for anything that could conceivably come in the next movie -- and we did walk out with enough unanswered questions to kick a new story into gear.
And would someone explain to me how Connor MacLeod, who achieved immortality in 1518 is, according to the press notes, 5000 years old?? It's not mentioned in the movie so I won't rag about it but my curiosity is surely piqued...
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