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The year is 2024, and the population of Earth are under the impression that the ozone layer has been totally depleted. Former Immortal Connor MacLeod is now an old man, reviled by the media for his part in the construction of a protective shield, which is now in the hands of a corrupt corporation. However, when a batch of evil new Immortals arrive on the planet, McCleod's powers are magically restored, and - with the help of his resurrected mentor Ramirez - he sets out to see if the ozone layer really has been destroyed...
For more about Highlander 2 and the Highlander 2 Blu-ray release, see Highlander 2 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 1, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, John C. McGinley, Rusty Schwimmer
Director: Russell Mulcahy
» See full cast & crew
Highlander 2 Blu-ray Review
Is that another sword in your pocket or. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 1, 2010
If you're a typical Blu-ray fan, you probably have your own wish list of classic films (or at least classic to you) that you're still waiting for to be released in high definition. While we've been incredibly lucky over the past couple of years especially to get some wonderful releases of catalog product (by Warner especially, a studio which deserves the home video connoisseur's eternal gratitude), there are still a staggering number of great films which haven't seen the Blu-ray light of day. And yet we get Highlander 2. This film was so bad that upon its initial release both director Russell Mulcahy and star Christopher Lambert disavowed it, and it has the rare distinction of earning the coveted 0% score at Rotten Tomatoes. The film has been put through the looking glass at least twice since its initial, doomed theatrical release, being heavily redacted and reedited to try to make a semblance of sense, which is not to say entertaining sense, out of it. It's still a laughably bad piece of crap, to use a technical term, and though the special effects were upgraded for this 2004 re-edit, no amount of upgrade, other than a complete head to toe re-do, could help this sad excuse for a sequel, one which is beyond ripe for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version. At least that would be entertaining.
Should we discuss the original plot of Highlander 2 or the one which has been cobbled together for this revised version, one which mostly resembles Mulcahy's own director's cut? Does it really matter in the long run? Well, the comparisons are probably more engaging than the film itself, so why not? In the original conception, we are shown that Highlander's original dynamic duo of MacLeod (Lambert) and Ramirez (Sean Connery, obviously picking up a paycheck and nothing more) were actually aliens banished to the future on Earth. Somewhere along the way, the first Highlander must have happened, but you'd find little evidence of that fact in either the original theatrical release or this version. Instead we're smack dab in the middle of a dystopian 2024, where the depletion of the ozone layer has led to the building of an electromagnetic shield which is of course being controlled by a nefarious gang of evil technocrats. It turns out the ozone layer had healed itself over time and these evil baddies don't want anyone to know. Enter the usually lovely Virginia Madsen as an ecoterrorist named Louise Marcus, who is out to discover the truth, but who instead (also of course) falls madly in love with MacLeod, even while she's resolutely incapable of understanding any of his baffling babbling about being an immortal.
It's virtually pointless to try to describe the plot of Highlander 2 because it frankly makes little if any sense in any of its three versions. If the original theatrical release at least had the cogency to present the story more or less chronologically, here things are pasted together willy-nilly so that coherence largely flies out the window and the audience is left to sit there guessing about everything from plot points to character motivations. Nothing, or to be charitable nearly nothing, makes sense in this film. The time travel element is handled ineptly, the revised version eliminates the alien angle, and the jumps back and forth to various timeframes are a jumble of missed opportunities. At least the first Highlander offered intriguing segues from the Scottish highlands to "present day" New York, but even that feature is largely left by the wayside here.
Mulcahy is one of the most schizoid directors imaginable. Once again he starts Highlander 2 with a really impressive crane shot, this time in an Argentinian opera house, much as he began the first Highlander with a great flying shot through the wrestling arena. But for every moment of visual flash (and there are several sprinkled throughout Highlander 2), there are five moments of wooden performances, laugh out loud dialogue and general incoherence. Did no one see the train wreck this film was at any stage in post production? Or were they hoping for a European acclamation such as that which greeted the first film after its disparaged American release? Alas, lightning (quickening based or otherwise) didn't strike twice, and Highlander 2 was pretty much universally panned.
There was the kernel of an interesting idea simmering somewhere deep in Highlander 2's seemingly bottomless bowels. An ecologically minded science fiction film certainly has the potential to be a blockbuster. Avatar, anyone? But Highlander II is so laughably flawed on so many levels one barely knows where to begin. One can only hope that a very special episode of MST3K might be revived so that Highlander 2 can finally be awarded the "acclaim" it so heartily deserves.
Highlander 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Highlander 2 benefits from a substantial digital upgrade it received in 2004, and this Blu-ray's AVC encoded 1080p image (in 2.42:1) also does very well with the shiny new and improved special effects. While the CGI elements look sharp as a tack, often with bristling bright color, unfortunately the bulk of the rest of the film has a low budget, low contrast softness to it that robs a lot of the film of fine detail. This is an intentionally dark film, with even supposedly outdoor scenes bathed in shadows, and because of inconsistent contrast and black levels, there can be a tendency toward murkiness. Much like the film itself (and actually the video quality of the first Highlander), this is a maddeningly schizoid looking Blu-ray. Some of the close-ups are filled with excellent fine detail and beautifully saturated color. Some of the Blade Runner-light production design looks distressingly soft, especially in establishing shots, as does the matte painting that introduces what was in the original version the planet of Katana. This is a cup half empty, half full sort of outing, and your response to this Blu-ray's image quality will probably depend squarely on how fondly you think of the film to begin with.
Highlander 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Highlander 2 has a very good lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that amps the film up considerably, at least from an audio perspective. Filled with excellently immersive sound effects and an appealing score by Stewart Copeland (not to mention source cues from imposing figures like Richard Wagner), Highlander 2's mix is fairly aggressive, positioning lots of discrete effects quite effectively around the soundfield. These can be subtle, as in the case of lapping water in the river around "Shield Control," or more blatant, as in the overwhelming static electricity noises that accompany MacLeod's absorption of other immortals' essences. Dialogue is crisp and clear and well mixed, though here directionality is somewhat lacking. There are a couple of inartful sound effects edits which I assume are a result of the massive tinkering this film underwent after its disastrous initial release. But the track itself is sterling, with excellent fidelity and impressive dynamic range.
Highlander 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
It's a rare release where the extras significantly outshine the main feature, but that is certainly more than the case with Highlander 2, even though all of the supplements are in standard definition.
Highlander 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Need a good laugh? Highlander 2 may be just the ticket, but even from that angle it's an iffy proposition. The best thing about this Blu-ray is the supplemental package, especially the main documentary on this franchise's tortured history. Now that's entertainment.
Highlander II: The Quickening: Other Editions
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Highlander 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Highlander 1 and 2 Announced on Blu-ray - August 11, 2010
Confirming yesterday's retailer alert, Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced that on November 2 it will release Russell Mulcahy's Highlander in a director's cut Blu-ray, and also its sequel Highlander 2 (also known as Highlander II: The Quickening), with "enhanced ...
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