Despite being a mediocre sequel released over 13 years ago, “Highlander II” keeps rearing its head, this time with a new version that really isn’t much of an improvement on the original. After a theatrical version, a European cut, and a director’s cut, it’s dawned on Lions Gate Films to spiff up the movie and re-release it yet again on DVD. The result is, while somewhat improved, still more of what we’ve been subjected to.
“Highlander II: Special Edition” attempts to explain the phenomenon of the Immortals as being exiles from the distant past — political heretics who fought against the tyrannical reign of General Katana (Michael Ironside). Now in 2024, Connor MacCleod (Christopher Lambert) is the last Immortal, who builds an electromagnetic shield to replace Earth’s destroyed ozone layer. But while his creation saved the planet, it’s also slowly killing it; unbeknownst to MacCleod, the corporation responsible for maintaining the shield is hiding the fact that it’s no longer needed. While Connor seeks to uncover the truth, General Katana arrives to finish off the only threat to his rule.
The new cut of “Highlander II” is a nice upgrade from previous versions, with an entirely new soundtrack created from the original 24-track master tapes giving the film a rich and enjoyable audio complement. Also, entirely new sound effects enhance the viewing experience. The film also looks terrific, thanks to a new high definition print struck from the master tapes that allows the colors to look more vibrant and the details to jump off the screen. But the biggest improvement is the creation of over 100 new or enhanced special effects, realized digitally by effects supervisor Sam Nicholson.
Unfortunately these improvements don’t hide the film’s glaring problems. The script by Peter Bellwood, while fairly entertaining, completely contradicts the previous and subsequent “Highlander” films. It also features some nausea-inducing dialogue, hideously bad jokes, and ridiculous scenarios. The whole concept of Immortals being rebels sent from long ago is incredibly stupid, and it’s little wonder this film is largely ignored in the series canon. Another problem is the performance of veteran Sean Connery (“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), who looks embarrassed to be in the movie. It’s no wonder that when Connery’s character leaves the picture, the actor seems more than a little anxious to go.
Director Russell Mulcahy (“The Lost Battalion”) does everything he can to turn the mess he’s been given into an exciting film. Chases, sword fights, spectacular explosions, corporate intrigue, gore, romance, and even a psychotic villain; the poor man works overtime to make a film that equals the original. But even a director of infinite talent can’t pull this off, even though Mulcahy does manage to deliver a mild diversion with flashes of excitement.
This is the fourth incarnation of “Highlander II”, and it’s still not nearly as good as the other entries in the series. But this is the best version so far, and anyone who hasn’t seen the film and desires to do so should check this version out. Since the movie insists on continuing to evolve, maybe it might be a fantastic film by the seventh or eighth try.
Russell Mulcahy (director) / Brian Clemens, William N. Panzer, Peter Bellwood (screenplay)
CAST: Sean Connery …. RamÃrez
Virginia Madsen …. Louise Marcus
Christopher Lambert …. Connor MacLeod
Michael Ironside …. Gen. Katana