After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity for a worthy follow-up to 1986's Highlander, I had nearly given up hope that one would ever be made. It's first sequel, The Quickening, has the dishonor of a place on my '10 Worst Sci-Fi Films of All Time' list. The 3rd incarnation of the series, The Gathering, also known as The Final Dimension or The Sorcerer, was a very small step back in the right direction, although it still contradicted much of the first film. Now, with the success of it's television counterpart, Highlander is proving itself an eternal franchise.
The new film, Highlander: Endgame, is the first feature based on the television series starring Adrian Paul. Even though it's very existence is a contradiction to the ending of Highlander, Endgame is a surprisingly proper sequel to that first movie. The makers of Endgame have made the very wise decision to ignore both earlier sequels, and have combined the best elements of the television series with those of the original Highlander film. In other words, those fortunate enough not to have seen The Quickening or The Gathering haven't missed anything of importance to Endgame. Believe me, this is a good thing.
Like the first film, the story concerns the Clan MacLeod, and the continuing battles of the Immortals. The only way an Immortal can be killed is by having his head severed from his body. When beheaded by another of his kind, the victorious Immortal experiences 'The Quickening', and absorbs the strength and life-force of his fallen foe. The Immortals are driven to kill each other by the addicting power of 'The Quickening', growing stronger with each new victory. The inevitable outcome is that, eventually, there will be only one all-powerful Immortal.
Endgame uses many time-shifts to show the history of the Clan MacLeod, which echo the format of the first Highlander. These flashbacks span the 500 year history of that Clan, and give some great background to connect Paul's 'Duncan MacLeod' with Lambert's 'Connor MacLeod', so knowledge of the television series isn't necessary to enjoy the film.
The highlights of this film are it's action sequences, and there is interesting originality in fighting scenes which pit Western European fencing techniques against East Asian martial arts. Also, Lambert and Paul have similar acting styles, which compliment each other quite well. They're not great actors, but suspension of disbelief is a requirement for enjoying fantasy films like this one, and the story was good enough that mediocre acting (and fading accents) could be overlooked. Lastly, those familiar with the first Highlander will remember that the special effects used to manifest 'The Quickening' were decidedly low budget, and in this sequel they are equally lame. Score one for continuity!
The films low points were it's villian, Jacob Kell, played by Bruce Payne, who seemed just a little too much like the Emperor from Star Wars, and the climax, which was yet another big showdown that takes place in a warehouse factory setting. When are film makers going to realize that this kind of ending has been done to death? Even a finale taking place on a familiar bridge, building, or monument would have been more original. My plea to Hollywood: Stop with the abandoned factories, already! And this isn't a question of budget, since even an open field with no props at all would have served just as well, if not better, for this movie's final big scene.
So, while not the equal of the first film, Highlander: Endgame does recapture some of it's magic, and is without a doubt the best sequel in the series. When it comes to good Highlander films, as far as I'm concerned, there can be only two.
Directed By: Douglas Aarniokoski
Starring: Adrian Paul, Christopher Lambert,
Bruce Payne, Lisa Barbuscia, Donnie Yen
Rated: R (Language / Violence / Nudity)
Running Time: 87 Min.