Friday, April 16, 2010

Highlander

Let me get this off my chest right away: if you suspect that your movie isn't going to have fantastic acting, having Queen make a soundtrack for it is a great way to divert attention.  It worked for Flash Gordon, right? The band was only supposed to do one song for the film, but were moved after they viewed an early cutting and recorded four or five tracks.  Oddly enough, no soundtrack was released and most of the songs ended up on Queen's next studio album, A Kind of Magic.  I read about this before I saw the film, but now that I have, I would like to paraphrase that again.  Legendary camp/metal/classic rockers Queen, one of the most financially successful bands of all time, had a deep emotional response to this movie that inspired them to write songs for specific scenes.  Sometimes, there just aren't words to express profound shock.  I guess "Wow...really?" comes closest.

For those of you who have managed to miss the five live-action films, one animated feature, two live-action television shows, one animated television show, and the slew of books, comics, and games based on the Highlander story, this is square one.  Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) is an immortal.  I know what you're thinking: "Thank God Christopher-freakin'-Lambert will never die because I cannot imagine the world without him."  I know, riiiight?   Well, that's not 100% true; he can die if he is beheaded.  But, seriously, what are the chances of that?  I've known literally thousands of people and not one of them has been beheaded...yet.  Really, if you want to avoid a sword to your neck, stay out of Japan and you should be just fine.  Or, if you just have to do some Dance Dance Revolution in Tokyo, at least go prepared.  It's not that easy, though.  Connor is not the only immortal wandering the earth; there are several but, eventually, "there can be only one."  Why is that?  Because these immortals must kill each other and the winner will get "the prize," a power so awesome, it can change the fate of humanity.  Why "must" they?  Umm...because...they love the creamy center   are all really, really annoying   ...look, just buy into this, or you'll grind your teeth for the entire movie, okay?  Of course, since this movie is about people that have to do battle to the death, there is a bad guy, the Kurgan (Clancy Brown).  Basically, the Kurgan hunts down Connor and they do battle, with the story jumping between 1986 New York and Connor's past in 16th century Scotland.

Honestly, the basic idea here isn't a bad one.  Immortals with only one weakness do battle through the ages?  That sounds reasonably cool.  I completely understand the popularity of the idea.  This movie, on the other hand, just proves that nerds will keep wanting sequels if you don't do it right the first time.  There is not a whole lot good about this film beyond the basic premise.

Fact: Christopher Lambert took speech lessons before filming to perfect an accent that sounded vaguely European, but not specific to any one place, because he has lived in many places over the years.  In this, he succeeded.  His accent is absolutely unrecognizable.  And annoying.  But that's not the real problem with the accent...he has it for the entire film.  If Connor MacLeod is Scottish, living in Scotland before he becomes immortal, Lambert should at least pretend to be Scottish in those scenes.  The sad thing is that Lambert worked with a professional to arrive at his accent; in other words, somebody got paid for helping create that mess.  Accent aside, Lambert's talents are still difficult to pinpoint.  His hair can look sort of funny.  He can out-act most cold breakfast cereals (Malt-O-Meal might be out of his league, though).  He does a good job of staring.  And that's about it.

The other actors aren't great, but are better than Lambert.  Clancy Brown (the main prison guard from The Shawshank Redemption) is a great casting choice for the villain.  However, he has a voice.  You know...like Christian Bale does in the Batman movies?  Yeah.  That kind of voice.  As for his acting, I think it can be fairly described as a cross between Johnny Rotten, Snidely Whiplash and a Tex Avery wolf cartoon.  Subtle, he is not.  Sean Connery makes a supporting appearance as the kindly immortal that clues Christopher Lambert in on immortality.  Connery is his normal charming self here, but that's part of the problem.  He sounds like Sean Connery, a Scotsman.  According to the film, he is Egyptian and just came from a length of time in Spain.  While I would pay money to hear Sean Connery say "Walk like an Egyptian" with a straight face, a movie that cares enough to make Lambert's accent sound extraterrestrial doesn't care about a Scottish burr coming from the Nile delta?  That's just inconsistent.

Normally, I would just assume that the erratic acting in this movie was due to the erratic casting of talent.  However, I'm going to choose to blame director Russell Mulcahy.  Lambert might not be much of an actor, but the director is responsible for making him seem vaguely human.  In this, he failed.  Clancy Brown's performance was enough to make Nicholas Cage blush, and that had to be encouraged by Mulcahy.  Sure, the script might have been weak (there are some cops and women in the script, too, but I'm doing you a favor by omitting them), but only the director can tell an actor that they're making the right choices. 

The immortal action scenes are worth noting, although probably not worth watching.  While I understand that this movie's budget had to have been moderately low, having the actors take fencing lessons would have gone a long way.  Lambert and Brown are both clumsy for immortals that carry around swords regularly.  Lambert's katana seems as heavy and solid as Brown's broadsword, when it should be lighter and faster.  And what's up with all the sparks flying during immortal sword fights?  If it is because it's a cheap way to make immortal fights seem more exciting and powerful, fine.  It's not consistent, though, because two immortals sword fighting can go from scene to scene, sparking one minute but not the next. 

That doesn't make sense, but neither does the follow up to immortal death.  After an immortal gets beheaded, a lot of energy is released and is apparently absorbed by the victor.  That's how immortals become more powerful and why the ultimate immortal will have the "prize" of big-time power.  A side effect of these power-ups is that all electrical devices (lights, cars, whatever) turn on, amp up and explode (except the cars.  They apparently turn their own ignition switches and rev their engines while their headlights flash and explode).  But then, all the glass in the area implodes toward the immortal.  I'm not a scientist, but I would expect an outward expulsion of energy to cause the glass to blow out, not blow in.  It's a small detail, I know, but dumb details add up in bad movies.

This movie raises a lot of questions that never get answered.  That can be good for a movie; it can whet the appetite for a sequel.  This movie generally doesn't even raise these questions, though.  One such question is how Sean Connery knows so much about immortals.  How does he know that "there can be only one?"  Who's giving him this information?  How do they know?  It's not like there has been another generation of immortals that have had the same thing happen to them because "there can only be one."  How does he know that immortals cannot have kids?  Maybe he's sterile or has a STD.  It doesn't matter what the answer is, just as long as the question is asked.

Ultimately, this is a bad movie.  It has bad acting, terrible directing, lame action, and a poor script.  The premise is good, Queen makes a solid (if occasionally funny) soundtrack, Sean Connery is Sean Connery, and I do like the fact that immortals develop scars from wounds that would have been fatal to normal folks.  A few nice touches do not make up for a movie full of wrong, though.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you. That is all I have to say, just....thank you.

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  2. Who says I don't do work on demand?

    ReplyDelete