Action, Adventure, Aliens, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Sequel

Highlander 2 (1991)

Comments Off on Highlander 2 (1991) 20 June 2015

HL2_cover

Production Studios: Davis Panzer Productions

Distributed By: TC Entertainment

Blu-ray Release: June 3, 2015

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Rating: R

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…especially Highlander II: The Quickening.

TC Entertainment has recently released new blu-rays in the Japanese market for Highlander 2 and Highlander: The Final Dimension (Highlander 3). Lucky for Americans, Japan shares the same region coding (Region A) for blu-ray playback. I recently picked up both “Highlander 2 / revived warrior [HD New Master] Director’s Cut Complete Edition Blu-ray” and “Highlander 3 / super warrior Great Battle [HD New Master] Collector’s Edition Blu-ray” for comparison against their American blu-ray counterparts.

For this review I will reference multiple versions of the same film. A brief history of the first Highlander sequel is as follows:

  • November 1, 1991 – Highlander II: The Quickening is released in US theaters.
  • Between 1995 – 1997 – Highlander 2: The Renegade Version (The Director’s Cut) released first on VHS, then widescreen VHS, laserdisc, and DVD. Director Russell Mulcahy re-edits, extends, and changes the film in an attempt to “fix” key plot points that repelled long time fans.
  • July 20, 2004 – Highlander 2: Special EditionProducers return to the “Renegade Version” one last time to give it the Star Wars Special Edition treatment by enhancing image, sound, and adding new computer generated effects.

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

HL2_1For the uninitiated, Highlander is about an immortal Scottsman, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who must fight other immortals to the death in order to seek “the prize.” The problem with Highlander 2 is that it shouldn’t exist considering the original Highlander closed everything up nice and neatly. Thus began a tortured history of films in which producers Peter Davis and Bill Panzer would continually try to “reboot” their franchise in an effort to make the “true sequel.”

In the case of Highlander 2, there are at least three versions of the film in which Davis/Panzer have tried to fix this expensive mess. To summarize, Highlander 2 catches up with Connor MacLeod several years after the events of the original Highlander. In this not too distant future, Planet Earth is dying under the heat of the sun. The ozone layer has been destroyed by global warming and other man-made problems. MacLeod and company invent a shield to protect the planet but anarchists, lead by Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen), believe the shield is hurting the planet and want it destroyed. Oh yes, and a new group of immortals lead by General Katana (Michael Ironside) show up to kill MacLeod. Depending on which version you watch the immortals are either time travelers or aliens, which flies in the face of everything the original stood for.

HL2slipI am probably the only person who believes Highlander 2 is the best sequel of all the Highlander films. Yes, that includes Highlander: The Final Dimension, Highlander: Endgame, and Highlander: The Source.

Additionally, I am probably alone in stating that the original theatrical version of Highlander II: The Quickening in which MacLeod and Ramirez (Sean Connery) are actually aliens from the Planet Zeist is my preferred version.

HL2_3Have I lost all credibility? Perhaps, but I stand by my claim. Unlike the films that followed, Highlander 2 has amazing art direction, set design, and special effects. Furthermore, the film includes real star power in Lambert, Madsen, Ironside, Connery, and John C. McGinley.

Scriptwise, at least they tried to expand upon MacLeod’s legacy even if it was a colossal misfire by making him an alien. Most people prefer the newer “Renegade version” or “Special Edition” where the immortals have been re-written as time travelers from the past. This not only makes less sense than the alien angle, but it is a lot like ignoring your child’s mistakes and then lying about them to make yourself look better. No amount of new CGI can polish this stinker. You either have to accept this ugly kid as your own or give it up for adoption. At least I am standing with open arms willing to take it in for an accepting embrace.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★★½☆

HL2_4If you’re considering getting this release for the video and audio…don’t. There are two domestic versions of Highlander 2, one from Lionsgate Films, the other from Olive Films.

The video quality from all three versions is virtually identical. The real catch is in the audio.

The audio from the Japanese import and Olive Films release include an English language lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. The Japanese disc also includes a Japanese dub track. The Lionsgate release offers a superior remastered lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. On technical merits alone, of the three I prefer the Lionsgate release.

Extras Rating: ★★☆☆☆

HL2_ZeistThe Highlander 2 blu-ray only includes the original theatrical trailer for Highlander II: The Quickening. Disappointing considering the many, many releases that came before have a wealth of extras.

The biggest bonus of the set comes in the form of a region 2 DVD that includes the original theatrical version of Highlander II: The Quickening (that’s the alien one), presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. However, there is a big catch…

First, unless you have a region free DVD player, you will not be watching Highlander II: The Quickening. The bigger problem is that the video image is not “enhanced for widescreen TVs” meaning the image will look super small as it is surrounded by black boarders, as indicated above. The only way to make the image fill the screen is to use your TV or DVD player’s settings to manually zoom in. Unfortunately doing so will make a muddy image even muddier.

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

HL2_6The only reason to get this release is if you’re dying for the original Planet Zeist version. Since I love the original theatrical version, it was a no-brainer. However, you must have a region free DVD player to unlock the region 2 coding. Furthermore, even I am disappointed that the bonus DVD wasn’t duplicated with widescreen HDTVs in mind. I can forgive poor video quality, but having the choice of watching a small image or zooming in to a blurry image isn’t much of a choice.

If you just want to watch the movie, there are much easier ways to find it. The domestic blu-rays from Lionsgate and Olive films offer similar video and same to better audio than this Japanese import. However, if you are an obsessive Highlander collector that must have the original theatrical version, you can complete your collection by rushing over to Amazon.co.jp and pick up this little surprise.

Author

- who has written 67 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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