Highlander: Can there be only one?

Whatever happened to this video game?
Whatever happened to this video game?

I don’t know a single card carrying geek that doesn’t profess to adore the original Highlander.  A film that is totally a product of its time (seriously, how would we feel about a movie that started with wrestling nowadays?) manages to hold a special place in our hearts that, really, is pretty miraculous, considering how fans were treated after the initial entry.

After our initial adventure with Connor MacLeod (of the clan MacLeod), his mentor Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, and their immortal battle against the Kruger, we were treated to, or perhaps I should say punished by, CONSTANT disregard for established continuity; subpar quality tv, animation, video games, and films; and, as of right now, a complete radio silence on the entire franchise, since Justin Lin was announced as the director of the upcoming remake (not sure if that’s still true or not).

I mean, we’re talking about a franchise where some fans don’t even know a fifth film EXISTS (The Source), much less how godforsaken awful it was.  I mean, seriously, The Source may be one of the worst films I think I’ve ever seen.  And that’s from someone who’s seen Highlander 2, Highlander 3: The Final Dimension, and Highlander: Endgame.  Yeah…they all kinda sucked.  Out of the five Highlander films, I’d probably say my order of watchability would be….

  • Highlander
  • Highlander 3: The Final Dimension
  • Highlander: Endgame
  • Highlander 2
  • Highlander: The Source

I never was a fan of the TV series, as it seemed to kind of contradict the movie continuity, but I know some people swear by it.  Still, Duncan MacLeod was a pretty lame character in the two Highlander films he was in.

So it begs the question, why do we love a film franchise that is 4/5 crap?  Why would we even care about the series and, seriously, what could be done to fix something that’s more broken than working?  Read my thoughts after the jump….

So, let’s get one thing out of the way – the next Highlander film should be called Highlander:  Rebirth.  It fits as a reboot of the franchise, and in conjunction with the storyline of the film, you know?

In a fight between Kirk and Picard, Connor MacLeod would win.
In a fight between Kirk and Picard, Connor MacLeod would win.

And, as someone who has accepted (reluctantly) that sometimes the only way you can bring new life to a franchise is by remaking it, I’m also going to start by saying that, rather than start with a fresh story, Highlander needs to be rebooted with a remake.  I know I know…some people are already typing their response in talkback below, but hear me out.  Highlander is set up on the mythology that “there can be only one.”  Even the TV series and movies had to finally resolve that storyline when poor Connor got his head removed in Endgame.  So saying “well, we can focus on another immortal” not only contradicts what’s come before (especially in The Source), but, really, is just gonna piss us off more.

I hate to use an overused metaphor, but we need to Batman Begins this bitch.  We need to go through the origin story, and spend time on it.  Really, watching the original Highlander, it follows this formula, and this was almost 25 years ago.  And, really, the emphasis from the get-go needs to be on “franchise.”  At the end of the first film, we can’t think that now Connor can grow old, having killed off the only other immortal left.  No, we have to know more is coming, worse things are coming.  There need to be hints of a possible furthering of the storyline, rather than focusing on a done-in-one where sequels feel tacked on (I’m looking at you, Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean). Oh, and no Duncan, Owen, or whoever the hell else MacLeod – just Connor, please.  That’s all we need.

As for the cast, if we say that the lead actor needs to be Scottish, and that Ramirez should be a Spaniard (well, really, Egyptian), we’ve ruled the cast of the original.  I mean, sure, we’ve still got James McAvoy (a fine choice, really), but he’s about all of the eligible Scottish actors that aren’t already a little too old for the role.  I think looking at TV, I can think of plenty of people who look right for the role (I always think more about TV actors than movie actors when trying to start a franchise), but you need people who can fake an accent too.  I’d be okay with the aforementioned McAvoy, but I’d also be okay with Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber. Remember, we don’t need Scottish, we need actor.  As for Ramirez, I’ve seen Javier Bardem mentioned (not a bad choice, as well as Antonio Banderas, who would actually be my choice.  Anyone other than Anthony Hopkins.  I’m sure someone would suggest Liam Neeson, and he’s always good, if not exactly right.  For The Kurgan?  Why not go with Gerard Butler?  I mean, yeah, technically the Kurgan is Russian, but I think Butler could be a very imposing villain and could actually give us a performance that rivals Clancy Brown’s, as long as he doesn’t go too over the top.

The story should remain relatively similar, of course.  The original Highlander has a strong idea, and a strong story – it’s just that some of its aspects are, shall we say, dated.  Obviously, the wrestling at the beginning can be removed entirely, but the battle in a parking garage must remain.  In addition, I think it would be smart to involve someone like Donnie Yen as an action director (yes, a separate action director) for the fighting sequences for some great sword-fighting, and hand-to-hand infused with mixed martial arts, without the assistance of wirework or those lame ass CG-fighters like they used in Blade II.

Don't do this.
Don't do this.

Which brings me to directors.  First person to say Guillermo del Toro gets a punch in the neck.  While it would be great to have a distinctive style, del Toro focuses on the beauty of effects and makeup.  We need a director who can focus on the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, but still film the action in a style that isn’t all Bourne-like.  So how about someone like Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf, Silent Hill) or James Wan (Death Sentence)?  The Wolfman‘s Joe Johston is also a pretty strong contender.  I have enjoyed Justin Lin’s previous directorial efforts, but I’m not sure of him as the choice for Highlander.  There are few directors really directing in the classical style needed for a film like Highlander.

Another item I’m on the fence on is the soundtrack.  Do we go with a concept album, similar to Queen’s “A Kind of Magic,” which is hard to pull off nowadays, or a collection of rock songs a la The Crow?  Let’s be honest, neither has worked in a long time, and, really, I think I’d be pretty horrified to see Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, or Paramore, or Flyleaf on a Highlander soundtrack.  And overloading it with Godsmack or Theory of a Deadman sounds great in theory…but let’s not forget The Scorpion King.  I’m wondering if pure orchestrated score is the only option here, perhaps by James Horner, or Hans Zimmer?

I want to see another Highlander film, but I dread what modern filmmaking will do to it.  Do we need a ton of CGI, quick flash cuts, crappy metal music, and bad acting?  I’m not sure we need someone to go Clash of the Titans on our beloved Highalnder.  Can we get someone willing to respect the concept of the original, while still reinventing it enough to make it fresh for a new audience?

What do you think?

3 comments on “Highlander: Can there be only one?Add yours →

  1. First, can’t we just lead Highlander die? I mean, its corpse has been skull fucked so many times we’re pretty much just humping dust now.

    You forgot to mention Highlander: The Raven, the spin-off of the TV Series. Also, there was Quentin MacLeod, from the terrrrrible animated series.

    Ok, so. Lets pretend we have to remake it. My first thought for New Conor is Thomas Jane, because he looks like a young Christopher Lambert. After that, James Purefoy. They LOOK like the old character.

    I’m not going to get into a lot of thoughts and suggestions beyond that. I don’t think the magic of Highlander can be recaptured. There was a lot about the original that was just plain bad, but somehow it pulled it all off.

    As far as rebooting for a franchise… I think that one of my favorite aspects of the original was that it was a self-contained story. It didn’t need sequels or spin-offs. Everything they did sucked BECAUSE of how singular the original was. I don’t think its the kinda concept that works as a franchise really. I mean, if there can Be Only One and there isn’t Only One by the end of the movie I’m just going to feel like I’m being milked for my money.

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