SF & Fantasy Sunday: Highlander

Highlander was a big success, less for box office business and more for starting a franchise that to date includes four live action sequels and one animated, plus two live action TV shows and a cartoon. So how does the original hold up after more than 20 years? Not too well, to be honest.

The casting was always a little suspect – Sean Connery I can accept as an Egyptian (via Spain) because…well he’s Sean and has that hypnotic quality real stars have which stops you asking “Why does that Egyptian (via Spain) sound like he comes from Edinburgh?” This quality isn’t shared by Christopher Lambert, not an actor who would leap to my mind were I looking for someone to play a Scot circa 1536. Lambert’s limited range saw him rapidly descend from starring roles in theatrical films to straight-to-video fare. In Highlander he fails to convince as a Scotsman or as an action hero, with the sword fights looking pedestrian by today’s standards and never remotely life threatening.

Roxanne Hart is even less impressive than Lambert, showing zero chemistry with the films star (despite the obligatory ‘80s sex scene) and almost as little personality. Thank god for Clancy Brown, who, as the villainous Kurgan, just about makes the film watchable. He may have no depth as a character but as a display of comic book style villainy it’s great fun. He’s funny, he’s nasty, he’s just so much more entertaining than Lambert’s Conner MacLeod.

The biggest disappointment though was the films look. I used to think Russell Mulcahy’s film oozed style, and in truth it does, it’s just that said style is ‘80s pop video chic. One scene, where Conner walks outside after leaving Hart’s character’s apartment, overuses the smoke machine to such an extent that I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a foggy night or if the building next door was burning down. It’s no surprise now that Mulcahy’s career didn’t reach the heights I’d once expected it to, the film is all surface gloss and no heart.

And the payoff is, and has always been even when the rest of the film seemed cool, a complete letdown. “The Prize” turning out to be less of a lottery win and more the kind you’d find in a cheap Christmas cracker. It’s no wonder the sequels and TV series’ ended up being so contradictory of both each other and the original.

Some films stand the test of time, some don’t, Highlander falls into the latter category.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>