Extra Review: Highlander

Mark 6

Highlander is undeniably a product of the early 80s, from the effects, to the music, to the setting. This isn’t automatically a bad thing, but being so heavily anchored to its era prevents it from aging gracefully.

While the cinematography is impressive in many places (especially compared to contemporary films), and uses clever wipe transitions, at times the editing is very choppy. This is most evident in a scene such as when Connor MacLeod experiences the Quickening when he first meets Ramírez. There are several quick cuts, each one having a character in a new location and position, despite establishing that no significant time passes between each cut. Such editing can be done to enforce a sense of disorientation on the viewer, but the effect is more awkward than deliberate.

Despite a solid premise, the weakest part of the movie is the writing. The dialogue can switch from flowery and poetic, bordering right on the edge of becoming something truly epic in tone, to blunt and stilted in a matter of seconds. While the actors’ performances are generally very strong—Sean Connery and Clancy Brown are the most memorable—the characters they play often come across as uninteresting because of the shallow writing, their motivations ill-defined. Our central protagonist has very little to do in the Present Day portions of the story, and multiple subplots run into dead-ends or are simply forgotten. It leaves the impression that a lot was left on the cutting room floor.

The most emotionally engaging pieces are almost entirely restricted to the Past scenes, thanks in large part to the excellent soundtrack from Queen, yet these sections feel rushed, used for little more than to give context for the Present Day story. The title song immediately grabs the viewer’s attention. As Connor remembers his past life, the music is heartwrenching. It’s a sincere loss that this music was not properly preserved to be enjoyed outside the context of the movie in its whole.

While I am hesitant to hope for a remake, wary that out-of-touch studio executives could botch the film with their meddling (a fear not unwarranted after the many sequels and TV series repeatedly contradicted the original film), there are many ways this story could be improved. A more detailed script to fill out the world and personalities, and an appropriate budget to make up for the original’s shortcomings. Highlander is fun, but not enough to earn a regular re-watch.