HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING (1991) Review

Highlander II: MacLeod and Me is a classic sci-fi tale…

About a young boy…

And becomes drawn into their age-old conflict…

All while getting their product placements in?

I’m sensing a theme here with the aliens, the Mc/Mac thing and the blatant cola advertising in these films.

Yes, folks, it’s Highlander II: The Sickening. Long considered to be one of the worst sequels in history, effectively beheading the notion that there can be only one. At this point, there have been countless ones.

Shut the fuck up.

In fact, there isn’t even just one of this film. The theatrical one which is infamous for the whole “You know the guy you thought was a Scottish clansman in the first film? He’s actually a Scottish alien clansman now!” to the ones which omit all alien references, as if that will help the continuity at all, this is a monumental clusterfuck.

Versions have different editing, sequences of events, and colors. It’s actually kind of fascinating the amount of different versions that exist of this film. The movie itself is a fascinating watch. It’s not good. But it’s almost worthwhile watching just to see it’s badness.

So I’m going to do an amalgamation of all of them, just because I can. Also, I think that no matter how many times you polish a turd, it’s still going to be shit. It doesn’t matter which version you watch, they’re all bad. Will this review be confusing? Possibly. But so is the movie. I wonder if I omit all alien references from my review, will it make it better, or just fuck up the entire series of events?

Oh, and, uh, all related images are from 2004 edition. I think… Fuck it. Unless specified otherwise…

Like now…
Confused yet?

Now I know that pretty much everyone knows what a disaster this film is and plenty of people have made their feelings known. But fuck you all, it’s my right to point out the exact same things everyone else is pointing out. Why? Because this is the internet, damn it.

What’re you going to do? Send me to Earth and make me immortal?

See, a major recurring theme in Highlander II (and, indeed, the entire series) is its repetition. Which is why I’ve decided to constantly repeat myself, because nothing gets your point across like doing something over and over.

And Highlander II feels that anything worth doing badly once is worth doing several times.

Just ask this guy:

That’s right. George Lucas, the man who went from sci-fi messiah to sci-fi pariah.

What’s that…? Lucas didn’t have anything to do with this film? Oh…

Well then, it must have been this guy:

That’s right. Roland Emmerich.

Huh? Not him either? I could’ve sworn this film had “disaster” written all over it.

Then it’s gotta be Joel Schumacher… Only he can make a monstrosity as homoerotic as this… You’re kidding… Not him either?

No, folks, it was actually this guy:

Yes, this guy.

That guy is Russell Mulcahy, the director of Highlander II, and a creative force behind the franchise.

See, this movie was apparently so bad that Mulcahy, himself, walked out after fifteen minutes, disowned it and attempted to credit Alan Smithee with the abominable theatrical release.

Above: believed to be the current incarnation of Alan Smithee.

There was a director’s cut released a few years later called the Renegade Version. This version removed basically all references to the Immortals being aliens and it has generally been better-received than the theatrical version.

He was also trying to prove to his fans that he was a renegade because he called it the Renegade Version. I think.

Hey, if you’re out to prove to everyone that you were fucked over, then your film has got to be totally different than the released cut, right?

Guess what?

It’s still fucking stupid.

Aliens are only one problem in the long list of fuckups in this movie. The removal of alien references might actually cause this film to make even less sense. So if you’re watching the Renegade Version and you think to yourself, “Man, these aliens are like aliens,” don’t feel bad. They are.

This movie is so baffling because it actually looks good. Well, as good as you can if you were to “be inspired” (IE steal) by and from pretty much every landmark sci-fi film from the 1980s: Blade Runner, Aliens, Dune, RoboCop, even Total Recall (1990), to list but a few.

See if you can guess which movie they ripped off:

One of those scenes is actually from Dune.

Populate this world with a story and characters that are so ludicrous and, well, stupid, that it brings the entire movie down. When people complain that they want to see filmmakers take more chances, I really don’t think this is what they have in mind.

It’s actually kind of wondrous watching this kind of honest, heartfelt and refreshing stupidity.

I like the first film, and I can understand why it has a huge cult following; it took a relatively straightforward concept and tried to give it some depth, weight and meaning.

This film effectively shits all over that. I don’t understand how they could fuck this movie up so colossally.

Folks, Highlander II is chockfull of meaningless insight, cool-but-ultimately-pointless imagery, and homoerotic overtones.

We live in a strange world filled with strange and abnormal people and aliens. We like to hear ourselves talk endlessly about bullshit. But when it comes to listening to the opinions of others, we don’t want any of it.

That’s fine. Of course, I’m not here to present to you an opinion I don’t have. I’m here to present the hard facts: Highlander II is a film about men and how they fight each other with big, long swords.

Highlander II starts at an opera. And I’ll be damned if they’re going to try to parallel this film and the Gotterdammerung.

Suddenly MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) hears Ramirez’s (Sean Connery) voice and he is drawn into a flashback. Now, since they removed any alien references in the Renegade cut, you will probably wonder just what the fuck is going on. So here’s the best way to understand it: they’re aliens.

I sure as shit don’t remember this shit from history class.

Yeah, it’s not the best route, but it’s better than wondering why a bunch of people dressed in desert rags, led by a Spaniard and a Scotsman, are gathered at what appears to be a spaceship, and have possession of pretty high-tech shit, in Earth’s past.

Must be the ancient aliens.

Wait, no it isn’t. If they’re aliens, why are they named Ramirez and MacLeod… and Katana? It’s amazing that these aliens not only look like humans, they have human names and act like humans, too.

But there is a far more pressing issue that Highlander II presents us with: gays.

Yes, folks, just mere weeks after Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, aliens answer the call.

Connor MacLeod and Ramirez being joined together in holy matrimony or some shit.

Homosexuality is as alien to us as actual aliens. Never mind that other species on Earth have been noted engaging in such behavior. It’s for the animals. We are not animals. We are images of God (who apparently also created godless sodomites). Except women, who were apparently made from the rib of the first man. The woman – who came from the man so technically that makes her a man – then has sex with the man. That’s some asexually-incestuous-narcissistic-gay shit, right there. Does God know about this?

Of course, like all rightfully-oppressed groups and everyone else who demands equality, the gay aliens have demanded too much.

Gays need to learn that there are only two ways out of a marriage: divorce or death, and they’re going to come to appreciate that the latter is less painful.

But it raises the important question: why is the Highlander film series so fucking gay?

Yeah, sure, there are loose women in every Highlander movie. Every time Connor MacLeod mentions that he’s “of the Clan MacLeod”, women just rip their clothes off for him. Highlander film series’ first trademark, folks.

But Highlander II has to be the gayest of the entire series. Look, it’s called the Quickening, what more do you want? Then again, Highlander: Endgame had dialogue like: “What’s the matter? Don’t you want to be inside me?”

It’s a movie in a film series where a bunch of men fight each other with huge, long, hard swords and women are completely useless, except as eye candy. But they’re consistently not the focus or wants of the other men. The men constantly want head from other men.

For instance, Highlander II is where an evil guy named Katana apparently waits out centuries just thinking about Connor MacLeod and getting his head, if it’s the last thing he possibly does.

And how the fuck do you explain this?

Gaaaaaaaay.

Didn’t Adrian Paul once describe the Quickening as having “a massive orgasm”? I guess it makes sense that they call it the Quickening then.

A massive orgasm, huh… “La petite mort”, indeed. So Connor MacLeod is yelling for Ramirez while having a massive orgasm.

Enough said.

Do I really have to spell it out for you people? If I had the patience I’d probably write up a long paper exposing the hard facts about how the Highlander films are all about repressed sexuality and homosexual desire, but I think the films effectively demonstrate that well enough.

At least Highlander III had Deborah Kara Unger’s smoking hot fucking body. Highlander II: The Dickening has Virginia Madsen, in one of the most awkward and spontaneous sex scenes (where they fail to introduce us to not one, but two, of her breasts) in film history, as if MacLeod had no idea what the hell he’d gotten himself into.

Sex, the way that alien-God intended it. Simulated. Spontaneous. Scottish.

(Note: I have never seen the TV series, so take that for what it’s worth.)

So basically it goes that Connor and Ramirez were defeated – with relative ease, I should add – by the bad guy, Katana, who rudely interrupted their honeymoon.

When you’re played by Michael Ironside, you’re pretty much doomed to a life of villainy.

Highlander series’ second trademark: the villain’s name always begins with a “K”. The Kurgan. Kane. Katana. Kell. I guess the “K” sound is just badass. Plus, it never goes soft like the “C”.

The two ‘rebels’ get banished and are forced to fight in the Game for the Prize. What they were rebelling against I have no idea. Maybe the ‘Priests’ took offense at their obscenely-open idea of same-sex marriage.

No, you unclean Sodomite. Especially not if you end up in North Carolina.

The priests judge them while they yearn for a future without prejudice. Alien priests like denying people their rights, too. All in the name of their fictional deities. I wonder if alien-Jesus never said anything about it, either. But, hey, Katana was in favor of taking their, ahem, heads, so I guess they can’t really complain much.

If you’re watching the Renegade cut, at this point there’s some bullshit about being sent to the future to fight in the Game. I think. It might actually make even less sense than the alien plot, since you have to take into consideration the fact that Katana is watching these future events which haven’t happened yet unfold from his past. So he’s watching MacLeod for centuries, probably, and then all of a sudden decides one day he’s bored.

So we’re back to the beginning of the movie, in this dystopian future, with MacLeod as an old man. Having saved the world from utter annihilation by building a huge shield to deflect harmful UV rays in lieu of an ozone layer, he’s ready to “kick back, grow old and die”. Unfortunately, it seems that years of living without sunlight are effectively sucking the life out of the planet. Who knew?

God.

At this point there are multiple threads of mass stupidity that emerge, almost all at once.

First of all, was this planetary shield really the best idea they had? None of these scientists thought that, you know, blocking the sun wouldn’t be detrimental in anyway? They couldn’t create a shield out of glass or something? Or how about simulating the ozone layer or, you know, actual ozone? They couldn’t make a shield designed to screen out harmful UV rays instead of blocking the entire fucking sun?

I’m a fucking idiot but even I have a hard time believing that when you get the world’s smartest people together, including MacLeod, who supposedly has the knowledge and thoughts of every human in existence, this was the best idea they had. Money was clearly not a problem, since bankrolling a fucking planetary shield must have cost fortunes. It’s even worse when you consider they built it to “last forever” and that shutting it down will destroy the Earth or some bullshit.

(Above: The 1%)
Anybody who’s knowledgeable knows that only Twinkies, Don King’s hair (not to mention Don King), and that thing called “nothing” last forever. U-S-A! U-S-A!

On a side note: I was going to theorize how this film was trying to convey some religious messages, but then I realized it couldn’t even articulate its own plot and characters properly and I realized I was talking out of my ass, which has permanently replaced the part of the face where my mouth should be.

That shit literally looks like a temple dedicated to appeasing the sun god.

More problems arrive in the form of dumbassed characters. Unfortunately, Katana, who’s waited what seems like centuries for this guy and then all of a sudden decides he can’t wait the last few years until MacLeod inevitably croaks, sends his henchmen to dispatch of the Highlander.

That’s Katana hitting his dumbassed henchman in the face for pointing out the obvious.

And I know everyone’s mentioned this, but this is the stupidest fucking thing ever. The two dumbasses here clearly point out the biggest flaw in logic about this film, and the writers and Katana brush it off like nobody else will notice.

How bad can your script’s writing be if your two “dumbass” characters mention the fatal logical hole in this movie and the filmmakers continue to use this flawed logic as some sort of weakass “motivation” for the proceeding events?

Apparently Katana can’t wait around any longer, even though at this point it doesn’t really matter. He seems to do nothing but wait for MacLeod. His ultimate plan involves sending the dipshit duo to Earth (or the future… whatever), whereupon MacLeod will become immortal again and cease to be an old man on the brink of inevitable death.

“Yeah, but, like, if you go there right now, then he will become immortal, which is why you have to go there now and kill him while you can.”

Also, if General Katana and his “army” (which seems to consist of these two guys) decided to travel back in time to the past, would that mean that their traveling to the future never happened, thus negating the impact it would have on MacLeod’s immortality? Or are they just aliens?

I just can’t get over the stupidity of this one scene, so I’ll just conveniently ignore it and move the fuck on.

Meanwhile, an “eco-terrorist” group led by Virginia Madsen’s Louise Marcus breaks into the Shield Corporation to discover that everything up above may be ship-shape. These guys break in and out of this titanic corporation with such ease that you would think the security was on loan from the Afghan National Police or something.

Louise decides to confront Connor MacLeod about this. In the meantime he has converged on his local bar to get drunk, because in the future there’s nothing worth doing that’s not worth doing drunk.

While there, he’s hassled by a fat woman, who’s apparently pissed that MacLeod ruined her life by saving it. I guess this fat woman preferred to die quickly rather than slowly. What the hell is she dying of, anyway? She looks pretty fat and healthy to me. I think she’s the fattest person in this film, what the hell’s she complaining about?

Hum… Must be a member of the Occupy movement.

It’s always nice when the characters actually point out to the audience that they’re completely useless. Apparently this chick is pissed that MacLeod’s planetary shield, which saved them, made her life worse. Somehow. I guess being alive with a job is worse than being dead.

Fatass should feel lucky she’s even got a job.

Anyway, Louise confronts old MacLeod who doesn’t seem to give a shit about anything anymore. Of course, the bumbling henchmen show up and then it’s off to the fucking races. While Louise hides like a girl, MacLeod surprisingly manages to fend off the two quite well, despite being an old man, proving once and for all that old men are clearly more powerful than young, active, combat-trained women.

MacLeod wins, obviously, becomes young and Immortal again, and yells out for Ramirez while orgasming.

Note: there’s a super-ultra-rare director’s man’s cut where additional footage of massive amounts of ejaculation are added back in.

This causes Ramirez to resurrect from the dead and spontaneously appear on a stage somewhere in Scotland. Why? Uh… Well… When the writers bother to explain that, I’ll let you know. (Note: I’ll never let you know.)

Anyway, Louise immediately allows herself to be plowed by “young” MacLeod in the streets after knowing him for about five minutes, five of which were when he was an old man. That’s pretty gay.

*insert obligatory sex scene with woman here*

So Katana decides that since he’s fucked up everything to this point, he might as well complete the fuckup himself, and goes to Earth, or the future, or whatever. He lands in a subway train and in one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in this movie (and that’s saying a lot) commandeers the train. Why? Because he’s EEEEEVIIIIILL!

MacLeod and Ramirez, meanwhile, have reunited. It’s not even a big deal to them that Ramirez is back and walking around again. Apparently they know what’s going on but the audience has no idea. They treat it like kids’ stuff. For instance, why doesn’t MacLeod ask Ramirez what it’s like to be dead? Is there an afterlife? Are the Game and the Prize worth it? Instead, they greet each other by whacking their impotent swords against each other.

After some of that bullshit, the trio decide to work together to find out if the Shield Corporation is a greedy monopolistic corporation, which they are.

Turns out that the shield may no longer actually be needed, as the ozone layer may have replenished itself. This means that this evil greedy corporation is basically just fucking everyone over for money. Oh, and they’re working for the bad guy now.

“Yes, everything is fine because I’m rich beyond your wildest dreams. Our company supposedly deserves its reported bullshit valuation and we’re going to use billions in investor money for who knows what. No privacy is being breached and nobody is being fucked over. Just look at my douchebag smile. Would this smile lie to you?”

The trio first breaks into “Max” just to confirm with the old guy (Connor’s friend and high-ranking Shield Corp member) where to ascend to the top of the shield. This endeavor costs Connery his life, again, in what is quite possibly the dumbest way to die. I think he really wanted out of this film.

Connery’s final lines include some shit about how MacLeod and Louise need to work together to bring the shield down. This is really important because at the end the teamwork of MacLeod and himself brings down the shield, while Louise looks on with that dumb look plastered on her face.

That’s the one.

It really begs the question why Ramirez was even in this film, since he proved to be surprisingly worthless. Was it really for the money? Honestly, Connery’s character isn’t the only completely unmotivated and useless one. Louise pretty much ends up doing nothing after the first half or so. Katana has no motives for his actions, except… something… which isn’t explored or explained at all.

Anyway, in a scene that’s surprisingly not gay, Katana punishes Blake because he’s been naughty… By grabbing him by the balls and tossing him out a window.

I think everyone is glad that shot is blurry.

So the two of them discover that, yes, everything’s normal above the shield. They head to the power source to shut it down for good.

Oh, wait, no, they can’t do that because… Fuck it, I don’t know, something about needing more power to shut it down than to keep it running. It’s mindboggling how dumb this all is, but what do you expect in a movie where the characters conveniently point out logical flaws to the audience.

At the end, MacLeod engages in his final fight with Katana and at this point I could really give a shit.

He gets his ass whooped for awhile before pulling the typical Rocky rally and beheads Katana. He steps into the light and I’m sure there’s some kind of religious shit that goes with this, but who cares, right? I guess the massive orgasm he got from Katana helps to destroy the shield. How would this have been different than just shutting it down I have no idea.

“When asked just what the hell about this scene and movie made any fucking sense, the director, writers, cast and crew all responded with deafening silence.”

MacLeod and Louise live happily ever after with a story that continues in the third film, which conveniently ignores everything in or about Highlander II, especially all of the dumbass alien references.

Because this movie fucking sucks and it pretty much derailed the entire fucking franchise.

I give it two points for having the balls to rip-off the look of every sci-fi film in the ten years before its release. I just can’t get over how fucking stupid it all is: there is no logical consistency to the movie, the motivations for the characters are nil, the bad guys are terrible, and the fight scenes suck.

There seems to be a consistently higher opinion for Highlander II: Renegade Version but that’s only because it’s not Highlander II: The Quickening. Actually, it is, except without alien references and a few tweaks here and there, with the addition of some new footage. But don’t be fooled by all the “hype”. Both versions are equally bad.

They’re essentially the same shitty fucking thing. I’d argue that the Renegade cut might actually be even worse since removal of anything alien pretty much ensures nobody knows what the hell is going on. But whatever. The Renegade cut attempts to remedy this by adding some new footage and making everything blue.

Whoop-dee-fucking-do. This is what you’re paying for, folks.

Hell, all of the versions are shit: the US theatrical, the UK theatrical, the Renegade Cut, the Zeist fan edit (yes, folks, they actually exist). It really doesn’t matter which one you watch. And the more versions you are suckered into buying, the more money you waste on them.

Actually, I don’t think the US theatrical cut is even available anymore except on VHS and some European releases. That’s how bad this movie is; nobody wants you to see it. Except you have; and they took out all the aliens, added some new shit to appease you, and made you think that red was blue. And you paid for it.

It’s honestly a fascinating, if painful, piece of cinematic history. Yeah, yeah, we all know the stories behind films like Apocalypse Now, Heaven’s Gate, Dune and Waterworld. Highlander II deserves to be studied alongside them. It should be taught in film classes everywhere. That all versions of this film could be so conveniently ignored by the rest of the franchise, that a franchise even survived a movie this bad, that a film that’s relatively aesthetically-pleasing could be so utterly ludicrous, etc.

Good fucking god.

Everything about this movie, and I mean everything, has essentially turned me into an old fat confused little man. I don’t know anything from anything anymore.

Next: a 1950s historical tale about the Mongols, except it’s all-American. Or maybe a Roger Corman flick. Or Showgirls. Fuck yeah, everybody loves Showgirls.

(Note: If you want to see a more in-depth review regarding this movie’s ineptitude, I recommend Spoony’s video review.)

(E2A, April 2015: I should have made this fact very clear in the review: removing the entire so-called back-story from this god-awful film would have made near-zero difference on the rest of the plot. All you would need is an excuse to negate the ending of the first film [IE there can only be one, again]. Which is what I guess all of the Zeist/time travel crap was trying to do, but you cannot honestly sit there and tell me that this was the best excuse of a retarded plot anyone could come up with. I guess people felt that taking that out of the movie completely would have meant cutting out significant portions. But that is the bottom-line, really: the attempt to explain the origins of the Immortals not just contradicted the first film, it was unnecessary. They should have just removed the entire so-called braindead back-story because it would have made fuck-all of a difference to the braindead planetary shield plot.

Take out the back-story, the time travel, aliens, all that crap, and Sean Connery [seriously, he was also completely unnecessary in the course of this film, and I am saying that as a Sean Connery fan], and just tweak the screenplay here and there [such as rewriting the Katana character or his background, and/or adding another excuse to get this sequel rolling] and there is a film for you. Not that the rest of the film would have been a masterpiece [it would still have been god-awful], since there would basically be no meat to the plot, but at least it would have probably been more cohesive. The point is, the part that did the most to piss off Highlander fans was wholly unnecessary in regards to the larger plot of the story.)

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