Highlander first hit worldwide cinemas in 1986 and bombed in the U.S. The film took an abysmal $5.9 million there before being picked up by European cinema goers who validated a second film. On the release of the second, The Quickening, home video rentals and sales went on the up for the original film, and made it the cult success it is today across the western world. Despite that, the second film bombed at the cinema as well, and is largely regarded as one of the worst films ever made (I’ll be contesting that later). The film went on to make $15 million in the U.S., decidedly better than the first but still not overly impressive. The third and fourth films, The Sorcerer and Endgame both took $12 million and asks the question: why were so many of these made?
The last movie was made in 2000, fourteen years after the first. That’s a relatively quick turnaround for a four film franchise, especially as no larger story arch was designed to push the movies out quicker and perhaps that’s due to the cast and crews dependence and enjoyment on the franchise. The Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert’s only other notable big Hollywood film was Mortal Combat in 1995 and that certainly wasn’t the success it was meant to be.
Deaths are reasonably consistent over the first three films varying from 6 to 10, but the last film pushes that up to 20. While that isn’t high relative to some other action franchises it does highlight the large villain gang situation that is isolated to just the fourth film. Part of that is simply the gang being wiped out over a dinner table but it’s also due to the flashbacks of Connor and Duncan MacLeod showing off their fun loving/killing attitude to normal people. Oddly however, sword fights equal just five in the fourth film (and that exactly matches the number in Quickening and Sorcerer) with Highlander taking the top spot with a huge 19 sword fights. This can be explained by Connor’s initially training with Sean Connery’s character, Ramirez, and the Highlander’s very first fight on the Scottish moors with two different clans, but it’s also due to several sword fights the villain has with Connor and others before the tense climax.
The Highlander gains life power when he kills his immortal foe and it may come as some surprise to discover he only kills a handful of people throughout the franchise. The average is three kills by Connor’s hand per film, and even though he takes a minor role in the fourth film, Endgame, he kills the most people with five. Connor’s passive attitude at winning the unknown ‘prize’ means he only fights to the death in self-defence while the villains usually kill more immortals to get to him. This is the case here as the overall baddie kill count is 27 with an average of around 7 kills per film. By the time the film the hero and villain meet for the last time we’re in no doubt of who to root for. It’s also worth noting that each main villain has the same dark husky voice, which I guess, indicates their badass persona. The first villain’s voice even has an origin story with Ramirez superbly cutting his throat open, but the other three villians are slightly disappointing in being unable to move away from that Highlander default attribute.
The only way to kill an immortal is to take their head off so expectedly decapitations are on the up in this series. We only count what we see so they don’t quite tally with how many deaths there are but 18 is a strong record to beat for any franchise going forward.
As I mentioned earlier, Highlander II: The Quickening is regarded as one of the worst films ever made by critics but in reality, and years later, I quite liked it. The first film has undoubtedly aged badly, with action looking majorly unimpressive. It does have a unique storyline and the flashbacks are great, but really they’re the only high points. The Quickening alters the entire mythology of the immortals, making them aliens who are condemned to live on Earth, and it even makes Connor and Ramirez, revolutionary fighters who knew each other before they really meet in the first film. Yes, this is all messed up but as an isolated film the end result is a fun, action-packed sci-fi B-movie with much more going for it than the first. Don’t hate me just give it another go. You may be surprised at how much you like it.
The Highlander films aren’t set to blow anyone’s socks off; they were sold on being naff from the start, and it’s easy to see why they’ve become cult classics. For fun, easy going action films that are very different to your current day blockbusters, these could please.
|Living forever drags
|Sean Connery doesn’t do accents. He’s from Scotland deal with it.
|Decapitation is the only way to kill an immortal.
|Global warming can be solved by a large force field that puts the Earth into darkness. Yay!
|When you see lightning it’s probably because an immortal has been killed
|Immortal friendships are fun, especially if you’re related
|Love lives are complicated when you’re immortal. Take a wife per century and grieve forever.
|Japanese swords are the best
|A French accent develops when you’ve been travelling the world for centuries
|Take in a child during wartime and employ her as a secretary when she comes of age