Tag Archives: Highlander

The Best (Or Worst) Cinematic Villains

With the major disappointment of a bad guy that was the boring CGI-fest, Steppenwolf from the recent Justice League flick. I got to thinking about some of my favourite on-screen villains over the years. From total, outright murderous killers to more subtle antagonists that have you rooting for the bad guy or feeling sorry for them despite their nefarious ways. There is one thing all the villains on my list have that Justice League‘s Steppenwolf does not… personality, character, depth, charm and screen presence – okay so that’s more than one thing – but you get the point, Steppenwolf was shit.

A film’s bad guy (or gal) can be both despised and revered at the same time if they are written/acted well enough and a good villain is required for the film to work. So here we go and in no particular order – with my top (whatever number as I’m not counting) list of cinematic antagonists. Pre-warning SPOILERS ahead for some films…

Terminator (The Terminator)

Terminator

The movie role that catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger into Hollywood fame. A killer cyborg sent from the future to kill the leader of the resistance that will stop the machine’s rule over the humans – before he has even been born. The Terminator is a low budget sci-fi/horror flick with a lot of heart and ambition. Still one of the all time great pictures that sticks in the mind thanks to its then unknown star, Schwarzenegger playing the titular Terminator… or The Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, Series T-800 – if you prefer.

A chilling villain that is seemingly unstoppable and for me, still Schwarzenegger’s finest on screen role that packs in a hell of a lot of screen presence even though he only has only 14 lines of dialogue in the entire flick.

Terminator: “Fuck you, asshole.”

The Kurgan/Victor Kruger (Highlander)

The Kurgan

Cruel, ruthless, megalomaniacal and brutal – The Kurgan (real name unknown) is the antagonist from Highlander, played to perfection by Clancy Brown. He sees no issue with running people through with his sword or terrorising nuns in a church. Not much is known about the character other than he used to be a member of an ancient tribe of the Russian Steppes known only as ‘The Kurgan’… which is where he took the name from. When he became an immortal is also unknown and its the unknown that makes the character so damn enjoyable. All we do know about him is that he likes to kill people – especially other immortals.

Brown’s performance as The Kurgan is both terrifying and humorous at the same time. A dark charm that should be wrong, but feels so very right with just the perfect amount of fun thrown in.

Kurgan: “I have something to say! It’s better to burn out than to fade away!”

Biff/Griff/Buford Tannen (Back to the Future)

Biff-Griff-Buford

I think Marty McFly pretty much summed it up when he said “He’s an asshole!” when describing Buford Tannen. Pick any of the iterations of the character from any of the Back to the Future flicks and they are complete assholes… yes even the mild and meek post 1955 time travel version of Biff is somewhat ‘off’ despite him being transformed into a ‘good guy’. Through the Tannen family history, they have killed lawmen, bullied and beaten up countless school kids, attempted to rape Lorraine Baines… oh and murdered George McFly. Yet each and every time they meet a rather repugnant end involving manure.

With Tom Wilson playing each of the Tannen kin through the years. There has been around 130 years of sheer ‘assholery’ through the Back to the Future trilogy and every second of it has been a joy to watch.

Biff Tannen: “Since you’re new here, I’m gonna cut you a break… today. So why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here!”

Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

Roy Batty

Whenever Rutger Hauer plays a bad guy – he proves why he’s one of the best. In fact, when it came to putting this list together – I had a tough time between choosing Roy Batty or ‘John Ryder’ from The Hitcher. I settled on Batty because I have something else planed for Ryder later…

Hauer plays the role as cold as he could giving Batty a chilling persona as the replicant (android made identical to humans but with a shorter life) just trying to find his creator to ask for more life. And when he does finally find his ‘father’, he ends up killing him in a brutal manner. One of the few cinematic villains you genuinely end up feeling sorry for, thanks to the amazing performance from Hauer – especially after his short but eloquent farewell speech.

Roy Batty: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Tommy DeVito (Goodfellas)

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Tommy DeVito is a cruel, psychopathic sadist with ‘short man syndrome’ who’ll share a drink with you one second and then stab you in the neck with a pen the next or shoot you in the foot for not walking fast enough. With the mighty Joe Pesci playing the role, we are given a bad guy that is as fun as he is twisted.

Pesci made the character much more memorable than anyone could have guessed. Going from laughter to sheer rage on a sixpence and often without warning. DeVito really is one of cinemas all time great bad guys… or Goodfellas. Plus he also gave us one of the greatest and most tense scenes caught on film…

Tommy DeVito: “You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe. But I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?”

Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest)

Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest).jpg

So this one is a little ‘different’ as its a portrayal of a real person and not just anyone – but one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses ever, Joan Crawford – played by Faye Dunaway. Mommie Dearest is a biographical dramatisation flick telling the true-ish story of Joan Crawford adopting a little girl whom she named Christina and finally became a mother after a number of miscarriages.

The film is wonderfully terrifying and that is thanks to Dunaway’s stunning performance as Hollywood royalty – Joan Crawford. The relationship between mother and daughter is disturbing as Crawford pushes and punishes Christina for pretty much nothing. The film was panned by critics when originally released, but has since found its audience today and rightfully so too.

Joan Crawford: “No wire-hangers, ever!”

Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Nurse Ratched

From one crazy-ass bitch to another. Enter Louise Fletcher playing Nurse Mildred Ratched, the main antagonist from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She’s cold-hearted, vindictive and strict as the head nurse of a hospital for patients with mental illnesses. Its when a new patient, R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) enters the hospital that she is pushed to her limit and beyond.

Okay, so I have a confession to make here. I really didn’t want to include Nurse Ratched as a ‘villain’ because I quite honestly do not see her as one. Yeah she’s tough and manipulative – but I’ve always seen her as ‘just doing her job’. For me, I personally find R.P. McMurphy to be more antagonistic in the film than Nurse Ratched. But she is generally seen as the main antagonist so I’ll include her (cos she’s an awesome character) even if I don’t necessarily agree.

Nurse Ratched: “If Mr. McMurphy doesn’t want to take his medication orally, I’m sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don’t think that he would like it.”

Richard Vernon (The Breakfast Club)

Richard Vernon

Much like the previous Nurse Ratched, here was have a villain who is only considered bad because they are doing their job… except this character is a real asshole and played brilliantly by Paul Gleason. Vernon is the vice principal of Shermer High School, and one Saturday – he holds a detention for five students and tells them to write a thousand word essay on who they think they are.

The Breakfast Club is easily my favourite film from the legendary director John Hughes and I feel a big part of that enjoyment comes from the extremely controlling, devious and egotistic nature of ‘Dick’ Vernon who controls the students with an iron fist and shows no mercy or remorse either.

Richard Vernon: “But someday when you’re outta here and you’ve forgotten all about this place and they’ve forgotten all about you, and you’re wrapped up in your own pathetic life, I’m gonna be there. That’s right. And I’m gonna kick the living shit out of you. I’m gonna knock your dick in the dirt.”

Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Hans Landa

When it comes to Quentin Tarantino bad guys – we are spoilt for choice; Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson)… but I’ve gone for the Nazi officer of the SS, Col. Hans Lander and his impressive smoking-pipe. Lander, nicknamed ‘The Jew Hunter’ – a name his is extremely proud of, is ruthless in his investigations and capture (and often killing) of Jews.

Christoph Waltz (rightfully) won an Oscar for his performance as the relentless SS officer and the opening, very tense scene shows just why he fully deserved the award too. Waltz’s multilingual performance is a pure joy to watch and this is one bad guy I love to hate.

Hans Lander: “What a tremendously hostile world that a rat must endure. Yet not only does he survive, he thrives. Because our little foe has an instinct for survival and preservation second to none. And that, Monsieur, is what a Jew shares with a rat.”

John Doe (Seven)

John Doe.jpg

Real name unknown – John Doe is a clever and manipulative character who keeps diaries and notes on his crimes and victims. The film does a great job of keeping him in the shadows and we only learn who he really is in the latter part of the flick – he first ‘real’ entrance in the movie when he walks into the police station covered in blood and calmly saying “detective” over and over as he hands himself in (until he snaps and has to scream) is both twisted and revealing once you know just who’s blood he is covered in and why.

Recent allegations aside – Kevin Spacey is fucking awesome in this flick. He performance is so memorable that you’ll be talking about it for years later… as I am right now. The acting is subtle and calming. This all just adds to the performance and creates one of the best killers ever caught on film.

John Doe: “Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention.”

‘Angel Eyes’ (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

Angel Eyes

Some more pipe-smoking action now from Lee Van Cleef playing ‘Angel Eyes’ (real name unknown, though he is named in the original Italian version of the film) in one of the best Westerns ever made. Also known as the titular ‘Bad’ from the film. ‘Angel Eyes’ is a ruthless and cunning killer who is not afraid to pull the trigger on anyone who gets in his way. Still, if shooting people is not enough – he’ll also have the living shit beaten out of you until you are barely alive… as Tuco discovers in the film, while just gleefully watching on.

Van Cleef’s performance of ‘Angel Eyes’ is undeniably cool but also cruel and unforgiving. He barely thinks twice about murder as he shoots his way through people just to find a man called Bill Carson.

‘Angel Eyes’: “Even a filthy beggar like that has got a protecting angel. A golden-haired angel watches over him.”

Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

Hans Gruber

Of course I had to include quite possibly THE greatest bad guy in an action film ever. Hans Gruber is cool, calm and collected – he dresses well and is a very reasonable person. But don’t let any of that fool as as he’s also ruthless and thinks nothing of shooting someone in the head at point blank range. He was once part of the Volksfrei West German terrorist group – but was expelled from the group… probably for being too damn bad-ass.

God damn it, I miss Alan Rickman and this is his best role ever. He dulcet, super smooth voice added to the character’s laid back attitude and persona. Check out any ‘top (whatever) bad guys list’ on the interwebs and you’ll find Hans Gruber pretty much always near the top if not at the top. The only reason he’s not at the top here is because I just don’t do ‘top lists’. Rickman’s performance is just memorising and makes Gruber one of those rare villains you can’t help but love and just wish he got away with it at the end.

Hans Gruber: “I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.”

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)

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A foul-mouthed drill sergeant who bullies his recruits – especially the struggling Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) played to his shoutiest best by R. Lee Ermey. So strong and memorable was this performance that he has been held up as the template for any drill sergeant in TV and films ever since. He’s racist, obnoxious, uncaring and ruthless – his dialogue has gone down in movie history as being some of the very best from any single film character.

Ermey’s performance is shocking but he also makes it impossible to not ‘enjoy’ the character despite his sheer awfulness. The way he verbally,  physically and mentally abuses his recruits is tremendous but uncomfortable to watch and all comes to a boiling point when he pushes Private Pyle too far.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: “Holy dog shit! Texas? Only steers and queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy, and you don’t look much like a steer to me, so that kinda narrows it down. Do you suck dicks?”

Don Logan (Sexy Beast)

Don Logan

You remember the movie Gandhi right? The one where (Sir) Ben Kingsley plays the eponymous peace-seeking pacifist and won the best actor Oscar for it too? Well this role is the polar opposite of that and in my opinion just as worthy of an Oscar too. This is Kingsley at his foul-mouthed, frenzied, frightening finest. Logan is a recruiter for the London criminal underworld who turns up in Spain to convince retired expert safe-cracker Gary Dove (Ray Winstone) to take part in a major London bank heist. But it is when Dove turns the offer down that Logan shows his true colours.

I avoided this film at first because I thought it sounded like a crap porn flick. So when I did finally sit down to watch it – going in completely unaware of what it was about, I was blown away by Kingsley’s stunning performance. Not only is Sexy Beast a great ‘London gangster’ flick – it features a brilliant bad guy with Logan and one that’ll stick in my head forever.

Don Logan: “You’re the problem! You’re the fucking problem you fucking Dr White honkin’ jam-rag fucking spunk-bubble! I’m telling you Aitch you keep looking at me I’ll put you in the fucking ground, promise you!”

Norman Bates (Psycho)

Norman Bates

Norman Bates – the man with severe ‘mommy issues’. Probably one of the greatest villains to ever grace the cinema screen. A young, shy and retiring man who’s nervousness hides a deep, dark secret. With Anthony Perkins playing the role in a charming and enduring manner which helps to hide just exactly what is going on in his head. Psycho is one of the greatest films ever made with such iconic imagery, music and of course that ending…

If you’ve ever read the novel Psycho – then you’d know just how different the character of Norman is in the film. In the book, he’s a fat, balding alcoholic. A million miles away from Perkins. But it was director Alfred Hitchcock who wanted to make the change so the audience would sympathise with Norman, and its a change that really works well and helped by the charismatic performance of Perkins himself which makes the ending all the more shocking.

Norman Bates: “It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?”

Harry Lime (The Third Man)

Harry Lime.jpg

Not to be confused with the burglar Harry Lime from Home Alone. This Lime is a criminal who was killed in a car accident… or was he? When one of his close friends claim to have seen Lime alive and well, his grave is opened up only to find that Lime is not the man buried. Which all leads to a cat and mouse chase to track down the criminal.

Lime is effortlessly played by Orson Welles. He is amoral, careless but also wickedly charming and charismatic too. The Third Man is a wonderful flick that is most definitely lifted several levels by Welles’ performance – his infamous wry smirk hides a thousand lies.

Harry Lime: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Vincenzo Coccotti (True Romance)

Vincenzo Coccotti.jpg

Vincenzo Coccotti is a Sicilian consigliere for local Detroit mobster ‘Blue’ Lou Boyle. Only a minor character in the film – but one you won’t forget in a hurry. Coccotti is cold and calculating played beautifully by Christopher Walken. He is hardly in the film and only appears in one scene… but what a great scene it is.

My second Tarantino bad guy on here, but he does create such awesome villains that I could probably do a list just full of them. The aforementioned scene in which Coccotti appears alongside Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper) is a tense and wonderfully written scene that has Tarantino’s fingerprints all over it. Walken’s performance is both terrifying and engrossing at the same time.

Vincent Coccotti: “I’m the Anti-Christ. You got me in a vendetta kind of mood. You tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincent Coccotti.”

Amon Goeth (Schindler’s List)

Amon Goeth

This guy is one psychopathic, sadistic, brutal, abusive and emotionless Nazi. He’ll sit on his balcony and shoot Jews for no reason other than they are Jews and he is bored. He also beat the shit of his maid because she turned down his advances. And these instances are some of his more tame crimes. At the end of the film, Goeth is executed by hanging, but not before calmly patting his hair into place and uttering “Heil Hitler” – showing his total lack of remorse perfectly clear.

Played by Ralph Fiennes to chilling effect, this performance is one of the most disturbing and difficult to watch in film. Some bad guys have a redeeming quality, if not more than one. Goeth has nothing redeeming about him, he’s just pure fucking evil personified. One of the most disgustingly, despicable movie villains ever.

Amon Goeth: “Today is history and you are part of it. Six hundred years ago, when elsewhere they were footing the blame for the Black Death, Casimir the Great – so called – told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered in business, science, education, the arts. They came with nothing. And they flourished. For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. By this evening those six centuries will be a rumour. They never happened. Today is history.”


Well there you have it, a selection of some of my favourite on screen villains… and all of them far more impressive and memorable than Steppenwolf. To be honest, there were a tonne I left off this list with plenty more antagonists I enjoy just as much if not more. But I had to pick and choose to keep this list at a reasonable length – still, I could always do another list in the future or even feature some of my other favourites in much more detailed articles…

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There can be only one! Part III

That was a rough journey.
From imaginative and unique cult classic to a big lump of excrement with nothing of any real worth in between.

High

I honestly can not think of a worse, most mistreated movie franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly horrible movie franchises out there with some bad sequels along the way. But even some of the worst have one or two films in the series that are okay at best. Highlander has nothing.
The first film was great, yet everything that came after it was terrible.

Its a big and popular franchise too, there is much more than the films I mentioned here.
Highlander is a franchise that has spawned not only a film series. It has three TV spin offs, one animated and two live action. Several comic books and even a novel series with a fair amount of books. Plus it spawned two video games.
Yet despite it being a big franchise, its treated with no respect at all.

Now I can only speak of the franchise from the point of which I have been exposed too it.
I did say I tried the first TV spin off and didn’t like it much.
I remember the animated show too that was aimed at kids…yes, this franchise that revolves around immortals having thier heads cut off had a kids cartoon.
I did watch a couple of episodes from the other TV spin off, The Raven…that was unpleasant.
I have not read the comics nor any of the novels.
I did play both of the games and they were also terrible.

So I have not been exposed to EVERYTHING this franchise has to offer, but I have witnessed my fair share and can safely say there is not a worse franchise out there.

duo

But forget everything that Highlander has to offer. I did say at the start I only wanted to concentrate on the movies themselves. So here is my quick round up of the film franchise.

Highlander: This film is far from perfect and I have a few problems with it. But the characters and mythos created within this film is highly unique, plus it had a great story structure jumping back and forth in time showing Connor through the centuries. Then there is something I’m going to cover in a little more detail later, the soundtrack by Queen.

Highlander II: The Quickening: This film is shockingly bad. Everything set up previously, everything we have learned is thrown out and replaced with aliens and protecting the ozone layer. The plot makes no sense, something I will cover later. The story is pointless and the characters are forgettable.

Highlander III: The Sorcerer: As many claim and an opinion I will mirror. This one is not as bad as the previous film…but its still not a good film anyway. It rightfully ignores the last film and goes its own way. Of all the sequels, this is the only one that is in some way watchable.

Highlander: Endgame: Interesting concept, very poor execution with some asinine writing. I think this one is more for fans of the TV spin off than fans of the original film.

Highlander: The Search For Vengeance: Not seen it yet and I honestly have no urge to either.

Highlander: The Source: A sequel worse than Highlander II. Nuff said.

Really after all I have seen from what this franchise has to offer. I am convinced that there SHOULD be only one.

Now I’m not trying to say this should never had become a franchise, just that it deserved to had become a better franchise.
When the whole mantra and coda of the first film is, “there can be only one” and how the film ends like it does…you can’t really make sequels can you?

Here’s an idea or two off the top of my head:

Ramírez and The Kurgan seemed to know each other in the first film. There’s a story right there. A prequel covering their discovery of immortality and their previous run ins.

A film that takes place along side the original that covers the other immortals.

How about the literal centuries of years Connor has lived and how much he must have seen and done?

There are a few ideas that maintain the mythos of the original film and don’t involve aliens from Zeist or ozone layer protectors.
There are literally centuries worth of stories and characters they could have explored.

I wanted to point out the many, many problems Highlander II has as a sequel, and here I go.

Highlander II: The Plot Holes & Inconsistencies:

1: The series is called Highlander because the main character, Connor is originally from the highlands of Scotland…not an alien from planet Zeist. Highlander, there is a clue in the title.

2: Ramírez dies in the first film and is back in this sequel with no explanation as to how other than Ramírez telling Connor if he need him just call out his name. This negates the impact and importance of his death in the first film.

3: Katana’s plan even bothering to kill Connor when he was an old man makes no sense. Connor is literally days away from dying as he is now mortal, so sending back his two cronies to try and kill Connor is pointless. All he had to do was just wait and Connor would be dead soon enough. It is only because Katana did send his minions to Earth that made Connor immortal again.

4: Ramírez and Connor are still called Ramírez and Connor on Zeist. Popular alien names are they? Then to add even more insult, Connor is still called MacLeod, a name of Scottish origin.

5: Katana in the film brings up the fact they are forbidden to fight on holly ground. A rule established in the first film. But they are aliens from another planet, why is Earth holy ground forbidden to them?

6: Several times in the film, Katana makes reference to Earth pop culture. The Wizard Of Oz just to name one…they have the Wizard Of Oz (and other Earth based culture) on Zeist then?

7: Ramírez and Connor had never met until the events of the first film and this is made very clear, yet according to this film they have known each other for centuries.

There are more problems, so many more but to be honest I need to move on from this disaster.
But before I leave Highlander II behind, I just want to mention this blurb on the back of the box…

Quote

In case you can’t quite make that out it claims that “Highlander 2: the Quickening is the smartest sci-fi thriller since Blade Runner”
I’ll just leave that there.

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I’ve been thinking of a way to display how far this franchise has fallen and I think I may have it and also managing to segue into something I really want to talk about, that soundtrack.

Okay, so the following is Princes Of The Universe performed by Queen taken from Highlander:

A great song taken from the soundtrack that still sounds awesome today. Note the strength in Freddie’s voice, the music is brash but still melodic. The lyrics are meaningful to the characters in the film and the plot too.
When you understand Highlander as a film and listen to the music, you realise that the music is a massively important part of the storytelling.

Now, here is that same song performed by somebody else (don’t care who, does it matter?) taken from Highlander: The Source:

Yeah terrible is it not?
That auditory molestation of your ears describes perfectly what has happened to this franchise far better than I ever could with words. Its bland, tasteless, banal and insulting. From Queen to whatever that ‘noise’ was, I can add nothing more.

But before I finish up. I would like to talk about the amazing soundtrack from the original film. As superb as it is, did you know there never was a released Highlander soundtrack album?
Many films will eventually have a soundtrack released for it, but not Highlander despite it being one of the most loved movie soundtracks ever.

Now I’m not being 100% fair here. While it is true that Highlander the soundtrack was never released. Queen did release an album called; A Kind Of Magic that was pretty much all the music from Highlander…pretty much as Queen’s version of the Frank Sinatra classic; New York, New York is not there.

queen

But still the soundtrack to Highlander was/is an excellent and much loved soundtrack.
Each of the main songs has been written specifically for the movie. The lyrics to the songs actually tell a condensed version of what the film is about. Due to this, there is a lot of emotion that can be taken from both the film and music. Its a beautiful melding of movie and music that is unmatched.

For instance; Connor saying goodbye to the love of his life, Heather as she grows old and dies all while Who Wants To Live Forever plays in the background is a truly great scene.
Or The Kurgan blasting; Gimme The Prize out of the tape player in his car while out hunting for immortals to kill.
The opening of the film during the wresting match that Connor is watching that reflects on the fights and battles he has seen over the years. All while; Princes Of The Universe is playing.
Brenda sitting on the bar as the mysterious Connor buys her a drink with; One Year Of Love playing in the background which says a lot about Connor’s relationships upto that point and even foreshadows their relationship for later in the film.

The soundtrack by Queen is pure genius with amazing music and lyrics that are just as much a part of the movie as everything else is.
Highlander is a great film, far from perfect. Yet the soundtrack is just that…perfect.

This franchise tarnished all of that.
The whole series should have taken The Kurgan’s advice: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Yeah, there can be only one.

Connor2

Connor MacLeod:
For you, my bonny Heather: Happy birthday. And you, Juan Ramírez: Take care of her, you overdressed haggis.

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There can be only one! Part II

So the Highlander franchise has become a joke. The first sequel was an embarrassment and while the second attempt was better, its still not a very good film.

The franchise decided to stay away from movies for a while after that and a TV spin off was created instead.

HTV

I don’t really want to cover the TV show here as I only want to concentrate on the movies themselves and I really didn’t like it much anyway.
But I bring up the TV show for a good reason as the next film ties the original film series with the TV spin off.
Quick synopsis of the TV show: Duncan MacLeod is a fellow clansman of Connor MacLeod and another immortal, Duncan has lived for around 400 years. Connor comes to Duncan to ask him to help good win over evil by hunting evil immortals.

In 2000, a film was made that tied together both the continuity of the movies and the TV show.

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Highlander: Endgame: As I said, this was an attempt at bridging the film series with the TV show. Christopher Lambert is back as Connor MacLeod as well as Adrian Paul playing Duncan MacLeod from the TV spin off.

In 1555, Connor returns to his former home in Glenfinnan, Scotland where his mother is being terrorised by the village priest Jacob Kell. Kell eventually executes Connor’s mother for witchcraft. This angers Connor who then kills Kell and sets Glenfinnan ablaze.
Jacob Kell is reborn as an immortal and vows vengeance and spends the next four centuries killing people Connor cares about.

Connor departs for ‘The Sanctuary’, a place where Immortals are put under surveillance by a subgroup called ‘Watchers’ to prevent ‘The Prize’ from being won. Kell finds and attacks ‘The Sanctuary’ and Connor along with all the other immortals there are believed to have been beheaded.

Meanwhile, Duncan has a vision of ‘The Sanctuary’ and starts to investigate. He learns that Connor was spared by Kell and is very much still alive. Kell plans on killing Duncan to punish Connor further, yet Connor tells Duncan that Connor must be beheaded by Duncan so he can grow stronger in order to kill Kell.

An ‘interesting’ idea of trying to tie in the film franchise with the TV spin off I admit. But interesting does not mean it was good. This just boils down to being one of those “not as bad as Highlander II” films.

With the fourth film in the franchise all done, what is next?

It would be around here when fans will say: “What about the animated movie?”
Well first, I have not seen it and second, from what I have researched it really has nothing to do with the live action films away. Yeah the main character is a MacLeod…but its an adoptive name so he is no relation to either Connor or Duncan.

Yet many do consider is canon. So I’ll mention it anyway.

HV

Highlander: The Search for Vengeance: I have never seen this as I previously mentioned, but from what I gather it is supposed to be quite good.
Though I’m not sure how to trust the prase when most of it claims its the best film with the Highlander name since the first one. I mean, that is not high praise as far as I am concerned as every film after the first one has been complete shit to just plain horedous at best.

When a film is ‘praised’ for not being as bad as Highlander II…that’s not really praise in my eyes.
Once bitten and all that.

Still, maybe one day I’ll give it a view.

So onto the final of the canonical Highlander films…at last…

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Highlander: The Source: Many think Highlander II was the worst of the sequels…prepare to be wronged.
Some people do not even know this film exists as it was not a big release, it was not even a direct to DVD release either. It was an exclusive made for the Sci-Fi channel (no, I’m not spelling it that way. Its Sci-Fi okay.)

A low budget, asinine effort. But what about the plot eh?
Well Duncan MacLeod is back this time having to fight his way to ‘The Source’ with his small team of instantly forgettable sidekicks. While they fend off the new bad guy on the block…’The Guardian’.
So what is ‘The Source’? Well its this thing that the story writer included into the film for some reason. Quite honestly, I just explained it better there then they do in the film.

I kind of don’t want to talk about this one too much as I really don’t feel like giving this film any more of my personal effort or time and also, I feel this is something that needs to be seen to be believed.

Really, stop reading this and go track down a copy of Highlander: The Source and watch it.
This film is so bad it honestly makes Highlander II look quite good.
There is a Highlander sequel that is worse than Highlander II. Just let that sink in for a while…

Well that is all of the ‘proper’ Highlander films right there. There’s still more to come in Part III where I quickly round up the films, offer my own views and just ask…what the hell happened to this franchise?

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Connor MacLeod:Life brings hope and pain, but revenge never brings redemption.

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There can be only one! Part I

Yeah I know, oxymoron right?

Did you know Highlander is 30 years old this year? Granted, not until August. So a few months away yet, but I was watching Highlander on TV recently and it got me thinking…
What the hell happened to Highlander?

Connor

I was thinking about film franchises that have gone really, really bad. Quite a few came to mind, but one franchise stood out more than any other and that was Highlander.

So here, I’d like to take a brief look at the film series. I know the franchise had other outlets like the various TV series, games and even books/comics. But I only want to concentrate on main films of the franchise here and try to work out how it all went so wrong so quickly.

If you’re have never seen any of the films in the franchise, then be forewarned as this will contain huge spoilers.

Best get stuck in as there is a lot to cover. So lets go back to the film that started it all.

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Highlander: This film was not a huge box office success. However, it became a cult classic when released for the home market and is still considered one of the best films of the 80s.

The plot revolves around a young Scottish warrior named Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) from the 16th century who is wounded on the battlefield by someone known as The Kurgan (Clancy Brown). The wound is a mortal one and Connor declared dead.
Yet the very next day he is up and walking with no ill effects from his battle. He is outcast and ostracised by his village as being in league with the devil and forced to make a new life for himself. This is when he meets Heather who eventually becomes the love of his life.

The two make a life for themselves and are living happily until Connor receives a visit from a stranger called Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Sean Connery), a Spanish (he’s not Spanish, he’s Egyptian) traveller.
Ramírez reveals to Connor that he is an immortal and will never grow old or even die unless his head is removed from his body.
Ramírez is also an immortal and there are many others around the world too. The Kurgan who tried to kill Conner previously is also an immortal. Ramírez goes on to explain that all the immortals have a destiny, that is to fight each other until only one remains (there can be only one).

As the immortals become fewer and fewer over the years, they will feel an unavoidable pull you one place to fight to the death leaving only one final immortal (there can be only one). This is called ‘The Gathering’ and that final immortal can claim ‘The Prize’.
Ramírez tells Connor he can not let The Kurgan claim ‘The Prize’ as he will use it for evil. So Ramírez begins to train Connor in sword combat and prepare for the fight ahead.

Eventually the immortals are killed off over the centuries until only a handful remain. They last few immortals including Connor and The Kurgan are eventually drawn to New York in 1985. The place and time of ‘The Gathering’.

As the last of the immortals are killed, leaving only Connor and The Kurgan left. They fight each other to the death where Connor eventually bests The Kurgan and claims ‘The Prize’ as Connor becomes the only immortal left alive…there can be only one.

Yes I know I have brought up that line a few times already and even titled the article as such too, but there is a very good reason for doing so which I will cover later…

As I said previously, Highlander was not a box office smash, but it has and still does have a strong cult following. It has become one of those quintessential 80s movies.
However, it was also a film that was pretty much self contained and really left no wriggle room for sequels, as…there can be only one!

Yet as the film did do so well after becoming such a cult classic and favourite. A sequel was commissioned and released in 1991.
Oh dear…

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Highlander II: The Quickening: Often regarded as one of the worst film sequels ever made. The original film was far from perfect and had several problems. What this sequel seems to have done is taken everything that was great about the first film and throw it out. Then just taken the remains of the crap and make an entire film from it all.

If you thought the plot of the first film was stupid (it kind of was), you ain’t seen nothing yet…

Set in the future of 2024…yeah, you’ve lost interest already haven’t you?
Connor is now an old man after claiming ‘The Prize’ from the previous film has allowed him to age. He has used his amazing powers from ‘The Prize’ to help develop a shield around the earth to replace the damaged ozone layer. Hey, I did warn you about the plot and it’s only going to get much, much, oh so much worse from here…

Anyway, where as the original film left a lot of ambiguity to who/what the immortals were. Here everything is cough “explained”.
Apparently the immortals are aliens from a planet called Zeist. Yes I did just type that, they are aliens from a planet called Zeist. However they are not immortal on Zeist, I’ll cover this next.

Planet Zeist is a horrendous place rife with poverty and war.
While on Zeist centuries ago, Connor MacLeod was part of a rebellion lead by Ramírez who plan to try and overthrow the big bad of this film General Katana (Michael Ironside) and his oppressive regime. However, Katana’s men attack and capture both Ramírez and Connor MacLeod and kill the rest of the rebels. Ramírez and Connor are put on trial by Zeist’s priests, who sentence them to be exiled and reborn on Earth as immortals in pursuit of ‘The Prize’ (the first film).

So the events of the first film happened, leading into the events of this film with Connor now an old man almost ready to die from old age…until for some reason General Katana back on Zeist (who hasn’t aged a day over the centuries) decides to send two more Zeist aliens to Earth to kill Connor. The two ‘assassins’ fail in their mission and get decapitated and this, for some reason, makes Connor young and immortal once more.

Hey, I did warn you about the plot remember?

Here is a conversation taken straight from the film itself to “explain”.

Louise Marcus:Okay, now let me just see if I can get this straight. You come from another planet, and you’re mortal there, but you’re immortal here until you kill all the guys from there who have come here… and then you’re mortal here… unless you go back there, or some more guys from there came here, in which case you become immortal here… again.

Conner MacLeod:Something like that.

Remember, that is the film trying to explain all of this.

Anyway, as General Katana’s minions failed, he decides to come to Earth himself to kill Connor.
Ramírez who was most definitely killed in the first film is back because…the script says so. Connor and Ramírez team up to kill Katana, and that’s about it really.

Highlander II: The Quickening is so full of problems (of which I’ll cover later) its just plain embarrassing. It really is one of the worst most lazily written films ever. There is a reason why this is considered one of the worst sequels ever, because it really, really is.

The film bombed and has gone on to become one of the most hated films ever made. So much so there have been several different cuts released over the years, one that even attempts to remove the whole aliens/Zeist thing completely, so if you have seen Highlander II and don’t remember any aliens, this is most probably why.
Yet it really does not matter which version you watch, its a bad film.

Even though this film killed the Highlander franchise before it began…another sequel was made.

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Highlander III: The Sorcerer: Now this film is nowhere nearly as bad as the last one…though its still not very good.
This film flat out ignores Highlander II and pretends it never existed and many fans claim that this one is the true and proper sequel to the original film.

Onto the plot (ignoring the events of Highlander II).
The film tells to story of Connor who after the death of his wife Heather from the first film, travels to Japan to request training from the Immortal Japanese sorcerer Nakano. Another Immortal named Kane also wants to ‘learn’ from Nakano and finds the sorcerer in a cave, then decapitates him. The force of ‘The Quickening’ from Nakano causes the cave to collapse trapping Kane inside…and this is why he could not take part in ‘The Gathering’ from the first film.

Then in 1994, in Japan, two archaeologists start excavating the cave in an attempt to discover whether the legend of the sorcerer Nakano was based on fact. The excavations free Kane, who immediately sets out in pursuit of Connor.
This all leads to a final showdown between Connor and Kane which Connor eventually wins.

Highlander III: The Sorcerer is not a great film, but its a damn sight better then that other sequel.

I’ll end Part I here, but there is more Highlander silliness coming in Part II of this “There can be only one” look at the Highlander franchise as the sequels get worse, maybe even worse than Highlander II?

Kurgan

The Kurgan:I’m in disguise!

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