I've read that the Highlander reboot is inching its way along and will get made and therefore I realize therefore that leaves a large reason to write this moot, but someone was crazy enough to recommend me to write for this site, (which is like giving someone with Tourette's a megaphone during a funeral,) but I decided to take the opportunity to come from the heart because despite having more flaws than pluses, I LOVE the Highlander franchise and watching that first movie in the theater was when I became a cinephile. I know they're making a reboot, this is a franchise I've pondered for decades and, although they have a director now, what I've read is that he sold them with style points on a franchise whose style hasn't quite held up over the years. So this is my message in a bottle, I suppose, with some other ideas on how to handle it that justify one of the few exceptions I have to my whole hatred of reboots and repackaging f the same turd over again for your hard-earned money.
I am not a reboot guy, by and large. Remakes either. As I continue to write here, you'll see that I like making fun of Hollywood's lack of originality (LOVE making fun of Tom Cruise, ESPECIALLY Scientology,) but, by and large, I kind of look at reboots about the same as I do drinking bath water and both for about the same reason. There are good examples though, where they can be done right and add to the mythos or the idea that created it. Most, however, are covered with some studio execs notes which all basically read as "fuck you! give me the money!"
However, there is one where I will fully and wholeheartedly make an exception, and that is the Highlander franchise. Now, understand, this movie hasn't held up quite as well as it was taken when it came out. That was like 1986. I was 11. I was like the perfect demographic for this movie. I saw that movie as it was intended and to 11 year old me, this movie was so awesome I almost exploded. (I'll stress again that this was 11 year old me, not adult me.) However, I sat through every shitty sequel in the threaters when each came out and about three seasons of the God awful TV series featuring like, Christopher Lambert's cousin who was basically just like him but shorter with a douchebag ponytail (And I tried, for three seasons, just to say that being a batter actor than Christopher Lambert makes someone a good actor.) I hated every one of those sequels and will definitely give a few sentences towards taking a giant heaping shit on them here in a bit. But the reason why I've sat through them all, hating them the entire time, is because I just had to. To this day though, I still absolutely love the fist movie. So much so that the dated 80's melodrama and the bombastic Queen soundtrack are just basically trumpet calls to the 11 year old I still am sometimes to come out to watch the show. I still get giddy when the opening monologue comes up. I stills scream "THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!" in any mock combat I am ever in amongst friends.
What kept me tuning in through all the shitty sequels was the idea in that first movie. I kept waiting for it to be adequately explored but basically all the sequels spent their time doing was explaining why, once again, that huge final battle you saw in the last movie wasn't the final battle that time but this time it sure is! (I'll get to that here in a bit.) But the premise of the movie, the idea that captured my imagination as a child so much that the adult me is just dying to see yet another chance to see this adequately explored is that Gods walk among us, they always have. We've built mythologies around their stories, entire cultures around them, and they still walk, trying to get through very human lives and trying to fit in with people, as Gods. (Seriously. The name of Sean Connery's character, Ramirez, mentions at one point that he's thousands of years old, at another that he's originally from Egypt. The first syllable of his name is "Ra." He's the Sun God of ancient Egypt. Der.) Some of the elders became religious figures, some became legends, some even became celebrities and kings. But there has always been immortals among us, inspiring us with legend.
And apparently all these immortal beings have to go totally apeshit whenever they meet and chop each others heads off with swords until there's one left and he gets the Prize.
"hey, new friend! Let's hang out some time!"Even the MacLeoad character is fantastic. Because with all this playground, it's rooted in a very real idea: immortality sucks. It's painful to outgrow everyone and everything you love and do it over and over again, endlessly. By the time you're a few hundred years old, you just don't want to relate to people anymore because they'll just die on you too. But what's that like after a few thousand years? MacLeod doesn't want to be a hero or a God or some sort of powerful figure. He just wants to live in peace and live his life and not be so depressingly alone with this burden of being unable to die. Of all the immortals with their bombast and zeal and charisma, he's the most human (except, you know, he can't die and people want to chop his head off every now and again.)
However, while the first movie (although now a little dated,) set up this unlimited potential for exploration, it was setup in a way where the only solution they had was to constantly rehash the same one story repeatedly until they serialized it as a TV show where you got to watch the same damn story every week. This is what absolutely drives me bonkers: You have all of human history and all of human mythology to play with. You get to see a perspective on society from the beings who inspired it over a backdrop of a battle for all of humanity between gods. And those gods are, by and large, jsut real people going through extraordinary things and trying to cope with this extraordinary twist of a burden in life in their own uniquely human ways. What would it be like t sit across the table and have a cup of coffee with someone who watched the Pyramids be built and has wondered ever since? This franchise, from a writer's perspective, gives you the whole scope of humanity as a prism to explore and reflect on who we are.
I , of course, in this day and age, realize Hollywood cares fuck all for anything with more emotional depth than a shart and to the question that it would be all boring exposition and musing on philosophy... Well... I'll put it this way: You want Zeus to hang out with Moses and then have to go wail on Shiva for a while with a lightning shaped broadsword? Have at it. How about Odin unleashing a giant shitstorm on fucking Ben Franklin? Why not Thor versus Nikola Tesla? Who's to say in all of human history who was and who was not immortal? That's the real playground of this franchise. You just do it subtle and leave the audience to guess who they were, as in the case of Ramirez. And if you can kind of dumb down the powers without making it look cheap then you CAN give them some magic-like abilities, which is a rule they set in play with the third sequel, Highlander III: We Don't Know Why We're Doing This Anymore.) Because while I do miss the days of philosophical and moral depth in movies, the real gift of this franchise is that these guys only die if you chop their fucking heads off, other than that, they are each Wolverine with big swords and magic fucking powers. And updating THOSE battles is a moral imperative. "Ha! I just burned you with fire!" "Ha! I'm healing! I just chopped off your arm!" "Ha! It's growing back!" KLANG!
But basically you can do this relatively cheap, your battles are (by and large) normal strength dudes with swords and (limited) magic. How has anyone slept on this? Why was it a B-Movie? (Aside from humanity being unable to take anything Christopher Lambert does seriously, I mean.)
And at least I think that's the gyst of the franchise. I have no idea because MacLeod is played by Chistopher Lambert who just mumbles through this unintelligible accent that might be French but mostly sounds like he had a mouthful of marbles when he sat on a cactus.
Which brings us all to adult me, where the Highlander movie franchise went horribly wrong, and why this franchise needs a reboot. All of my problems with the Highlander franchise can be traced to one simple fact, this was the mid-80's, the director came over from shooting 80's music videos for MTV, and this means everyone involved was probably on lots of cocaine. Because cocaine makes bad ideas seem awesome!
But back to Christopher Lambert. Why in the Hell was this guy a thing? Seriously, in the mid-80's, he was like everywhere. He was Tarzan! And he sucked in that too! Sean Connery was a great Ramirez, except when he had to fight and then he was a fat old drunk Ramirez who might not always hit his marks. But the opening monologue in his voice is just so iconic to the point where I would have no idea how they could possibly recast that role.
But why did they cast a French guy as a Sottsman, an American as a Russian, and a Scottsman as an Egyptian? And no one even tried an accent except the Kurgan but that wasn't an accent, it was just a growl. But how did that happen? It's lost on me. Except, you know, maybe cocaine.
My other problem is the simply the style as time has worn on. The movie is now campy. Even if the 80's are making a comeback, this movie still doesn't hold up quite so well. And it was the mid-80's, this was the directors first gig since doing music videos for MTV, and so the whole thing looks like a video for an 80's German pop band. It's a cinematographic fashion victim. The lighting is obvious, the direction is pandering, everyone is wearing too much makeup. (And all because cocaine.) But the script is what's engaging. But it's Hollywood and everyone dumps on the writer. Because cocaine. So yes, stylistically, warrants a sequel because Too Much Aquanet.
However, the real problem with the Highlander franchise is literally NOBODY expected a sequel. The end of the first movie is literally the end of the story that started with "at the dawn of time." So you missed all of humanity growing alongside these immortals. You missed the huge wars of antiquity with legends of soldiers who never died on the battlefield or mysterious storms rolling in or legends shaped by magic beings. That's all over by the time the camera rolls. Christopher Lambert beheads the evil Russkie and gets the Prize, because fuck communism! 'Murrika! Yeh! (wait... he's french... or scottish... or something.) However, the problem is no more immortals. The End... and yet they've made four sequels, direct to DVD movies, a TV series, an anime, and I think there was a serial comic someone found on a roll of toilet paper somewhere.
My point is, the story kept going because there was so much of it yet to be explored there, it was just awesome. The problem is, you've ended the story and there's nothing left to do. So every single story following that is a cheat. It is an obvious conceit and ruins the story outright because you are forced to take in in jest and it limits the franchise to an endless rehashing of the same formula.
The first sequel they brought back Connery as the spoonful of sugar for your pineapple suppository (even though he died in the first one) and it turned out that he and Mumbles were never gods but aliens from the future who were sent here as part of some prison punishment for some sort of... blah blah, give us money because fuck you and we're taking a huge shit on the movie you liked. It sucked, Connery dies again, doesn't come back because HE said it sucked THAT MUCH. The third one was a remake of the first with the dubious distinction of Melvin Van Peebles trying to ham his way through being an evil Chinese sorcerer (because... cocaine,) which is kind of like me trying to drink my way through being a featured act at Cirque De Soleil. The fourth one they kill Connor Macleod and try to do movies of the TV show continuity which basically just killed the whole thing but they made one more for the scifi channel anyway because money. (And cocaine.) In there somewhere they did the TV series and that was just this whole other thing and you've now established, between four movies with armies of bad guys and four seasons of TV where every week someone gets their head chopped off, you have hundreds of immortals just growing on trees after the epic battle that ended the whole game. That's the problem. After the first one, there are no more. They all dead, go bye-bye. So there's no cohesive story in anything following except for that lame-ass attempt at a TV show but all that did was just cake on ridiculous crap attempts at 90's knock off versions of mythology and idiot contrivances like The Watchers (who were a direct rip from Anne Rice, and it tells you a lot about the quality of the work on that show that they thought Anne Rice was someone to steal from. Interview with the Vampire is the prequel to Twilight.) Regardless, every one, every single one of the immortals in any sequel or show after the end of the first movie is a lie and to try to sell you on why they're still running around chopping heads off creates this progressively more confusing shit fried mess of a plot with each sequel. This is how the whole franchised gasped on, basically because so many fans loved this concept, that we took our fried turds happily and convinced ourselves that it was at least par while trying to wrap our heads around the bullshit we were being fed about how this time was the actual final battle unlike last time which was an entirely different final battle.
This, above all, is why Highlander needs a reboot more than any other franchise ever, the shit fired plots that were this mess of sequels. There is more to the world created here and the rules created within it than one movie could do justice to. Certainly, there is more of this world than five movies and a TV series could do justice to. Frankly, using the factors I mentioned alone, you could do an entire trilogy just off Greek mythology itself. What if those gods walked among us, using centuries of just life experience to take down the walls of Troy? Makes the Trojan Horse have a different perspective, right?
The problem with the first movie, although Mumbles and using green fluorescent lighting to add tension to a shot didn't hold up so well over the years, is that the tagline said it all, "There can be Only One!" Because they ended it when it started. A reboot fixes that.
Not only that but a reboot allows you to explore the entire world and build the franchise (or at least the trilogy) that it deserves and can adequately handle. You get several immortals to get invested in before you finally get to the end. You get to explore History from the perspective of those who lived, (and in some cases, created,) it. It allows you to see us from the perspective of those we build our mythology and ideals around and how their continued, (though sometimes reluctant,) impulsive push towards The Prize shapes us and our humanity. And then you get to see these guys unleash holy hell on each other with broadswords. Because FUCK YEAH AND AWESOME.
Nikola Tesla versus Thor. Seriously. Let's make THAT happen.