There can be only one

I achieved two great feats during my abbreviated stay at my sister's place: I read 3/4 of The unauthorised Led Zeppelin biography "Hammer of the Gods", and I was able to watch Highlander II again.

Let me make a few things abundantly clear. I would prefer to watch Highlander II than plenty of other films out there. These include Beaches and pretty much anything with Val Kilmer in it.

Nevertheless, it was voted no. 10 in a 2003 poll run by the BBC to discover "The top ten worst films ever", and it is exceptionally bad. Roger Ebert actually predicted that Science Fiction fans in the future will mention the film in "hushed tones" as "one of the immortal low points of the (science fiction) genre".

Watching a bad film is akin to driving past a bad car accident - you know you shouldn't look but your curiosity gets the better of you. So after enduring Troy with my sister and wife for the first half of the night, I put on H2 (an ex-rental video my sister owns) as the rest of them headed for bed.

For those who may not remember, the original Highlander film (1986) told the mysterious tale of Connor McLeod (Christopher Lambert), a highland warrior born in 1518 who is mysteriously granted immortality. He soon learns that he is one of a select few warriors from around the world - and throughout human history - to be blessed with the gift of immortality but doomed to fight one another in order to gain "The Prize" at the culmination of their life. The only way for these warriors to be killed is for one to decapitate the other in a sword-fight. McLeod is helped along the way by another immortal, Ramirez (Sean Connery) who teaches him advanced swordsmanship and informs him of their mission. Centuries pass, and eventually McLeod and the other immortals converge on New York City to fight in the tournament. The last man standing wins the prize - "there can be only one". The film was a commercial success and is probably the movie that Christopher Lambert is best known for.

Highlander 2 (1991) begins in the year 1999 where the situation is desperate. Millions are dying because the Ozone Layer has collapsed. Conner McLeod, apparently now a brilliant scientist, has designed a special shield to cover the earth and protect it from the sun's destructive rays. They turn the shield on and, hey presto!, the thing works. The problem is that the shield turns the earth into a perpetual night, where temperatures hover around 97 F (36 C) and the humidity is around 97%. Humanity is saved, but at a price.

Then the film moves to the year 2024. Conner is now old, grey and speaks like Marlon Brando with asthma. The Shield Corporation is the world's biggest company, being paid billions of dollars by world governments to keep the shield up and running. The company is run by a really horrible guy named David Blake, played brilliantly by John C. McGinley (Dr. Perry Cox from "Scrubs") who must have wondered what the heck he was doing in such a B-grade film.

Then comes the Matrix moment, when suddenly the audience are forced to take the red pill and are given the true picture of reality. It is not pretty. While Connor naps at the Opera, he dreams of the past, where he
and Ramirez were actually freedom fighters from the Planet Zeist who were banished to Earth 500 years ago by the Zeistian Warlord General Katana (Michael Ironside). Dream of reality? Sadly, the latter. At this point everyone who loved the original film gets confused - the immortals weren't really immortal, they were banished freedom fighters from Zeist who knew each other before being sent to Earth. It is an incredibly far-fetched and blatant contradiction of the previous film.

Zeist? Who the heck thought of that name? Anyway, back on modern-day Zeist, Katana decides, for some reason, to send some minions to Earth to murder Connor instead of letting him die of old age.

At around the same time there is a break-in at the Shield. Some environmental terrorists, led by Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen), enter into the holy of holies where they put some chip into a computer for some unexplained reason, then get massacred on the way out by the Shield guards - all except Marcus of course. The first impression we get of Marcus is of a strong-willed, go-get 'em type woman who can handle guns and being shot at. As the film progresses, she turns into a simpering, meaningless girly-girl incapable of doing pretty much anything.

So Marcus goes and accosts the greying Connor McLeod at some bar. She is trying to convince him that there is something wrong with the Shield. Then Katana's minions turn up. Imagine two punks dressed up like Sid Vicious, wearing swimming goggles who can fly - that's them. Well, these two creatures attack the decrepid and gammy-legged Connor, who is miraculously able to defend himself against their blades. One of the creatures falls under a train and loses his head. Then we have the whole scene of lightning and things exploding as per the original Highlander film. Connor is then youthfully rejuvinated and has immortality again. He fights the other creature and kills that too. In the big energy climax that happens, he calls out the name of Ramirez, hoping that the power thingy in him would bring Ramirez back to life. Stunned by seeing two flying goggled punks get beheaded and Connor de-aged, Marcus does the thing that all token female characters do and passionately kisses Connor for some reason.

Ramirez then miraculously appears in Scotland during a rendition of Hamlet. After some crude attempts of humour, he rushes off to find a new suit. He then just happens to walk into Scotland's oldest and most prestigious men's outfitters, hands the top guy his pearl ear-ring, and is given a brand new suit. This is probably the film's most genuinely funny scene, as we see Sean Connery being measured and prodded and poked by Scottish tailors as he enjoys his first Whiskey for 500 years.

Ramirez then flies off from Scotland to America and meets with Connor. The two engage in sexist banter at the token female character's expense. It is then revealed that one of Connor's mates at The Shield has discovered that the Ozone layer has regenerated and that the world doesn't need The Shield anymore. But the evil capitalists who run the thing don't want anyone to know so they can continue to rake in the profits.

Back on Zeist, Katana, frustrated by his minion's inability to carry out his orders, decides to go to earth himself. He appears on a subway train and makes his way to the drivers seat where he increases the train's speed from around 50 mph to well over 400 mph. We can tell because there is an LED display with lots of numbers. More than that, as the subway train hurtles through the tunnels, there are lots of sparks from the front of the train flying everywhere as the train makes contact with the walls. At least, that's what it was designed to do, except that it was pretty obvious that someone stuck some firecrackers on the front of the train to show this. Despite being constrained by the laws of physics and flying around underground at a high, but constant, speed, passengers in the train get sucked backwards due to the G-forces involved and mooshed at the back of the carriage. Even though many are sitting in seats facing forwards, they kept getting pulled up and back. Eventually the train crashes and Katana walks out feeling pretty happy with himself after killing a whole bunch of people.

For some reason Katana goes to The Shield where he introduces himseld to CEO David Blake. Blake orders one of his minions to shoot Katana in the head, which he does. Everyone is happy but they get very confused when Katana gets up, laughs and then kills the guy who shot him. Katana then decides that he and Blake are partners.

Katana and Blake then get Connor's friend put in jail. Realising this, Connor, Ramirez and token female Marcus rush off to rescue him. Ramirez and Connor drive through a hail of 9mm bullets fired by prison guards armed with MP5's. We see lots of gratuitous bullet holes being drilled into the immortal bodies of Connor and Ramirez - whose new suit is now ruined. Marcus, in the boot, and miraculously unharmed despite the hail of gunfire directed wildly at the car, plays the dumb blonde bit with the brave and muscular guards who rescue her. She wastes enough time in simpering vacuosity that Connor and Ramirez get up, kill the remaining guards, and try to rescue Connor's shield mate.

When they eventually find him, Connor discovers that he has been beaten up. Disgusted by the violence perpetrated upon his friend, and emboldened by the words of comfort and encouragement given by this beaten-up friend, Connor and Marcus decide to leave him to rot in his cell. By chance they meet up with Ramirez again (who had split up from them for some unexplained reason) and then get caught in a little room with a really deadly ceiling fan. As the fan descends and death approaches (obviously the fan would decapitate them), Ramirez starts talking about life and goes to the middle of the fan where he cause white light to come out of his hand for some reason. The ceiling fan and Ramirez then disappear, allowing Marcus and Connor to escape through a door that had been locked, but had now miraculously opened.

Back at Shield central, Blake tells Katana that his plan failed to work - in language that I will not repeat here. Katana then kills Blake in a way that I will not describe here - suffice to say that it was as painful watching it the other day as it was when I saw it the first time. With John McGinley's character dead, and the film now lacking any credible form of acting ability, the end was nigh.

Connor and Marcus break into Shield central in order to kill Katana and disable the shield. After firing lots of bullets at Shield guards, Connor hands the gun to Marcus, who, despite her brave and daring break-in attempt at the beginning of the film, holds the gun as though it is going to explode. Leaving the simpering token female alone to defend herself against the hoards of Shield guards (which of course she is able to do for some reason), Connor and Katana have a swordfight. It is not very memorable. Connor eventually beheads the guy, and when all the lightning and explosions begin again, he gets up and walks into the shield beam. The magic thingy that happens when immortals kill each other then manages to blow up the Shield generator. The shield turns off and they then can look at... the night sky full of stars. I'm fairly sure Marcus and Connor kiss. And then the credits roll.

For a fuller and more humourous account of the the film, click here. Could anything more disturbing come out of this film? Yes, of course... click here to find out.

From the Plan 9 from Oso Space Department.

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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