Revisiting a Sequel
Seldom are bonus features as enlightening as the ones in this Highlander 2: Special Edition DVD. After watching all items included, I have a greater appreciation for this much-maligned 1991 sci-fi sequel. Perhaps others will feel the same way, for thanks to financing from Lions Gate Films, much of Highlander 2 has been redone to reflect advances in special effects and to comply more closely with the filmmakers’ original vision of what the movie should be.
In a featurette titled “The Redemption of Highlander 2,” visual effects designer Sam Nicholson explains that more than 100 new and improved digital visual effects have been added to the movie. I was especially impressed by how much better the “Shield” covering the planet in 2024 (to protect us from global warming) looks with these enhancements. Fortunately, it’s no longer that horrid red color which irritated some viewers.
Having seen Lost in La Mancha, a superb documentary about Terry Gilliam’s disastrous attempt to make a film about Don Quixote, I’m aware that overwhelming problems can sometimes sabotage a movie production. After viewing “Highlander 2: Seduced by Argentina,” another of the DVD bonus features, I realize similar circumstances (although not as catastrophic) beset the Highlander 2 filming. While the cast and crew were fascinated by Argentina, they faced unforeseen difficulties in terms of lifestyle, labor and financial concerns during filming there. Finally, the bonding company took over and rushed the movie to completion -- which may explain why it disappointed many Highlander fans.
“The Fabric of Highlander 2,” my favorite featurette, gives Deborah Everton a chance to discuss her experiences designing costumes for the movie. Her enthusiasm for working on futuristic clothes seems quite convincing, and I became extremely jealous when she gushed over doing the tango with Sean Connery.
Both Stewart Copeland, who wrote the original score, and cinematographer Phil Meheux also shine in their DVD appearances. Copeland claims Highlander 2 was the first film he worked on in which he ended up with more music than film. Meheux explains the importance of lighting concerns in a movie like Highlander 2. I tip my hat to him for the classy shots he managed to get here, especially that long opening pan from a statue to an "Opera" marquee, then through the “O” in the sign to a singer on stage in a huge auditorium.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy from a screenplay by Peter Bellwood, Highlander 2 still requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief. The plot concerns two immortals, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and Juan Ramirez (Connery), who have been banished into the future. They must save the world of 2024 by destroying a “Shield” MacLeod previously created to protect Earth from global warming. To do so, they have to defeat an evil immortal (Michael Ironside) by cutting off his head (that’s the only way these immortals can be killed). They must also fight the business man (John P. McGinley) who’s become wealthy as a result of the “Shield.” Helping MacLeod and Ramirez is a lovely eco-terrorist (Virginia Madsen) who falls in lust with MacLeod a bit too quickly. (Just be thankful the “fairy tale” ending showing Lambert and Madsen in a Wuthering Heights type fade-out was junked.)
Connery appears to be having a ball with his now-you-see-him, now- you-don’t role, and Lambert projects an appropriate combination of sensitivity and courage as the Highlander. Ironside goes somewhat over the top as the main villain, but that’s the way I like bad guys in sci-fi action flicks.
Whether or not you’ve seen Highlander 2 before -- and even if you didn’t like the film when you first saw it -- this Special Edition DVD is worth checking out. I recommend it highly for people who are looking for fascinating behind-the-scenes information about moviemaking.
(Released by Lions Gate Entertainment and rated “R” for strong violence, some sexuality and language. For more information, visit the Highlander site.)