|Highlander II: The Quickening|
Highlander II: The Quickening is the second installment to the Highlander film franchise, released on November 1, 1991 by Interstar.
In August 1995, news broadcasts announce that the ozone layer is fading, and will be completely gone in a matter of months. In Africa, millions have perished from the effects of unfiltered sunlight. Among the dead is Connor MacLeod’s wife, Brenda Wyatt MacLeod. Before dying, Brenda extracts a promise from Connor that he will solve the problem of the ozone layer.
By 1999, Connor has become the supervisor of a scientific team headed by Dr. Allan Neyman (Allan Rich), which is attempting to create an electromagnetic shield to cover the planet and protect it from the Sun’s radiation. The team succeeds, in effect giving Earth an artificial ozone layer. MacLeod and Neyman are proud to have saved humanity, and believe they will be remembered for a thousand years.
Unfortunately, the shield has the side effect of condemning the planet to a state of constant night and increased temperatures and humidity. By 2024, the years of darkness have caused humanity to lose hope and fall into a decline. The Shield has fallen under the control of the Shield Corporation, a rich, powerful corporation whose greedy chief executive,David Blake (John C. McGinley), is focused on profit, and is imposing fees for the corporation’s services. A number of terrorist groups have begun trying to take down the Shield, among them Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen), a former employee of the Shield Corporation.
Meanwhile, Connor MacLeod, now a frail old man, expects to eventually die of natural causes. As he watches a performance of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, an image of Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) appears, and induces MacLeod to recall a forgotten event of his past. Five hundred years earlier, on the planet Zeist, a last meeting is held between the members of a rebellion against the rule of General Katana (Michael Ironside). The rebellion’s leader, Ramirez, chooses "a man of great destiny" from among them, MacLeod, to carry out a mission against Katana. At this moment, Katana and his troops attack, crushing the rebellion. Katana orders his men to capture Ramirez and MacLeod alive, and kill the rest of the rebels. The two captives 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." Winning the Prize gives the victor the choice to either grow old and die on Earth, or to return to Zeist. Katana is unsatisfied with their decision, but the sentence is executed, leading to the events of the original 1986 film.
Back on Earth of 2024, Louise Marcus discovers that the ozone layer has in fact restored itself naturally, which means that the Shield is no longer needed. The Shield Corporation is aware of this development, but has chosen to hide it from the general public in order to maintain its main source of profit. Meanwhile, on Zeist, General Katana decides that Connor cannot be allowed to return to Zeist, and sends his Immortal henchmen Corda (Pete Antico) and Reno (Peter Bucossi) to Earth to kill him.
Louise manages to reach Connor first, and asks for his help in taking down the Shield. To Louise’s disappointment, she finds the passionate person she once admired has grown into a tired old man. MacLeod explains to Louise that he is dying, and expresses his disapproval of terrorism. Before Connor and Louise can finish their conversation, Corda and Reno attack. MacLeod battles them in the streets. When he decapitates one of them, he is revived by absorbing his opponent's energy during the Quickening. In the process, Connor is also able to summon Ramirez back from the dead. Connor battles the second thug and defeats him as well, much to Louise's astonishment.
In Glencoe, Scotland — the location of his death in the first Highlander film — Ramirez is revived. He finds himself on a theatrical stage during a performance of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Meanwhile, Connor has found a new lover in Louise Marcus. He attempts unsuccessfully to explain to her the concepts of his immortality. Elsewhere, General Katana, angered over the failed attempt of Corda and Reno to eliminate MacLeod, arrives in New York, the scene of The Gathering, and begins wreaking havoc. He commandeers a subway train, runs it to blinding speed and arrives at the Shield Corporation's headquarters where he confronts the board of directors, led by Blake. Blake scoffs at Katana's demand that they become partners to defeat MacLeod and orders him shot to death by security. Katana revives and violently dispatches one of Blake's men. Blake heartily agrees to let Katana be a partner.
Both Ramirez and Katana soon adapt to their new environment. Ramirez’s earrings are apparently valuable enough to pay both for the new suit he acquires from the finest and oldest tailor’s shop in Scotland, and for an airplane ticket to New York City. Katana finds New York much to his liking. After entertaining himself for a while, Katana manages to locate his old enemy, but their first encounter in centuries proves to be indecisive. They meet in the cemetery where Connor's late wife is buried -- the laws of immortality keep them from doing battle on holy ground. Katana hints at his plans for Connor and Connor retorts that Katana has always been a brute.
Soon thereafter, Connor is contacted by Ramirez. The latter joins MacLeod and Louise in their plan to take down the Shield. In a bold move, they drive an old wreck toward the Shield Corp's main gate and are immediately riddled with bullets by the guards. When the car stops, the guards find Louise in the trunk, unharmed and they take Connor's and Ramirez' bodies to the morgue. The two wake up and joke about how many shots each of them took in the gunfight. Connor and Louise strike off in one direction, Ramirez scouts another and they eventually reconnect in a large air shaft and are trapped by Blake, who watches on a security camera with Katana. A large fan is slowly lowered from the ceiling, threatening to crush them, possibly decapitate them as well. Ramirez steps under the hub of the fan and focuses his power to stop it's descent. He tells Connor to leave the room and carry out their plan. He also tells him they'll see each other again. After they leave, Ramirez allows the fan to fall.
Perceiving failure on Blake's part, Katana kills him violently and strikes out to find Connor on his own. They meet in the shield's control room which contains a large beam that powers the satellite projecting the shield onto Earth. The two battle until MacLeod gains the upper hand and decapitates Katana. MacLeod succeeds in taking down the Shield by using the combined energies of his final Quickening from General Katana. Louise sees the stars for the first time in her life. Connor then claims The Prize by returning to Zeist with Louise. (Note: In the theatrical and DVD versions, both remain on Earth.)
In 1995, Mulcahy made a Director’s Cut version known as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. The film was reconstructed largely from scratch, with certain scenes removed and others added back in, and the entire sequence of events changed. All references to the Immortals being aliens from another planet were eliminated; instead, this cut reveals that the Immortals are from an unspecified, distant past on Earth, banished by priests into random locations in the future to keep the Prize from being won in their lifetime (the option to return to the past is an option offered in addition to the mystical Prize and mortality of the first film). This version is regarded a major improvement over the theatrical release. Nevertheless, the events of both versions were generally ignored by the subsequent films and series.
The new version also removes a major continuity gaffe from the theatrical version, which had merged two separate sword fights between MacLeod and Katana into one longer, climactic battle. The first sequence has MacLeod and Katana fighting in a large abandoned building about halfway through the movie (with MacLeod using a Zeistian sword), and the climactic sword fight takes place much later (with MacLeod using his original katana from the 1986 film). Since the two sequences are merged, Connor’s sword changes for no apparent reason. The director’s cut version restores them to two separate battles, although it never shows how or when Connor reacquired his katana. The gaffe wherein General Katana's sword changes from his giant "spring loaded" broadsword, to the smaller broadsword used by the two punks still exists in the final battle of both versions.
Fairy Tale ending
A once-lost alternate ending, commonly known as “The Fairytale Ending,” was shown only in some European theaters, and has never been shown in any of the American cuts. The ending shows Connor magically returning to planet Zeist, taking Louise along with him, while Ramirez’s voice is heard in the background. An early version of this ending is shown on the Special Edition — however, it also includes footage of Virginia Madsen as Louise Marcus speaking to Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod. Madsen is on location, while Lambert is suspended by wires in front of a bluescreen. After a brief exchange where Connor asks Louise to come with him, the theatrical ending is shown, where the two embrace in front of a field of stars, then transform into light-streaks and fly off into space.
This ending is sometimes seen in televised broadcasts of Highlander II: The Quickening. The VHS version simply cuts off after Connor looks up at the starry sky and smiles, after the smoke from the explosion of the December Installation clears.
|Christopher Lambert||...||Connor MacLeod|
|Sean Connery||...||Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez|
|Virginia Madsen||...||Louise Marcus|
|Michael Ironside||...||Gen. Katana|
|Allan Rich||...||Allan Neyman|
|John C. McGinley||...||David Blake|
|Steven Grives||...||Hamlet (as Stephen Grives)|
Music: Stewart Copeland
Upon release, this film was met with harsh reviews by both critics and audiences. One point of controversy was the concept of Immortals being aliens from Planet Zeist. Also, the revival of Ramirez, who had died in the original film, is often viewed as incongruous with the original movie.
Critics and audiences alike pointed out that the characters suffered from a lack of motivation; an example often offered is that no reason was provided for Katana’s sudden interest in Connor after apparently losing contact with him for 506 years, and his insistence on killing his old enemy while he could wait for him to die without outside interference. Also, the two “alien” Immortal protagonists on Zeist have their Scottish and Spanish names that they will have on Earth. They were acquainted with each other on Zeist, but the transport process must have erased their memories. Thus Connor never learns about his true past until he senses the voice of Ramirez, decades after winning the Prize, and he is forced to recall the events of the distant past. This caused confusion for many viewers, even those who had seen the first film. The movie even contradicts itself in places. For example, when Katana sends Corda and Reno to earth wanting MacLeod killed even though he has won the prize, is mortal now and has chosen not to return to Zeist. Later, after they fail he arrives on Earth and tells MacLeod that he is not going back to Zeist, MacLeod replies that he never intended to, but Katana knew this earlier and still sent Corda and Reno anyway.
According to the documentary Highlander II: Seduced by Argentina, the film’s apparent poor performance is partially result of the bonding company’s interference with the work of director Russell Mulcahy, as well as economic problems within Argentina itself. Mulcahy reportedly hated the final product so much he walked out of the film’s world premiere after viewing its first 15 minutes. For similar reasons, Christopher Lambert threatened to walk out of the project when it was nearing fruition, but he didn’t, due to contract obligation.
A number of intentional similarities can be seen between the first three films in the series:
- Each features a scene in which Connor, without a sword handy, is forced to parry another Immortal's weapon with a metal rod. This is seen during Connor's first encounter with The Kurgan during The Gathering in the original, the fight between an aged Connor and assassins Corda and Reno in Highlander II, and in Connor's final battle against Kane in Highlander: The Final Dimension.
- Another repeated sequence features the main villain entertain himself with an uncontrollable joyride, causing mayhem along the way. The Kurgan recklessly drives around New York City after abducting Brenda Wyatt. General Katana commandeers a subway train, and crashes it at maximum speed, killing everyone aboard. Kane kidnaps Connor's adopted son John, and uses the power of illusion to frighten him.
- In each film's first major confrontation within the present-day timeline (coincidentally, all of them taking place in New York City), the main villain's opening move is to sneak up behind Connor MacLeod, raising his sword for an easy victory while Connor (who can feel his presence) is facing away from him. Connor always manages to avoid the sneak attack.
- After beheading the main opponent, Connor MacLeod utters the phrase, "There can be only one." The villains, on the other hand, say the phrase just before attempting to behead Connor.
- Connor confronts his opponents on Holy Ground at least once in each of the movies, where they taunt him, and remind him of the rules of "The Game."
- In every final battle with a major opponent, Connor wear denim jeans and a jacket, along with his gloves and katana.
Connor's death in Highlander: Endgame directly contradicts the events of Highlander II, where he is seen as an old man in the far future (unless Duncan or some other Immortal resurrects him in the same way as Connor does to Ramirez). Highlander II is reconcilable with the rest of the series, but only if those exiled from Zeist are also youthed into babies, and have their memories wiped.
Completed production exactly four years to the day of the first film.
An unfilmed credit sequence would have shown Ramirez and MacLeod reincarnated as their Earthly identities. Ramirez born to an ancient Egyptian mother, and MacLeod to a Scottish peasant in 1518.
Originally, Ramirez was not supposed to appear in the film. However, Christopher Lambert had become good friends with Sean Connery during the making of the original film, and threatened to back out of this film if Connery’s character was not added into the sequel.
Director Russell Mulcahy cameo’s in the film as a technician at the Shield Control during the 1999 flashback.
Shortly after production began, Back to the Future II was released in 1989. The design team then went back to the drawing board to make the flying sleds used by the Zeistian assassins in the film look less like the hoverboards from the Back to the Future II film.
Michael Ironside’s makeup accentuates a real scar the actor has on his left temple.
Christopher Lambert and Michael Ironside did most of their own stunts.
On the DVD and Laser disc of the Director's Cut edition, a documentary following the film has the filmmakers explain why the original theatrical release contradicted the first film. According to them, the inflation in Argentina had risen so high during filming that the film's insurance company started to take creative control, and made a film they thought would make the most money.
Christopher Lambert was so disgusted with the rewritten script that he wanted to drop out of production, but due to contractual obligations, he was forced to finish the film.
During the course of filming, Christopher Lambert cut his finger to the bone in the first sword fighting scene, and Michael Ironside dislodged his jaw in the dome fight.
The director disliked the theatrical cut so much, he left the premiere after only 15 minutes.
The original screenplay had The Kurgan from the first Highlander film as a henchman of General Katana, sent to Earth to prevent MacLeod and Ramirez from successfully obtaining "The Prize." Clancy Brown was contacted about reprising his role in the sequel in a cameo, but declined, due to the extensive makeup requirements (he is allergic to makeup).
The final battle between MacLeod and The Kurgan from the 1986 film is shown on a large screen to Zeistian bettors, and when The Kurgan fails, Katana sends down the two assassins featured in the final cut of the film to take out MacLeod.
Sean Connery received $3.5 million for nine days of filming.
Virginia Madsen had auditioned for Heather in the original Highlander.
The final fight scene between MacLeod and Katana is composed of two separate battles. They are shown correctly in the Renegade Version.
Russell Mulcahy was so frustrated at being locked out of production that he tried to have his credit changed to "Alan Smithee." However, a section of his contract forbade him from publicly attacking the film before it was released; the producers informed him that if he had his credit changed, they would consider it an attack and launch a lawsuit against him.
Stock footage from Highlander II: The Quickening was used in episodes of Highlander: The Series, particularly in the opening credits and "Quickening" sequences.
All the subsequent Highlander productions ignore Highlander II, as if it never happened.
John C. McGinley made his character's voice as deep as possible in an effort to imitate Orson Welles. He has since admitted that it was a bad idea.
The film is so disliked by many fans, they do not consider it canon, but explain its place in the continuity as a drug-induced dream suffered by Connor MacLeod during his time in Sanctuary, as seen in Highlander: Endgame.