Centuries ago, Colin Macleod saw his kinsmen and his lover slaughtered at the hands of the Roman, Marcus Octavius. Swearing vengeance, the immortal barbarian vows to track the megalomaniac through the annals of history. Centuries later, Marcus becomes a demagogue ruling the streets of a bombed-out New York. He is planning to the turn the city into a new Rome. He should have planned for the blade of Colin…The Highlander.
summary by Ender
Highs: Decent conflict and action
Lows: Way too predictable
What a fitting direction for the Highlander franchise to take. This was a series that was, in essence, a comic book crossed with a music video created strictly for the big screen. I’m not surprised that someone tried to realize this vapid sword-and-sorcery series as an anime. And Kawajiri Yoshiaki seems to be the best man for the job, which, given his workings with both East and West, also doesn’t seem like a surprise. Now that I think about it, there was very little to be surprised at.The story is played out like any other search for vengeance: lone heroes, flashbacks, inevitable feats of swordplay, it’s all there. The film also finds time to ever-so-slightly tie in themes of barbarism vs. civilization: Marcus is hell-bent on recreating his perfect Utopia, but are his ideals more constructive than Colin’s almost animalistic vengeance? Is revenge, no matter the promise of love and honor, truly a good cause? This isn’t Gankutsuou, but at least it has something going on in its script.
The plot progression is really what sinks the story. I know I praised Afro Samurai, and that also had a somewhat predictable flow to it, but it made up for it by increasing the spectacle and cluttering the path for its hero. Highlander doesn’t even try to be different. Characters telegraph their intentions, speeches, and movements so blatantly they can be seen several sequences before they actually happen. We can use the excuse that this is just a “dumb action movie”, but even the dumbest provide some level of unpredictability and over-the-top mayhem to command attention.
There are some trademark action scenes I enjoyed. But this comes standard with Kawajiri’s works: swords will sing, meat will sever, and blood will flow. But there isn’t the same level of excitement or surprise as in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust or Ninja Scroll. By now, Kawairi seems to be moving through the tropes: he knows this dance, and so does the audience. Had this been released in 1996, then I’m sure it would have become a classic.
I don’t out-and-out damn Highlander because it’s not a terrible action movie; it’s just a misguided one. The premise bases itself on the sole notion that two men with bad hair and big swords will clash in a bloody spectacle. And they do, simple as that. But what fun’s the journey when the destination is so easy to get to? Maybe Colin MacLeod is thinking the same thing at movie’s end.
Highlander can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.