In 2024, the Earth’s ozone layer has been depleted (or so most assume), and life is protected by an electromagnetic shield designed by Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert). Eco-crusader Virginia Madsen, however, believes that the ozone layer has restored itself, and the corporation that runs the shield is maintaining it for its own purposes. Meanwhile, back in the past, villain Michael Ironside sends assassins to the future to kill Lambert, who is an aging man as the film begins… The assassins fail, Lambert becomes young once more, and he summons Sean Connery back from the dead. Ironside arrives to take care of his nemesis personally.
I could go on, but I feel a brain embolism coming on. The Highlander concept was never the most intelligent SF/Fantasy idea (and I’m not just talking about casting Frenchman Lambert as a Scot and Sean Connery as a Spaniard), but here the vacuity becomes painfully evident, and the time travel aspect is beyond stupid. The dialog is equally mind-numbing, and for a storyline of comparable inanity, the closest thing would be Battlefield Earth. From Lambert’s embarrassing old-man voice to the ridiculous assassins, new idiocies assault the viewer with every passing second. Granted, the production was shut down before the movie was completed, but it is hard to imagine the film was really salvageable. This edition represents the closest version yet to what the filmmakers had in mind. The special effects have been heavily overhauled, but this isn’t a case of George Lucas-style endless tinkering. The previous version of Highlander 2 had effects that were slapped on by technicians who were not part of the original team, and the look of the film has been notably improved (the shield, for instance, is now blue instead of a garish red). So the film looks much better, but no amount of effort can make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear.
Highlander 2 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer may be a “state-of-the-art 24P HD master,” but that hardly makes it the cat’s pajamas. For all the remastering, there is still a fair bit of grain, and some moments of rather jerky movement. The image is sharp, however, and the colors are wonderful. Blacks and contrasts are also beyond reproach.
Lions Gate has lavished a lot of love on the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. The surround effects are excellent, and their placement is superb. For a perfect example of this, watch the opening opera scene, and note how, as the camera revolves around the opera house, the music shifts from speaker to speaker to remain spatially consistent. All the explosions and zaps are impressive as well. The does offer incredible expansive range. Again, the film just shines in its presentation. The musical numbers are dynamic and rich in range. The subs will blow you away. I can honestly say it felt very much like I actually experienced these show numbers. Dialog is not always strong, but credit that problem to some inability of Berkley and others to project much here. There might have been some subtle attempt at a certain moody style here, I guess; I’ll never know. Whatever you think about the movie, the audio and visual presentations here are about as good as they can be.
The disc has a 50-minute documentary as its main feature. This piece – “Highlander 2: Seduced by Argentina” – is a look back by director Russell Mulcahy, Lambert, and others at the troubled production of the film. “The Redemption of Highlander 2” is a more detailed look at there-worked FX. “The Music of Highlander 2”, “The Fabric of Highlander 2” and “Shadows &Darkness: The Cinematography of Highlander 2” are featurettes with self-explanatory titles. Also here is the original Cannes promo reel from 1991, the theatrical trailer, and a montage of deleted scenes. These last are presented in uncompleted form, with raw sound. The menu is fully animated and scored.
So the look is much improved, but the movie is still terrible. Perhaps all involved can finally achieve closure now.
Parts of this review were provided by Gino Sassani