“From the dawn of time, we came, moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of The Gathering, where the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you …Until now.”
We all want to believe that we’re special. We fantasize that one day we’ll discover that we aren’t the mere mortal people we thought that we were. That we are actually some hidden royalty, or better yet, that we have extraordinary powers. Connor (Lambert) makes just such a discovery in the 16th century as he goes off to war with his brothers to defend his highlander homeland against invaders. He receives what should have been fatal wounds on the field of battle. But he quickly recovers from them. His family and village turn against him, believing such powers can only come from evil. He discovers that he is an Immortal and can only be killed by having his head removed.
Enter Juan Sanchez (Connery). Juan is also an immortal. He teaches him the craft of the sword and attempts to explain who, or what, he is. Conner is told that one day all remaining immortals will be compelled to a single place and time. The event is called The Gathering. There they will fight among themselves until only one remains to claim the “prize”. There can be only one.
It’s present-day New York City, and the time of The Gathering has arrived. That means a ton of headless bodies for the New York PD to solve. Lieutenant Frank Moran (North) heads the investigation which puts Conner, now going by the name of Nash, in his sights. Brenda (Hart) also learns that Nash is not who he appears to be. Their romance reminds Nash of his earlier days and Juan’s warning against romance. His enemy since that battlefield The Kurgan (Brown) raped his last love and is now on track to be the surviving immortal. Obviously, a battle between the two, a rematch of the 16th century bout, is on the way.
Highlander is actually very much an average film. Yet it did manage to capture the type of fan base that most films only dream about. It only pulled in around $5 million at the box office, but it developed quite a cult following. The result is that the franchise has seen 6 films, a long-running syndicated television series, an animated series, and several books and comics since that time. This is the movie that started the whole ball rolling. Sean Connery provides his, by now, traditional role of mentor and teacher. The problem is that he doesn’t get a ton of screen time here. I would absolutely have loved to see more of that relationship, which came in sequel form. The movie moves quite a bit between the 16th century and the 1980’s. The problem is that it doesn’t really flow very well. The scenes come off as disjointed and almost two very different movies. Perhaps if someone had known the life the series would have, they would have separated these stories more efficiently. The film also suffers from being too artistic at times. The fantasy element just doesn’t blend as well with the “real” world. Then there’s the Queen rock score and songs. Great music, to be sure, but it keeps you out of the movie itself.
Highlander is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1 codec at an average of about 25 mbps. The film is quite dated. While the high-definition transfer is most certainly superior to the various DVD releases, it appears to use pretty much the same source material. There is obvious print damage and some moments of horrific noise. The final scene of the movie is a perfect example of a scene so riddled with noise that it’s like there are digital bugs swarming all over the screen. Colors are all very soft. Black levels are also pretty poor for a high-definition transfer. This is strictly an archive print.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 provides a ton of steam for the Queen music, but it does little else to impress. There are level challenges that require you to ride the volume control somewhat. You can hear dialog fine. It all sounds a bit flat and muffled. There isn’t any improvement here over the previous DVD release.
There is an Audio Commentary by director Russell Mulcahy. He provides a lot of dead air. His inflection is hard to understand at times. Honestly, I couldn’t understand what he was talking about frequently.
Deleted Scenes: (6:14)
The film looks kind of dated on this Blu-ray release. No question but that the film led to a popular series of new stories. There’s talk of a new film right now. I will certainly admit that I was pretty excited to get the film to review. Somehow it just wasn’t as good as I remembered it to be. It would be easy to just look at the original film with all of its flaws and declare it an absolute classic. How else can you explain the ongoing popularity of a film that did so poorly at the box office? “Would you like to hear another theory?”