Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Highlander II - The Quickening (#CrapSequels)

World of Blackout: CRAP SEQUEL SEASON!

flms. srs bsns. We've all been there; Browsing in Blockbuster, the HMV sale or the bargain-DVD section in Sainsbury's, and we come across a plastic case which gives us an involuntary tingle of excitement. Someone's made a sequel to that movie we like! How did this slip under our radar? Why wasn't this on at our local cinema? Why are we only hearing about this now? Well, there's only one way to answer that question; it involves spending the requisite £3 and usually ends with the question 'Why did this get made, never mind how?'.

The rules for selection are as follows: 1) The film needs to be a poorly received sequel to a generally successful film (so no crap sequels to crap originals, and no crap remakes of originals), 2) Films from longer series are fine, but the choice needs to be part two of that line, 3) I'm not intending to watch any of the associated part-ones as part of this run (whether I'm familiar with them or not), so there'll be extra pressure on the crap sequel to work on its own terms. So join me as I delve into some of the crappest, most unwarranted follow-ups of all time (hopefully with a couple of underrated, misunderstood gems thrown in).

How bad can it be, right? I mean, the original was good…

CRAP SEQUELS! Highlander II: The Quickening.

#CrapSequels: Highlander II: The Quickening
Cert: 15 / 109 mins / Dir. Russell Mulachy
Year: 1991 (5 years after the first movie)

The general feeling: RT Score: 0% / IMDB Score: 3.9

This film was released in the same year as Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Think about that for a second. The film begins with a solid five minutes of self-indulgent dialogue-free opera with an Old Makeup™ Christopher Lambert nodding along and having flashbacks subtitled as "A very long time ago". Further captions will include "Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean", followed by "Still somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean". Self-deprecating in-jokes hardly seem appropriate with a film as severely flawed as this...

It becomes apparent from the early scene where Connor MacLeod walks into a grimy bar and fires up Queen's 'A Kind Of Magic' on the jukebox, that this is going to be a fairly desperate affair, with director Mulachy, as well as stars Lambert and Connery, hoping that the audience's goodwill will paper over the considerable cracks in the screenplay. The level of hammy acting is mortifying as everyone slips into B-movie mode, including genre stalwart Michael Ironside, who appears to have been paid to give a Jack Nicholson impersonation for two hours (complete with a self-tying ponytail accessory). Still, the jerky cackling of the 'porcupine twin' assassins at least gives me a clue as to the origins of Ray Park's performance as Toad in the first X-Men movie.

As heavily exposited as it is, the screenplay's sporadic zipping between "2024" and various points in Connor MacLeod's past means it manages to be a jumbled mess in a historical fashion, as well as a futuristic one. Speaking of such matters, Highlander 2's hackneyed use (even at the time) of dystopian regimes, long-haired street gangs and black-suited rebel commandos zip-wiring into an antagonist's facility, leaving a trail of library sound-effects in their wake, means that The Future™ has never looked quite so old. And just when your brain's adjusted to the Blade Runner-Lite proceedings, a man in a winged-suit who is quite clearly swinging on a rope, has a back-alley sword-fight with a man on a flying skateboard who is quite clearly swinging on a rope, like some awful hybrid of Tim Burton's Batman and Back To The Future II. The words "it doesn't get better than this" seemed painfully apt at that moment, for all the wrong reasons.

But it's not all 'the re-tooled oxygen-generator subplot from 1990's Total Recall'. Oh, no. Sir Sean of Connery drops in every ten minutes or so to deliver some ill-judged*1 humour into the proceedings as the 'man out of time' archetype. When he's not materialising in the middle of a stage-production of Hamlet and conversing with the actors without seeing the hundreds of people in the audience, or throwing his weight around in an inexplicably old-fashioned gent's tailors to replace his anachronistic clothing with new anachronistic clothing, he's being baffled by aeronautical flight and saying "dickhead" slightly too often. His efforts aren't the film's only attempts at comedy (satirical TV commercials and in-flight videos are always HA-HA-HILARIOUS, aren't they?), but they're certainly the worst.

In comparison with the above, the ungainly screen chemistry between Lambert and Virginia Madsen seems almost forgivable. Madsen stars as The Girl One™, athletic and earnest eco-terrorist Louise Marcus, who is so committed to her cause she has sex with MacLeod in the street about three minutes after meeting him (if it's any consolation, the sex itself only takes about 45 seconds, so she might be playing some sort of ratio-game, there). In fairness, it's difficult to imagine any pair of actors making things work in this film, but rest assured; they don't try very hard, anyway. Still, it's infinitely preferable to watching Michael Ironside whooping and cackling as he drives a passenger train at speeds of up to 600 mph (I don't know either, it's not explained), killing the passengers by making their eyes somehow bulge and explode in the process, all played out to some crappy 80's metal (I read the credits, I couldn't work out which song it was). Ironside's demoniacal glee at haphazardly topping civilians can only be matched by his knowledge that no matter how terrible he is in this film, he will never be called the worst thing in it.

I seem to be using the word "incoherent" a lot of late, but it's rarely as fitting as it is for this crap sequel.

Like a sweetmeat processing factory inhabiting every floor of a tower block, Highlander II: The Quickening is just bollocks on so many levels. What makes matters worse is that I apparently watched the "director's cut", and the thought that there's a worse version of this film out in the world somewhere really scares me.

Have you seen this before??
Many moons ago, barely remembered it, though.

…but have you seen the original movie?
Many moons ago, vaguely disappointed with it at the time.

Do I have to have seen the original movie?
Probably, but it's a complete mess either way, so it doesn't really matter…

How many of the original film's stars returned?
Inexplicably, Lambert and Connery are back, as is director Mulachy. And surely it CAN'T be shite when 'the talent' makes a return?

Worth expanding into threequel territory?
Well, it happened. I have no idea how, but it went on to be a very successful franchise.

Rent it, stream it, or wait for it to be on TV?
If you're intent on watching it, Netflix (or equivalent). There's no point wasting money on this shite.

Ah, but is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Didn't hear one.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
How did this continue to be a film series as well as branching into live-action and animated TV shows?

*1 And when I say 'ill-judged', I also mean 'ill-timed' and 'ill-written'.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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