Highlander II: The Quickening is a pretty much perfect example of how to take a good idea and a good film and throw it all in the bin. Highlander’s tagline was There can be only one, and by the end of the film, there was only one Immortal left, so where could a sequel possibly go? Why would we want one? And yet, for some inexplicable reason, here we are.
I commented on how the fact that the Immortals’ plight was never explained benefited the film, giving a sense of mysterious and fantastic to the proceedings, and how it meant that the narrative was much more streamlined because of the lack of unnecessary exposition. Highlander II not only chooses to undo all this by explaining exactly what the Immortals are and why they must do as they do, it does it in the worst way imaginable. It turns out that the Immortals are aliens from the planet Zeist, and were given immortality and banished to Earth in punishment for a rebellion.
It’s stupid on its own terms, and creates innumerable plot holes in the first film: Connor originally thought he was a normal human, despite the fact that, in Highlander II, we see him being given immortality by his Zeistian prosecutor. If he was friends with Ramirez back on Zeist, why does he not remember him when they meet in the first film? If the rules of the Game were explained to the Immortals when they were banished, why does Ramirez need to explain them to Connor? It’s honestly as if the screenwriters hadn’t seen the first film. Also, Zeist? Really? Couldn’t they have at least come up with a less boring name for the alien planet?
Other problems abound as well. Christopher Lambert’s acting hasn’t appreciably improved, and Michael Ironside as the new villain is basically just a more irritating version of the Kurgan. The first film’s beautiful Scottish highlands have been swapped for a really cheap future city, straight out of a cut-rate Blade Runner. Most of the film takes place either on dark city streets or in dark conference rooms where corrupt businessmen do corrupt businessmen things. When did Highlander become a cyberpunk film? The action is dull, the Queen soundtrack is gone, and Sean Connery saves the day with a ridiculous deus ex machina. And, as if the mythology hadn’t been butchered enough, it turns out that Immortals can be resurrected by shouting their name really loud. I’m not even exaggerating. I can appreciate wanting to bring Sean Connery back, but this is just the laziest possible way of doing it, and creates yet another plot hole in the first film: why didn’t Connor just resurrect him straight away, instead of waiting 20 years?
There have been plenty of crummy fantasy films made, but Highlander II ranks with the worst of them. The first film wasn’t great by any stretch, but at the very least it was entertaining. Highlander II is worse than Conan the Destroyer, and doesn’t even have the unintentional comedy value of something like Dungeons & Dragons.