Highlander, Russell Mulcahy’s 1986 action fantasy film based on Gregory Widen’s story, is an epic, fast-moving, visually-brilliant adventure. On the surface, Highlander does appear to be a standard action film from the 1980s. In fact, when Gregory Widen had written the story, it was merely his senior thesis, but he was eventually joined by a few other writers and the film was eventually directed by Mulcahy, who was a former music video director. The film itself has a self-contained plot revolving around the last remaining mortals on earth and the climactic battle that is destined to take place between them where only one immortal can survive.
Despite the fact that budget constraints held the film back, it still managed to make a distinct place in history, maybe because it also starred Sean Connery, and Queen contributed to its soundtrack. Even though the film was initially received poorly, it was leading in the video market and even today, it still has a massive following.
Highlander is a film that is split into two separate timelines. The present day timeline in the film takes place amidst the “Gathering,” a mysterious event where most of the immortals in New York City are gathering to battle until there is only one winner. According to the legend told in the film, the last remaining immortal will be awarded an ambiguous, fabled “prize.” Apparently, this is the reason they exist. The film’s antagonist is also revealed in the form of the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), a sadistic and strongest known immortal, who intends to kill the rest and claim the “prize.” The secondary timeline introduces viewers to Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), the protagonist of the film and another immortal, who discovers that he cannot die after actually suffering a violent death. In this past timeline, Connor is also eventually trained by Juan Ramirez (Sean Connery), an Egyptian immortal from Spain with a Scottish accent.
As mentioned, while Highlander may seem like a purely action film on the surface, complete with a rock soundtrack and training montages, but it is also much more than that. The plot is effectively emotional, with an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking depiction of love and loss, along with its fair share of foolishness and savagery.
Of course, Highlander is not exactly a perfect film, rather far from it. Viewers might not be able to emotionally connect with Connor or find motive behind his actions because of how jaded he is, so much so that he incapable of and refuses to love again. His character always appears to have a hollow look and his attitude makes it seem that he is going along with this only because he has to, and while it is obvious why he acts that way, it starts feeling odd.
However, the film is not merely a piece of bawdy entertainment. For instance, the montages are between Connor and Juan are filmed on the mountain tops of the lovely Scottish highlands using the most high-end crane/helicopter tracks imaginable. Not only do these montages reveal how skillful Connor eventually becomes when he begins using his sword effectively, they also provide viewers with a detailed, in-depth look at Scotland.
As far as action is concerned, viewers rarely find themselves disappointed when watching Highlander, from the moment Conner decapitates a fellow mortal to his climactic showdown with the Kurgan. Even though the film moves back and forth between the two eras, it is achieved in quite a charming manner, and while some elements in the film are dated, they still do not fail to impress. Even though the film has moments that have seemingly not been executed well enough, these will not take away from the experience.
Highlander is a film with flaws and many critics enjoy pointing them out, but in doing so, they end up missing out the good aspects and elements that were an intrinsic part of the 80’s filmmaking. Even the characters are equally flawed, but viewers will still not be able to forget them soon enough once they have watched the film. Similarly, the music and scenes are also impressive. Considering that Russell Mulcahy used to direct music videos, Highlander may even feel like one long music video, but it is an enjoyable and memorable film nonetheless.
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