Highlander (2-Film Set) 25th Anniversary Collection Blu-ray Review
Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery star in the epic tale of immortality that launched one of the most beloved action-adventure series in film and TV history. After Scottish clansman Connor MacLeod (Lambert) discovers his true identity as a member of a legion of immortals, he embarks on a legendary journey spanning continents and centuries, eventually landing in modern-day New York City. Connor faces his ultimate test when other immortals begin to appear in the city, leading to a titanic showdown where only one can claim victory. Directed by Russell Mulcahy and featuring a soundtrack by Queen, this is the modern classic that has attracted millions of warrior fans worldwide. This is Highlander!
It’s 2024 and MacLeod and Ramirez are back to save planet Earth. Ozone depletion, time travel and corporate greed are at the core of all the thrilling twists and turns in this stylish action sequel. Featuring state-of-the-art special effects and digital remastering, it’s Highlander 2 like you’ve never seen or heard before!
Audio: DTS-HD MA lossless 7.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / 2.35:1
Disc Spec: 2 BD25
Highlander (Director’s Cut)
“Highlander” is one of my personal favorite flicks! Trapped (for better or worse) in the 80s, “Highlander” is one of the very few movies that I’ve ever seen that has an absolutely outlandish premise, but pulls it off with total confidence, competence, and flair! The movie pulls you in from the start, with a rocking song by music group Queen (which supplied all the songs for the movie) and introduces us to the title character Connor MacLeod, the Highlander, played with strong conviction by (at the time) French newcomer Christopher Lambert. The opening swordfight sequence between MacLeod and his first foe Fasil in the Madison Square Garden garage is a cool, fast-paced scene. Then the movie flashes back to 16th century Scotland where we find that MacLeod is actually immortal and the only way he can die is by beheading.
Flashback scenes show that in the 16th century, MacLeod was trained by another immortal, the flamboyant Spaniard Ramirez (played with scene-stealing flair by the legendary Sean Connery). The mentorship scenes between MacLeod and Ramirez have a sweep and grandeur that is rarely portrayed in films anymore, at least not in such a heartfelt, unassuming way. MacLeod also outlives his first wife Heather (sexy, sweet Beatie Edney). In flashback, we are also introduced to the evil immortal Kurgan (played by Clancy Brown in brilliantly unapologetic, energetic performance), who is out to be the last immortal to win The Prize.
In the present day, MacLeod meets police forensics expert Brenda (fiery and luscious Roxanne Hart), whose avocation is studying and writing books on ancient swords. She’s interested in MacLeod’s sword, which she found remnants of in the Garden lot while the police were investigating the aftermath of the MacLeod-Fasil fight. MacLeod and Brenda develop a strong attraction to each other and Brenda’s investigation leads her to find out of MacLeod’s immortality and she falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Kurgan seeks out Macleod in present-day New York to battle for The Prize.
The star Lambert does a great job of displaying MacLeod’s eternal dread of living a life of loneliness; he is detached and melancholy, but still resilient, forthright and strong. Which makes the ending all the more satisfying. Another big selling point of “Highlander” is it’s on-location cinematography (the luscious Scottish highlands countered with the gritty New York atmosphere), giving the fantasy a realistic appeal. This, interspersed with the fantastic Queen music and fast-paced, no-nonsense, yet involving storytelling makes “Highlander” an 80s keeper!
Highlander 2 (Renegade Version)
This is not the “Highlander 2” I’m suppose to watch. If I’m walking down bad movie avenue, I should be seeing the infamous 90-minute theatrical cut of the film. However, the theatrical atrocity was never released legally on DVD, and the one that’s out now is the Renegade Cut, a director’s reconstruction of the film with 20 minutes of extra scenes and everything apparently rearranged to reflect his true vision. For all intentions of watching a bad movie, I failed on this venture, as I saw a manageable and overall decent redux. I could be saying that because I never actually saw the first Highlander in full, so take this review under certain consideration.
It’s the year 2024, and the entire world is covered in a barrier because the sun burned the ozone layer years earlier than Al Gore anticipated, causing harmful radiation to all. And for some reason, the world became a very dystopian place after that. How? A barrier that protected lives from radiation shouldn’t turn the world to crap (even overtime), and I doubt the company who built the shield can monopolize the entire world without some backers from multi-billion dollar companies, nevermind it could just gouge humanity to poverty. Before I wrote this, I saw some clips from the original cut to explain why the world’s in the dark…and that insulting excuse of an explanation made me realize it’s best never to know.
The main Immortal, MacLeod (Lambert), grew old after the events of the first film, and he was also the supervisor of the Shield project years ago. It turned out his aging was one of the prizes for killing the last Immortal on this planet, the other is to go back to his people; it turned out he and his old mentor Ramirez (Connery) were part of an ancient race from countless ages ago, sent to the future to duke each other out. He tried to live and die in peace, but his old nemesis Katana (Micheal Ironside) sent his goons to attack him in the story’s present, just as MacLeod had a run-in with a terrorist/totally-not-a-love-interest played by Virginia Madsen. After MacLeod beat the turkey of them, he reformed back to his youth and is immortal again. Huh, maybe you should’ve just left him to die, Rvok; even MacLeod and his goon called him out on that.
What followed is a few ridiculous developments in a quest to stop the bad guys, and to turn off the shield because it turned out the radiation is gone from Earth. After MacLeod became immortal, Virginia’s character just boned him on the spot; forget spending an hour to develop a romantic affair, let’s just get straight to the money shot. And when Katana decided to take matters to his own hands, MacLeod brought back his fellow dead mentor by simply calling his name. I may not have seen the first film, but I have to say that magic maneuver was full of crap; if he could do that, why couldn’t Katana just call out his goons the same way (I guess they didn’t do the orange juice ritual that MacLeod and Ramirez did)? In fact, there’s a couple of things that confound me. The movie revealed that the Immortals were from an ancient past, so how did an archaic race manage to have futuristic technology beyond present standards? And Virginia’s character recall that the Immortals were mortals in MacLeod’s old world, and yet in a flashback, the ancient guardians referred to them as Immortals. Who’s messing up the details?
Movie Content: Highlander – 10/10, Highlander 2 – 6/10
The print is presented in 1080p/MPEG-4 with a 1.85:1 / 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Both films have never looked good on previous releases on DVD, VHS, and Laserdisc. The original film was shot on a lower budget, so it always made it difficult to get the film looking cleaned up until now with the release of both film on Blu-ray. The original “Highlander” still has quite a bit of film grain throughout which seems to have been touched up a little bit as its not as heavy. The one area that still needed some work is the digital noise which at times can get out of hand. Colors are better, but still seem soft looking. Blacks can bee good at times and then others where they seem to be all over the place with this print. The film has been cleaned up of any artifacts and print damage as seen on previous home releases.
Highlander 2 is a whole different animal on Blu-ray as the film just received an upgraded master in 2004. Colors are strong and bold with this presentation. Black levels can also lack in a few areas which is quite noticeable. The reason why it is so noticeable has to do with the film being dark due to the content. I will say that I was pleasantly happy with the film’s image quality.
Video Quality: 8.5/10
The audio mix is presented in DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio lossless track. Both films are a pleasant treat with the new DTS master. The new DTS master brings the original Highlander to life which was a huge surprise to me, and even a bigger surprise is how bombastic Highlander 2 is in the soundfield. The soundfield is very aggressive with both films, but more with the latter as Highlander 2 had the advantage of technological advancements in audio in the early 90’s. As a long time fan of this franchise, I was not left disappointed with the audio.
Audio Quality: 9.5/10
- Commentary Track
- Deleted Scenes
- Seduced in Argentina
- The Redemption of “Highlander 2”
- The Music of “Highlander 2”
- The Fabric of “Highlander 2”
- Shadow and Darkness
- Deleted Scenes
- Original Cannes Film Festival Promotional Reel
Special Features: 6/10
The “Highlander” franchise is one of my all-time favorites which mixes fantasy with bits of sci-fi for a very crazy concept. Fans will be glad to see that both films have finally been released on Blu-ray with good picture and audio quality. The extras are lacking a bit which is a shame, but maybe we will get more with the 30th Anniversary.
Overall Rating: 8/10