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Movie review: Highlander: Endgame

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Highlander: Endgame

review by Duryea Edwards

In The End, There Can Be Only One …

Timeline, that is.

Producers Peter S. Davis and William Panzer have wisely jettisoned the cumbersome and conflicting mythologies that had been caused by contradictions between the original motion picture and its two sequels. Highlander II: The Quickening completely rewrote almost every maxim that had been set up in the original movie. Highlander: The Final Dimension (which totally ignored the existence of H II) tried to remain faithful to the end of the first movie, but still find a way to explain the existence of at least one more immortal on this planet after Connor MacLeod had supposedly defeated his last challenger ten years earlier to claim the prize of mortality and infinite knowledge of the universe.

Highlander: Endgame exists totally within the parallel time stream that had been created for the syndicated television series. We are handed a somewhat different Connor MacLeod, a man who experienced his first violent death at a point where he was about ten to fifteen years older than the character in the first movie. This has caused him to begin his journey through the centuries as a wiser but more jaded character.

Duncan MacLeod is about seventy-five years younger than Connor. His official date and place of birth are 1592 in the Highlands of Scotland. After being accidentally killed in a battle against the English, and totally recovering from his injuries, Duncan was banished from the MacLeod Clan and went off to join whatever battle he could find against the forces of England. As he was recovering from his most recent death, Duncan was found by Connor, who began to teach him what it was to be an immortal and how the game between them is played.

The legend has been handed down among the immortals that they are meant to battle each other to the death. In the end only one will be left, and he or she will inherit a prize that consists of incredible knowledge and the power to rule the world. There have been those who have tried to avoid the battle, but from time to time some mystical force has caused what is called a “Gathering”. At these points in time, bunches of them are drawn together and even the dearest of friends find themselves compelled to take arms against each other.

Director Douglas Aarniokoski has done a very good job of delicately balancing action and character development so that neither overshadows the other. The story begins with a flurry of confusing and seemingly contradictory story lines which finally begin to fall into place after about forty-five minutes. Once this has happened and the motives of Duncan, Connor, and the evil Kell are brought clearly into view, the action and intensity steadily builds into a reasonably satisfying climax.

I want to seriously praise Aarniokoski for not falling into the trap of having the “Ending That Would Not Die”. During the last thirty minutes of The Man In The Iron Mask, I found that I had begun to mentally scream at the director, “Will you just end the damn thing?” I had been afraid that Highlander: Endgame might be headed in the same direction because it is the type of motion picture that is ripe for that sort of mistake. Thankfully, my fears were did not pan out.

At the same time, I must seriously fault the director and the producers for not properly developing a background relationship between Kell and Faith. It is quickly made clear that the two have joined forces to bring down Connor and Duncan — and Faith even tells Duncan why she is working with the man — but the viewer is never given even the slightest glimpse of how he wooed her and brought her into his fold. The fact that all of Kell’s associates are simply there, having no real background to show why they are under his control, eventually causes this entire “Unholy Alliance” to come off as nothing more than a necessary plot contrivance. The master villain never really reaches his full potential, and this eventually causes the story to become something slightly less than what it could have been.

My major gripe is the serious underuse of the characters of Dawson and Methos. The company should have edited out five minutes of redundant action, and then added in about fifteen additional minutes which featured these two filling out their proper roles of supporting / advising / chastising Duncan MacLeod. Dawson and Methos tend to be the Doctor McCoy and Mister Spock of Duncan MacLeod’s life. Dawson helps to bring to light Duncan’s emotional reasons for what is going on, and Methos gives a solid focus to the cold and calculating manner that Immortals must often employ in order to survive. Bringing in the two as little more than window dressing somewhat crippled the serious character development that would have made this a truly excellent motion picture.

Taken as a whole, the story is exciting and mostly satisfying. There are a few too many little loose ends for my taste. Some are obviously there by necessity, to give the production company a good set up for the next installment of the series, but others appear to be a serious lack of good storytelling.

I’ll give Highlander: Endgame three stars for being good action and adventure and only two for character and plot development. This balances out to a respectable 2.5 and puts it way ahead of the two sequels to the original Highlander.

One final note … Music. The producers really should have bitten the bullet and put out the time, effort and money to secure the rights to use “Princes Of The Universe” and “Who Wants To Live Forever”. There are certain places in the film that are literally screaming for the inclusion of one or the other. The Celtic background score is basically good, but something just comes up missing without the gut-wrenching, soul-searching qualities of the original music.