End of the Game
If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap! And sometimes even when it is Scottish, it’s still crap.
I was prepared for crap — I was expecting it, and yes, even looking forward to some good laughs. And Highlander: Endgame, like its predecessor sequels to the sneakily charming Highlander, does not disappoint. It’s not Battlefield Earth-bad — you won’t need to call paramedics or anything — but it is Stigmata-bad, which means you can have a jolly good time if you put on your Mystery Science Theater 3000 cap and lob some snarky commentary at the screen.*
And the crowd of Highlander geeks (I count myself amongst them) in the Friday late-night screening was as primed as my friends and I were. The boos and guffaws of contemptuous laughter started the moment Christopher Lambert’s name appeared in the credits, and didn’t end until the lights came up, 80 minutes later. They crammed a lot of bad, bad stuff into such a short flick.
Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) is an immortal, born in the 16th century and still hanging around at the turn of the millennium. Immortals are not supposed to deteriorate after their first “death” and resurrection, but Lambert is not a man who’s aging well — Connor is noticeably older in Endgame than he is in the flashback clips from the original 1986 film. But okay, we’ll let that slide — Lambert’s only an “actor” after all (I apply the term loosely in his case). But what about that horrible, horrible accent? Here’s a Frenchman trying to approximate a Scottish accent, and failing miserably, and, it must be said, laughably. Lambert may not have had Connor’s four centuries — and you’d think Connor would be able to do the accent of his homeland given all that time to practice — but Lambert has had four movies and 14 years, which is still a good long time.
At least we get a lot of beautiful scenery of the Scottish highlands to look at during flashbacks to Connor’s early life (mostly newly shot, with just a few clips from the original film — Endgame mostly gives us all new material to ridicule). Poor Connor got a lot of grief for coming back from the dead after being killed in a nasty battle — and who could blame the superstitious Christians for thinking he was in league with the devil; I mean, that accent! During some fisticuffs with the religious types, Connor kills a guy who was near and dear to this other guy with crosses on his heels. And then, 400 years later, the guy with crosses on his heels shows up again, out for vengeance.
There’s not a lot of money in revenge, and it takes an eternity. Why the guy with crosses on his heels (See: meaningless religious symbolism! I told you it was Stigmata-bad.) waits four centuries to torture Connor is a mystery. But there we are. The crosses guy, Kell (Bruce Payne), has an Anne Rice wardrobe and an indistinct Euro accent, and he’s way too interested in being inside other guys — as when one immortal kills another, and the victor absorbs the dead one’s memories and lifeforce. But with all the phallic swords in this film, the blade being the weapon of choice among immortals (all the better to chop your head off, my dear), it’s really hard not to let my dirty mind wander.
So Kell and his gothy droogs indulge in a bit of the old ultraviolence, offing immortals left and right for no obvious reason, in battle scenes so ludicrously derivative that the director should be separated from his DVDs of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and The Matrix forthwith. Also indistinct is why Connor’s distant relative and fellow immortal, Duncan (Adrian Paul), chooses to wander around Connor’s old digs, going through his stuff and having flashbacks of his own, of his adventurous past with Connor. (You eventually need a road map to navigate the flashbacks within flashbacks. Yikes.)
It starts to feel like a video game, eventually, as random fight follows random fight — or maybe it’s more like those old text adventures:
swing sword at what?
>SWING SWORD AT IMMORTAL
There’s also some unfathomable nonsense with the Watchers — mortals who observe immortals — and how some of them want to prevent the immortals from killing each other in order to prevent the last one alive from winning “the prize,” whatever that is. Of course, in the original Highlander, we got down to the last immortal standing, who won the prize of mortality, but all of that has been conveniently forgotten in the effort to spawn a viable franchise. And it would have been okay, too, since part of that franchise was the terrific syndicated TV series, which was full of angst-ridden good guys, complicated morality, and lots of sex and worldwide travel. But Endgame ruins that, too: by committing the character-rape of the series’ main immortal, Duncan, who is way too honorable and prone to agonizing guilt to have ever committed the central violent act he is forced to perpetrate here; and by wasting the characters of Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes), mortal Watcher and friend to Duncan, and Methos (Peter Wingfield), the oldest immortal.
Halfway through Endgame, I said to myself: “If only Adrian Paul takes his shirt off, this movie will be saved for me.” And then he did, and I discovered that I was wrong. Even a nearly naked Adrian Paul, scrumptious as he is, just wasn’t enough.
*The Flick Filosopher does not endorse talking in the multiplex. Unless the movie’s not really worth watching anyway. Like this one.