Highlander: The Source (2007) — The source of all irritation, maybe

“There can be only one.”

Mike’s rating: There can be only one (out of ten)

Mike’s review: Few things in the realm of film making are more disappointing than a really promising premise that gets horribly mishandled. The series of bastard flipper-baby sequels to The Crow and even the Star Wars prequels are examples of a really great idea that was just mutilated and subsequently cheated out of all its potential. There are few things worse than building a giant ark of possibility, only to steer it into the crashing waves of ineptitude and dash it upon the rocks of mediocrity.

Such a tale of woe is the tale of Highlander, a pretty cool sci-fi/fantasy pic about a Scottish immortal and a centuries-long battle among his long lived brethren to be fought until only one is left. While not exactly Oscar-worthy, it nonetheless stood up well, with a pretty good story, strong performances and some pretty-good-for-the-time FX. It featured Sean Connery as a wise mentor character, Christopher Lambert as the protagonist of untraceable accent, and Clancy Ever-Lovin’ Brown (thanks for that one, Al) as the scariest bad guy ever. As it was, Highlander was good enough to gain a pretty strong cult following — and despite the writers pretty conclusively ending the story beyond the possibility for continuation — a sequel was demanded.

Thus began a downward spiral which can only be described as “epic.” Sequel after sequel was birthed from Hollywood’s cursed loins, each one worse than the last. Blatant disregard or even active avoidance of anything approaching story continuity plagued every installment. When a series was created and Lambert passed on the reins to Adrian Paul, it was a step up, but too many steps down had been taken, which brings us at last to my review of the latest installment.

Before I go further, perhaps you think I’m not being fair to this little franchise that could. “Aren’t you being a bit unfair, Mike? After all, the show wasn’t so bad.” Maybe, but factor this into your thinking: This movie didn’t go to theatres. It didn’t go straight to video. It went to the SciFi channel. It’s a SciFi channel original movie. Yes that’s right, the formerly great story has joined the ranks of Mansquito and Alien Apocalypse in the pantheon of horribly produced, badly written, $5 special effects disasters.

The story so far: like its recently released (and FAR superior) anime counterpart, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, this story fast forwards to a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, which means “dark sets and fires in barrels.” There are still a number of Immortals around, despite all of them having been killed off in at least two of the previous movies. A few of them are searching for The Source (re: Big Energy Ball/Plot Device), which supposedly is where the immortality stems from. A few Immortals recruit Duncan-Macleod-of-the-Clan-Macleod to help them in their quest. Naturally there’s conflict in the form of The Guardian, who wants to kill them before they get to big energy ball. Now this had “epic” written all over it, but since the budget is so low here, their “quest” consists of a boat ride and a car ride, sporadically interspersed with lame fight scenes.

Ok, my first problem — the villain. I know we’re supposed to be terrible frightened by this bulky, leather clad albino, but really, the 12-year-old immortal from the series was scarier than this guy. Filming him in jerky, quick cuts would’ve been really frightening, if we hadn’t seen The Ring or House on Haunted Hill. We’re expected to view this guy as some kind of uber-immortal, unlike anything we’ve ever seen, but his sole extra power seems to be running fast… and that’s it. He’s also into lame wisecracks, further adding to his “Diet Coke of Evil” quality. The final nail in the bad guy coffin is this: As our team of heroes gets close to the source, they actually become mortal. The big bad is so non-threatening that they actually de-powered the heroes just to even the playing field, and then towards the end they give him and army of thugs, seemingly out of nowhere.

A word about character development: There should have been some. The love interest du jour is attractive but only passable as far as her performance. Joe Dawson, the single most annoying character from the series is inexplicably and infuriatingly hanging around through most of the movie. The other immortals are given nothing to do except stand around and look slick. A subplot about how the source makes the people seeking it turn on each other is touched upon but then all but thrown away, which means that all that happens is the heroes occasionally make sarcastic comments at each other, another opportunity to deepen the story missed.

The production values are bad even for the admittedly low standard of the venue. The movie is dark. It’s like the photographer thought that by turning off the lights he could hide the fact that this movie was being made for the cost of a value meal at Jack in the Box. I know the SciFi movies aren’t known for their extraordinary budgets, but this thing makes the old Dr. Who episodes look like Lord of the Rings.

The final travesty is that the fight scenes are few and far between and lame. During the final battle, I actually fell asleep and had to rewind Tivo. All the fights with the aforementioned lame bad guy consist of bad guy running fast, and random immortal looking surprised. This is unforgivable for a film franchise built on the strength of its swashbuckling and swordplay.

At every stage the viewer can see how good a movie this could have been, it’s infuriating. Bottom line: The story deserved better.

Didja notice?

  • Ok, in 1998, Joe Dawson is in his 50s. Fast-forward to a post apocalyptic future, and he’s STILL in his 50s. Are we SURE he’s not an immortal?
  • The Guardian’s neck guard in the first fight? Good idea.
  • Did anybody think goateed-computer hacker-immortal was going to make it till the end?
  • Ah the signature Highlander gratuitous sex-scene in silhouette. They should’ve played “Who wants to live forever” by Queen.
  • Macleod’s trademark dragon katana replaced by what looks like two pie cutters.
  • SPOILER! So for thousands of years the whole reason the immortals have been killing each other off is all BS?

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