A great many of you have pointed out the omission of the anime Highlander: The Search for Vengeance in my Highlander 2 review. I’d watched almost every film as part of my research for the review, but the anime came last in my studies. I didn’t mention it in the list of awful Highlander stuff because in truth, it’s not that bad.
It seems faint praise that Search for Vengeance is merely…okay, but compared to the rest of the Highlander flicks, it probably reigns as the second best film to bear the name. Highlander 3 is…well, not very good. I always called it Highlander 3: The Apology because it’s essentially a remake of the original with far less interesting characters, and far less interesting things to do. It even features another gravelly-voiced warlord tormenting people by giving them terrorizing rides in cars, another mentor of MacLeod murdered. It’s entire purpose was to retcon the series back to its roots, as if Highlander 2: The Quickening were a fever dream, gratefully forgotten.
Highlander: Endgame is, simply put, god-awful. The movie trailer is an outright lie; most of what takes place there never occurs in the film. Worst of all, Bruce Payne is absolutely horrendous as the mugging, scenery-gnawing effeminate mass-murderer Jacob Kell. The movie was meant to pass the torch from Connor to Duncan, when the movie and television series really should never have crossed over at all. Not only is it impossible to hide the fact that Connor MacLeod had won the Prize twice now, but Christopher Lambert was never much of an action star even in his prime (dude swung a katana like a Louisville Slugger), and by Endgame he was about fifteen years older, and noticeably so. The television show did a lot right and a lot wrong: Adrian Paul was better-suited to the physical demands of the role, but his characterization of Duncan was dour, sullen, and rather uninteresting. The show also induced a population explosion among the Immortals and removed all sense of urgency in the “game,” never really answering the question of how there could ever be only one if new Immortals were springing up all the time with no end in sight. Its heart was in the right place, and it stayed true to its roots, but the show never really seemed to have an idea where it was going. There was no end in sight, no Prize to be won, no climactic Gathering when all the grudges would finally be hashed out and old alliances shattered, as all alliances must in the end. The show was aimless.
This is no more evident than Highlander: The Source, which is basically the epilogue of Duncan MacLeod’s saga after the world goes to hell. And my god– if I’d seen The Source before I wrote my review of Highlander 2, I might have abandoned that project altogether. The Source is dogshit. I mean weapons-grade dogshit. If your dog shat something this nasty, you’d have it put down and buried in a Hefty bag. I wasn’t even ready for something this bad. If you thought The Quickening was the low-point of the series, well, I don’t even know anymore. This movie punched me in the nuts and stole my lunch. I’m still a little dizzy from that one. If it’s not worse than Highlander 2, it’s right up there. I mean, second-place by a razor-thin margin. I think the only reason The Source isn’t as notorious as Highlander 2 is because nobody saw it (it was direct-to-video) and expectations for the series were already rock-bottom. I don’t want to say too much but if ever a movie shot its way to the top of my review stack, it was this one.
Anyway, the anime. It’s okay. It’s another post-apocalyptic take on the series and has precisely nothing to do with any other aspect of the series. That’s a good thing. For a series like this, best to make it just some kind of elseworld tale. It’s about a guy named Colin MacLeod stalking the wasteland, eternally searching for another immortal who led Rome against the Scots and had his lover crucified. Its simplicity is pretty refreshing, and the anime style allows it to make good use of the Fallout-ish setting. You’ll see gangs and mutants, and one immortal who swings a giant chainsaw as his sword, which you could only pull off in an anime. In fact, if anything, I sort of wish the anime was a little more daring and attempted to go a little more Ninja Scroll in style with immortals who fight in bizarre ways. On the other hand, when you get too daring, you get aliens from Zeist, so maybe the restraint was well-founded.
I personally found the pace fairly lazy, going through the motions of setting up Colin’s motivations for vengeance when it’s pretty obvious where things are going early on. We’re three-quarters of the way through the film and we’re still flashing back to Colin discovering his wife’s body, howling in rage, and you just want to scream “get on with it, already.” It’s such a stock character background you could have written this in your sleep. Hell, I could have told the same story with a couple of half-second flashes of memory, and this movie takes a half-hour to get there. Colin himself is another brooding hero obsessed only with revenge (hence the title) but it makes him depressingly one-note as a character, with nothing interesting to say or do, since everything he’s ever done since becoming immortal is trying to find and kill the same guy. What’s worse is that he basically stinks as a fighter, and the villain has him utterly bested at every turn. I never liked how Duncan MacLeod in the television series was such a dominant, untouchable fighter, it’s true, but Colin gets slapped around quite a bit here. It’s a little pathetic.
But again, it’s okay. I guess if you’ve got a serious Highlander itch, the anime will scratch it, but overall it’s a passable yet forgettable revenge flick. Compared to The Source it’s freaking Yojimbo, though.