Sequels are known to usually be worse than the original film they follow. But among the most hated sequels ever made, Highlander 2: The Quickening is one of the most infamous. One hated by fans and critics alike and whose original version is only watchable through VHS or Laserdisc because it wasn’t in demand. Now 30 years old, what is the film like now? It still sucks.
In 1999, because the ozone layer had been mostly destroyed, a shield now covers the Earth to protect the planet from solar radiation. However, by 2024, the ozone layer has repaired itself, but the company running the shield keeps this hidden from the world for selfish reasons. So… our hero, time traveler Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert), who helped build the shield, must now work with a researcher to destroy the shield.
So Connor MacLeod comes from the distant past where he and Juan Ramirez (played by Sean Connery) rebelled against an evil dictatorship and lost. The two were sentenced to go to the future where they would be immortal unless decapitated. There they would fight other immortals until one remained, who would either go back home or stay in the future. Connor emerged victorious, however, the dictator, Katana, was not satisfied and sent some immortals to kill him despite Connor staying in the future and now being an old man with a painful-sounding voice. This bungled attack gives Connor his immortality and youth back, resurrects Ramirez and leads to Katana to do the killing himself.
Where to begin on the plot? To say this is a mess would be an understatement. We have a film that spends a large portion of itself on backstory which is just incomprehensible, and a main plot that feels scattershot in its focus. The immortal and ozone stuff feel pasted together with cheap tape, and trying to summarize the plot felt like summarizing the ramblings of a drunk pothead. However, the plot is made worse with any knowledge of the original film, where this random time travel stuff wasn’t present, because it is just one giant and bizarre retcon that I have ever seen! Seriously, who thought this was a good idea?
So the original cut of the movie was the result of the production being taken over by the film’s investors after a terrible production. In the original cut, instead of being time travelers, the immortals were aliens. ALIENS!!! Needless to say they weren’t aliens in the first Highlander, so the revelation would result in the reaction anyone would expect from fans of the first film. In all other cuts, any reference to aliens was cut, and it honestly doesn’t improve the film at all. The backstory still retcons the original film, makes little sense and is just absurd.
The acting is probably the closest thing to a highlight the film has. While not groundbreaking, we get solid performances from the cast. The most notable performances are Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery who are both charming and fun to watch. In terms of humor, Michael Ironside as Katana is fun for being an over-the-top villain who overdoes it on many occasions.
Aside from the plot and the production of the film, there really isn’t too much else worth noting. The effects were fake-looking, but nothing too special or memorable, and seem to be only slightly below average for the time. Pacing-wise, the film feels longer than it has to, while the main plotline feels underutilized and rushed at the same time.
Highlander 2: The Quickening is a uniquely bad film. With a troubled production and horrendous studio interference, this film had a poor lot in life and the filmmakers are admirable for sticking with it and making other, better versions of the film. However it doesn’t save the film from just not being good. The plot seriously needed someone to slap sense into the writers, and aside from some humorous and charming acting from Connery, Ironside and Lambert, the film doesn’t have that much for the modern viewer. If you are a fan of the franchise, then this film would be even worse than it would be otherwise. Going from a fantasy action to whatever sci-fi dystopia we have here just wasn’t the right move for progressing the franchise and makes the film feel cluttered and overcomplicated. Without a doubt, this will be remembered as one of the most bizarre sequels ever made.