First, let me start by saying that I Loves me some Highlander! Having said that, it's really hard to look at Highlander 2: Special Edition objectively. My history with this movie is a long and sordid tale, having seen the Highlander 2: The Quickening version during it's original theatrical run, and being appalled at the results. While in College I rented the Highlander 2: Renegade Director's Cut version, which gave my friends and I a lot of laughs, and we found ourselves quoting much of the horrendous dialogue.
Seeing it with a group of people that had already been burned by Highlander 2: The Quickening and were desperate to find some merit in a Director's Cut, was the reason this seemed an improvement over the original version. Which makes me sad to say that revisiting this movie now just proves to me how bad it really is. No amount of "Renegade" cutting or FX updating will ever change that. Actually, ehanced FX is what Highlander 2: Special Edition is all about. Over 100 effects shots have been enhanced with CGI, but can any amount of Digital subterfuge be enough to save this bomb of a movie?
Highlander II: Special Edition goes to great lengths to explain the Immortals origin and backstory. In the Highlander 2: The Quickening version, as proof that someone was asleep at the wheel, the Immortals turned out to be alien freedom fighters from the planet Ziest who had been exiled to Earth. In the current version, they are still rebels who fought against the evil General Katana (Michael Ironside), but in the Earth's past rather than on an alien planet, who were then exiled into the future. Some new lines appear to be dubbed to incorporate some of the mythology from the first film. Things about the game, the gathering and the prize for the last Immortal standing. Only now the prize isn't just to become mortal, possessed with the knowledge of the Universe, but also to have the ability to return to the past (Why?!?!).
The year is 2025, Connor MacCleod (Christopher Lambert) the last Immortal from Highlander, only he's no longer immortal and has now grown old. In 1999, he used the knowledge he gained from winning the prize to create an electromagnetic shield to replace the Earth's devestated ozone layer. However, by saving the planet he also ruined it, since the shield keeps the world bathed in perpetual night and the vast amounts of power used to run it are using up the world's resources. In 2021, it turns out that the shield isn't needed any longer, but the company that MacCleod set up to run it is hiding this fact from the World. While MacCleod fights to uncover the truth, General Katana inexplicably decides that now is the time to come to the future and finish him off.
Of course any time you're dealing with time travel this is going to open up a new can of worms. According to the rules set up by the movie, the minute anyone from the past comes to the future than they will become an Immortal ("There Can Be Only One", remember?). So, because of this, MacCleod is now an Immortal again and when one of the new Immortals dies all of their power will go into MacCleod. As if this isn't confusing enough, apparently there was some sort of mystical connection between Connor MacCleod and Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) that exists beyond Time, Space and even The Grave. So just by calling Ramirez's name, MacCleod is able to resurrect him… granted he's back in Scotland, but I guess you can't have everything.
With a preachy, environmental-minded script, not to mention the various liberties taken with the source material, returning Director Russell Mulcahy was finished before he even began. However he does try everything he can to turn this mess into an actual film. There are several chases, sword fights and explosions, but the conflicts with an evil corporation and a carbon copy of the "Kurgan" from the first movie just don't seem to matter that much. There's an urban legend that Sean Connery was contracted to do a sequel when Highlander was released, even though his character was killed. If this really was the case, then the studio was smart to hold him to it, because he is probably the best part of the movie. While it makes absolutely Zero sense, there's something about his wise, Scottish-brogued Egyptian that just belongs in the Highlander series.
Picture: The movie is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) and it looks terrific. A new HD print was struck from the master tapes that make the colors appear more vibrant than ever before.
Sound: DTS ES 6.1, Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks are all present. The soundtrack has been re-created from the original 24-track master tapes and new sound effects have been added to really provide an intense and complete aural experience.
Extras: This is a Two-Disc DVD set. The first Disc contains the film and an interesting feature titled "The Deconstruction of Highlander 2: Special Edition, which provides an alternate video stream that reveals the making of that scene. It utilizes never before seen B-Roll footage. Disc Two has all of the featurettes: "Highlander 2: Seduced by Argentina": a collection of new documentaries about the making of the movie; "The Redemption of Highlander 2", about the Visual Effects restoration; "The Music of Highlander 2"; "The Fabric of Highlander 2"; "Shadow & Darkness: The Cinematography of Highlander 2". There is also the Original Cannes Film Festival promotional reel, a collection of Deleted scenes (featuring the alternate "fairytale" ending) and the Original theatrical trailer.
Conclusion: Well, with Highlander 2: Special Edition we officially have the third release of this film and it's still not very good. Don't get me wrong, this is the best version yet, and anyone who hasn't seen the film or, god forbid, is actually a fan of it, should check this version out. Maybe Russell Mulcahy will pull a George Lucas on us and eventually shoot some new footage to make this an ENTIRELY different movie? Hey, a Highlander fan can hope…