Monday, April 23, 2012

Movie Review: Highlander: Endgame (2000)

At some point in the history of Highlander, a writer or producer decided “Hey, we don’t have enough immortals. MacLeod being the last immortal prevents us from charging people to watch stories about more immortals!”

This is completely independent of the fact that Conner MacLeod killed the last immortal not once, not twice, but three times, and the fact that Highlander had yet to put out a sequel that anybody who liked the original movie enjoyed. Hence, a Highlander TV series came out.

But there’s more. Christopher Lambert wasn’t the star of the TV show, but economics demanded that the name recognition of “MacLeod” be attached to the star. Hence, Duncan MacLeod was born, a character who was perhaps tangentially related to Conner MacLeod but was a whole lot less memorable and a whole lot more available.

Highlander: Endgame was the movie designed to replace the movie series of Conner MacLeod with the movie series of Duncan MacLeod. If you can’t tell by the subtle comments I’ve made so far, I didn’t like it very much. Perhaps if you read my comments again with that knowledge, you might get an inkling as to why. In fact, you’ll wonder how you got any other impression.

But the last Highlander movie was The Sorceror, also known as The Final Dimension. How do you top that? By adding a whole bunch of magic powers in the trailer, of course! This would have been a pretty good step, actually. After all, Conner MacLeod has inherited the ability to create illusions from Kane by this point. All you’d have to do is insert this into an epic fight and-

No. There actually is an illusion, but somehow I don’t think putting a dead immortal’s face over the living one’s was intended to be a continuity reference. Nor does it lead to an epic fight of Magic vs Magic. MacLeod seems to have forgotten the magic he inherited from Sean Connery (via Kurgan) and Mako (via Kane), and Kell forgot all of his between the filming of the trailer and that of the movie.

I haven’t really gotten into the plot or the characters yet, and for good reason. Duncan and Conner MacLeod know each other all of a sudden, because it’s the premise of the movie, and several scenes ranging over numerous centuries have been added in to show how Conner was the Ramirez to Duncan’s… Conner.

Conner has decided he just can’t take the untimely deaths of the people he loves that have surrounded him, not realizing that these characters were dying primarily because the same actresses were not returning for new movies. He enters a Sanctuary for immortals that nobody’s ever heard about, and a character from the TV show explains to Duncan once he asks. It turns out the Game Master felt this was cheating, and sent an NPC named Jacob Kell to kill everybody in the Sanctuary except for MacLeod, who was forcibly removed.

More characters from the TV show arrive and explain to Duncan that Kell has changed the rules of “The Game” before forcing him into the Sanctuary to keep Kell from winning the Prize that Conner supposedly won in the first movie. And then another character from the TV show arrives just to make sure we’re terribly confused, and shows us some numbers that make no sense. Apparently, the Kurgan and Kane were really just pushovers, because Conner and Duncan still have less accumulated immortal kills put together than Kell does.

Duncan discovers that his ex-wife, bitter because Duncan turned her into an immortal against her will (this actually makes some sense, but it doesn’t get developed much more in any way that does), is working with Kell, effectively going the extra mile to transform this into a Duncan story. Kell also reveals that he’s the cause of many of Conner’s loved ones dying unexplained deaths, and Conner decides that he needs to be killed by Duncan’s hand so that Duncan can take over the movie franchise. Really, that’s the only explanation that makes sense, because every argument that the two use is because they’re holding themselves to rules that Kell can not be defeated under because he breaks them every chance he gets. The most basic example: Neither of them can defeat Kell, who routinely uses a half dozen minions to wear out his opponents before they fight him, in a one on one fight.

Not just because I’m grateful to end this review, there’s not much to say about the climax. As I said before, we don’t get some epic battle between MacLeod and Kell, settling old grudges and proving that they’re the most powerful immortals alive. No, we get a sword battle with no particularly special choreography, a special move that makes about as much sense as any of the other things that didn’t make any sense, and that’s pretty much it.

Perhaps I didn’t go into every aspect of this movie as deeply as I could. Perhaps I could go on about how petty Jacob Kell is, what with his centuries-long quest for revenge against a man who killed someone during an attempt to save that man’s mother, or about the ridiculous attempts to be hip, or the character that has the most reason to stick around and be awesome simply killing himself to serve the plot (and I’m not talking about Conner, either). The fact of the matter is that it’s a chore to review this movie, and that subsequent viewings only to serve to deepen the feeling of how bad it really is.

Don’t worry, though. It’s not the worst Highlander sequel. No, that honor is reserved for the next movie: Highlander: The Source.

Bill Silvia is a regular contributor at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. You can find more of his content at


Jim Haley said...

You know what's funny, Highlander: Endgame is actually my second favorite of the movies (after the original - which is far superior). But then, I was a fan of the TV series (which the premier episode of introduces Conner and Duncan and their relationship - so while it may be new to movie fans with Endgame, it's not new to TV series fans) and having that as background to this movie helps. I liked the love-interest for Duncan a lot in this, moreso than most of his love-interests from the TV series, and there are little moments that I think work just great (like when Kell talks about the "neverevending SAMENESS of it all"). The ending (I forget if it's post-credits) is made much better on the DVD than it was in the theaters, by letting us know Duncan's wife survives, though I think one mistake they made (when watching the uncut version) was in cutting the line "Endgame" from Duncan just before his final battle - since otherwise, the movie's title is never referred to. I'd have liked to have seen Duncan and Conner team-up in battle instead of it being only "one", but in all I thought this was the best of the sequels, it worked the best as a continuation of the TV series, which was really the only good way to continue the series after the original movie.

Maria said...

I hated this movie and like you thought it didn't make any sense what so ever! I don't know why they decided to go the way they did with the sequels but really the only one of these movies that's re-watchable for me is the original Highlander.