'Highlander 2' stumbles badly with vapid futuristic plot

November 01, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

The taxonomy of imaginative expression runs something like this: first comes genuine literature, then poor cousin popular literature and on down through the genres to romance, pulp, parody and finally camp. But what lurks in the dark universe . . . beyond camp?

Some brave pioneers of the truly ludicrous have voyaged into these angry seas to discover an answer. Only a few have returned alive from the trip. And the answer is . . . beyond camp lies . . . "Highlander 2: The Quickening."

It is so bad that bad itself loses all meaning when applied against its monstrous conceits. It is so bad, so foolish, so lumpy and oafish, so dithery and wispy, so expensive that it makes "Dune" look like a Super-8 shot in a sandbox. To affiliate the word "quick" with it in any way or form is to insult the heavens. This RTC sucker is as quick as the third stooge with his foot in a toilet.

To begin with, it's the only sequel ever made that begins by rejecting the premise of and abandoning entirely the milieu of its originator. Not that "Highlander" was an avatar of all things good and true on earth, or even in New Jersey, but it was a routine if ludicrous spin on "Terminator" in which mythical immortal swordsmen from the past battled through midtown traffic. Christopher Lambert, then in his brief salad days after "Subway" and "Greystoke," was at least lithe and amusing.

"Highlander 2" begins by revealing that the "Immortals" are really from Outer Space -- from, as a truly astonishing subtitle informs us, "Planet Ziess, 500 years ago" -- and then it lurches into not today but tomorrow. It's actually set 50 years or so down the pike when a totalitarian company that runs "The Shield," some sort of ersatz-ozone layer meant to protect life on earth, is busy preventing various guerrilla units from learning that the ozone layer has replenished itself and that "The Shield" is no longer necessary.

But the general spirit of torpor lurks everywhere. On giant sound stages, the sparse cast leaps through shadows, fires weird guns and exchanges baldly awful dialogue. That truly ridiculous actress Virginia Madsen is around as somebody's idea of an eco-guerrilla in Shirley Temple curls. And if Lambert is "immortal," why does he look much older than he did in the original?

And there must be keening in the Scottish hills for poor Sean Connery cavorting about with a diamond earring as big as a gumdrop, which he exchanges in a haber--ery for an outfit that makes him look like Oscar Wilde after a wild weekend in the lockup at Reading Gaol. Even the legendary Scotsman's bounding charisma is deflated by the vapors of inanity that blow through "Highlander 2."

'Highlander 2'

Starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery.

Directed by Russell Mulcahy.

Released by Interstar Releasing.

Rated R.

*

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