Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Highlander reboot starring Ryan Reynolds may be a good thing

If you were to tell me that Hollywood was planning on rebooting a science fiction franchise that I like, and that it would be starring Ryan Reynolds, in almost every case I would be horrified. Can you imagine an X-Files reboot with Reynolds as Mulder? But apparently that rule has an exception, because Ryan Reynolds has been confirmed to star as Connor Macleod in a Highlander reboot, and I think it might just work out for the best. Here's why.

To get things started, Ryan Reynolds is not a serious actor. He's made his career on being an earnest, likable guy who ladies love seeing shirtless. Apparently he likes being in geeky movies, because he was in Blade Trinity, Wolverine, and Green Lantern. Combine these things, and you'll see why he may be right for the role of Connor Macleod.

Well, at least he knows which end to hold

After all, the role was originally played by a Dutch actor playing a Scottish character, in a film that also starred a Scottish actor playing a Spanish Egyptian. He was killed by a guy with a skull helmet, came back to life, was exiled from his village, fell in love and lost his wife to old age, studied under a mentor who was then killed for good by the skull helmet guy, fought his way through history, and finally faced the man who had traded his skull helmet for heavy metal biker gear. Christopher Lambert took this ridiculous character and played it straight, and Ryan Reynolds may be the only actor in Hollywood today ridiculous enough to take that on.

The Highlander movie and the following series thrive on taking melodrama aimed at adolescent males. But when you get past the immortal warriors, the sword fights in modern day New York, and the over-the-top declarations of love and loss, you find some pretty interesting themes. If the new Highlander movie can play to these strengths, and if Ryan Reynolds can resist the temptation to wink at the camera, the new Highlander should make excellent popcorn fare.

Here are some of the themes that I think make Highlander fun to watch:

Immortals are warriors who can only be killed by cutting off each other's heads with swords. Swordfighting is one of the archetypal themes in stories aimed at young male audiences. What can I say? Swords are cool. Each character in the Highlander movies can be distinguished by the style of sword he or she uses. Sword fights look cool, especially when you put them in a modern setting. A couple of guys meeting in a parking garage and pulling out swords is going to make an impression on an audience. Eat your heart out, Sigmund Freud.

 Immortals can sense each other's presence. Though the movie and TV show were famously inconsistent about the details, Immortals get a "buzz" when there are other Immortals nearby. This makes it hard to hide from other Immortals, but it also serves as a sort of early warning system, making it nearly impossible for Immortals to take each other by surprise. This "buzz" can lead to moments where Immortals recognize each other in a crowd or other location where they can't fight yet, but they both know that fighting may not be far off. It's like that moment in Fight Club where two members of the club recognize each other by their scars and demeanor and nod to each other. They recognize each other as fellow warriors in a secret group, and give respect while acknowledging that, in another setting, they could face each other in combat.

The Quickening gives the fallen Immortal's strength to the victor. As the Immortals kill each other, they grow stronger through a lightning-spewing special effect known as the Quickening. This means that Immortals have no choice but to engage in combat with other Immortals, because if they don't, they will fall behind as the other Immortals gather heads and become stronger. And while an Immortal can try to hide for a while, it's only temporary because...

There can be only one! If an Immortal befriends a regular person, the Immortal is doomed to lose that person to old age while the Immortal remains young. The only people who truly understand Immortals, and the only people an Immortal can have a long term relationship with, are other Immortals. But no matter what, it's always in the back of your mind that, if the two of you are the only ones remaining, you will have to fight to the death.

Sacred ground is neutral. One of the most memorable and effective scenes in the original Highlander movie is where Connor Macleod meets the Kurgan, the man who killed his mentor, in a cathedral in New York. The Kurgan taunts Macleod, but they cannot fight, because it is forbidden to duel on sacred ground. This gives Immortals a chance to pause and talk in what is otherwise a constant battle for the Prize.

The Prize. Please, please, please, don't elaborate on what the Prize is. It's something that the last surviving Immortal will get, and it's really great. That's all the audience needs to know. In the movie, we learn that Immortals can't have children, but the Prize will grant them that. Any more details than that, or any explanation for why Immortals live forever unless they get beheaded, and it starts to get silly.


  1. Im fine with them trying to remake this. Heck, Im kinda excited if they do. My only worry with it is if they try and make 3 movies out of it. I think with the right care and consideration, they can do it. But the 2 movies after the original, in my opinion, were not that great. At all.

  2. I definitely agree. I tried to stay away from the Highlander sequels in my review, but I agree. The second movie was so bad it was like they were doing it on purpose. The third movie seemed like a parody remake of the first. It wasn't as bad as the second, just unnecessary and not very good.