"It was just like old times — me and Adrian and Jim... rewriting the script."
— Peter Wingfield in Starburst, 5 Oct 2000

Wingfield Dr Helm

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Highlander: Endgame review
by John Mosby
Dreamwatch #74
November 2000

Starring: Adrian Paul, Christopher Lambert, Peter Wingfield, Jim Byrnes
Director: Doug Aarniokoski

It would be so nice to say that this latest cinematic sequel has set the Highlander franchise back on the high road and re-established the franchise's credentials. Sadly, though the film is leaps and bounds ahead of the first sequel (The Quickening) and truer in tone than the second (The Final Dimension/The Sorcerer), its potential has been undercut by a restricted running time and tepid editing.

Ten years ago, Connor MacLeod vanished, removing himself from the game after the death of his beloved Rachel (Sheila Gish, last seen in the original movie). On the anniversary of his disappearance, Duncan MacLeod seeks out his old friend Methos (Peter Wingfield). The wily old Immortal, now ensconced in a mansion, informs him that a secret sanctuary has been destroyed. The Watcher group have been keeping Immortals out of the game, ensuring the prize is never won. Connor was a willing participant, but now he and his fellow Immortal group seem to have been killed by another renegade Immortal named Jacob Kell, who has no problems with killing on Holy Ground or using his Immortal posse to weaken his enemy...

So far, so good. The story by Gillian Horvath (responsible for many of the television show's best stories) and Bill Panzer (the franchie's head honcho) is an intricate and attractive idea, full of components which should make an epic tale. The direction by Doug Aarniokoski is accomplished, and there are some great moments, most often between Connor and Duncan. Lambert and Paul both give their all, and are obviously comfortable in each other's style and company.

Where the film reaches its fatal stumbling block is in the editing. While the reverse if often true in Hollywood, there is a much better, longer film scrambling its way to get out of a much shorter version. Highlander: Endgame runs at 85 minutes, and there are obvious moments where significant cuts have been made. Characters such as Donnie Yen's Jin and Lisa Barbuscia's Faith are introduced and highlighted, but are wasted in the denouement. One doesn't need several lifetimes of experience to know that there are obviously missing or re-shot scenes lying around awaiting a director's cut. It's just a pity this wasn't the one released!

Highlander: Endgame also fails to engage a new audience. Joe Dawson's presense is never really explained and will be confusing to newcomers, and there are contradictions to those who have followed the show. Duncan's flashback to ten years ago doesn't match with what we already know (Connor clearly met up with Duncan eight years ago in television continuity), and we were also told that Duncan had never been married.

We've waited years to find out show and why an Immortal cannot kill on Holy Ground. Now we discover that there is no real big secret. It can be done and is, within give minutes of the opening credits. Kell (an impressive but predictable baddie) breaks all the rules and really gets away with it until the climax.

There is much to recommend Endgame, but all the hard work is undone by a film that feels rushed to release, rather than being perfected first.

On the strength of Endgame (and its disappointing weekend box office), the saga of the Highlander may have now been felled from the big screen. Its heart was in the right place, but that simply wasn't enough.


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