Reboots are always a risky concept, but Highlander is one I'm completely behind.
I’m always skeptical when it comes to reboots. On the one hand they can be well justified and prove to be a success (Casino Royale, 2006) but on the odd occasion it can backfire and you find yourself walking the exact same path again (The Amazing Spider-man, 2012). There are several reboots in the pipeline, one of which I’m not too keen on, The Crow, which to me feels like an insult to the performance and memory of Brandon Lee. However, a reboot of 80s action-fantasy Highlander (1986) I’m well and truly behind.
Highlander has a special place in my heart, with its basic – if a little silly – premise. Fallen warriors who have been resurrected as immortals take part in “The Game”, where they must behead each other, until the last remaining two fight for “The Prize”. How can you not love that as a concept? A simple set up that allows for some fantastic swordplay set throughout multiple centuries. It’s the type of film that screams franchise.
Despite its epic set-pieces and rocking soundtrack by Queen, I’m not blind to its flaws. The miscasting of a Frenchman (Christopher Lambert) as a Scottish clansman, and a Scotsman (Sean Connery) as a Spanish-Egyptian, are just one of the errors that have hindered its credibility over time. Highlander is a film that hasn’t aged very well and with such a rich lore to mine through it’s ripe for reinvention.
With John Wick (2014) director Chad Stahelski on board and talk of protagonist Connor McLeod being brought back the signs are promising, but for me it all comes down to the script. Lionsgate will be producing the reboot through their subsidiary Summit Entertainment and in this day and age of multiple film franchises it’s pretty obvious that’s what they’re hoping for. The problem will come if they simply remake the original, with the climax of McLeod facing off against the Kurgan and winning “The Prize”. You’ve killed the franchise before it even starts and you’re forced to retcon in order to make sequels (Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994) etc).
I think – and this is going to sound a little nuts so stay with me – they should take influence from Highlander: Endgame (2000). Merging the films and television series to give us two immortal protagonists could be a very good concept. I would even propose three protagonists each with their own film, introducing them and their world (various centuries and locations). Following them through their lives as they defeat other immortals, culminating in a final battle with a longtime rival.
Granted the same concept might seem repetitious if used in three consecutive films, but there is room for exploration. Maybe the first in the trilogy explores becoming immortal, the pain of living forever and losing those you love, learning about “The Game” and starting the path toward the final Gathering (last remaining immortals come together to fight for “The Prize”). The second film could feature the grizzled veteran who has been playing “The Game” for centuries and is determined to win no matter the cost. The third protagonist could be completely disinterested in taking part after years of killing, isolating himself hoping to live a peaceful life, but is ultimately persuaded to join the fray due to a lost loved one and an overwhelming need to die (mortality being one of the elements of “The Prize”).
Whether Connor McLeod is one of those protagonists, I go back and forth on. I think it would be great to see the titular Highlander return, but at the same time a complete re-imagining feels necessary to remove itself from its predecessor and avoid straight-up remake territory. A female immortal would be better yet – an attempt to incorporate the opposite gender didn’t last long with the series Highlander: The Raven (1998-1999), but cinema audiences have always been more open to the idea of strong female leads in films.
Much like Marvel’s set up culminating in The Avengers (2012) a final fourth film would see these three remaining immortals journey to a location to take part in a climactic battle between them. Audiences would each have their favourite to support, making the fight that much more interesting, not knowing which out of the three would be left standing. The tagline for the original may have been ‘There can be only one’, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case providing they plan ahead and think it through. A series of films for me is the clear way to go.
Anyway these are just my ideas and I feel as though I’m just rambling on now. I’m sure everyone and their mother has their own expectations of what a new Highlander should look like, if of course they even support the idea. I will always love the original for its 80s charm and bucket loads of cheese, but each time I watch it I can’t help but want more. Hopefully the reboot can satisfy my craving, however they decide to tackle it.
Do you have an idea of what you think the Highlander reboot should be? Let us know in the comments below.