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Highlander II: The Quickening

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"But the reason this movie is so notorious is because it represents the most complete and utter spectacular ruination of a promising cult film phenomenon, to the point that even the mere mere presence of it's poster in my room is a cheap punchline."
The Spoony One

Highlander II: The Quickening
Highlander II.jpg
The higher it lands the lower it quickens.
Genre: Science Fiction
Directed By: Russell Mulcahy
Written By: Peter Bellwood
Brian Clemens
William N. Panzer
Starring: Christopher Lambert
Virginia Madsen
Michael Ironside
Sean Connery
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Interstar
Release Date: April 12, 1991 (UK)
November 1, 1991 (US)
Runtime: 100 minutes
Country: United States
Prequel: Highlander (1986)
Sequel: Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994)

Highlander II: The Quickening is a American-French-Argentine Science fiction action 1991 film starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen and Michael Ironside, and is a sequel to the 1986 film Highlander. Like the original Highlander, the film has received a cult following in recent years.


In August 1994, news broadcasts announce that the ozone layer is fading, and will be completely gone in a matter of months. In Africa, millions have perished from the effects of unfiltered sunlight. Among the dead is Connor MacLeod's wife, Brenda Wyatt MacLeod. Before dying, Brenda extracts a promise from Connor that he will solve the problem of the ozone layer.

By 1999, Connor MacLeod becomes the supervisor of a scientific team headed by Dr. Allan Neyman, which attempts to create an electromagnetic shield to cover the planet, and protect it from the Sun’s radiation. The team succeeds, in effect giving Earth an artificial ozone layer. MacLeod and Neyman are proud to have saved humanity, and believe they will be remembered for a thousand years.

The shield has the side effect of condemning the planet to a state of constant night, a high average global temperature, and high humidity. By 2024, the years of darkness have caused humanity to lose hope and fall into a decline. The shield has fallen under the control of the Shield Corporation. The corporation’s current chief executive, David Blake, is focused on profit, and is imposing fees for the corporation’s services. A number of terrorist groups have begun trying to take down the Shield, among them Louise Marcus, a former employee of the Shield Corporation.

Meanwhile, MacLeod, now a frail old man, expects to eventually die of natural causes. As he watches a performance of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, an image of Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez appears, and induces MacLeod to recall a forgotten event of his past. On the planet Zeist, a last meeting is held between the members of a rebellion against the rule of General Katana. The rebellion’s leader, Ramirez, chooses "a man of great destiny" from among them—MacLeod—to carry out a mission against Katana. At this moment, Katana and his troops attack, crushing the rebellion. Katana orders his men to capture Ramirez and MacLeod alive and kill the rest of the rebels. The two captives are put on trial by Zeist's priests, who sentence them to be exiled and reborn on Earth in pursuit of "The Prize." Winning the Prize gives the victor the choice to either grow old and die on Earth, or to return to Zeist. Katana is unsatisfied with their decision, but the sentence is executed, leading to the events of the original 1986 film.

Back in 2024, Louise Marcus discovers that the ozone layer has in fact restored itself naturally, which means that the shield is no longer needed. The Shield Corporation is aware of this development, but has chosen to hide it from the general public in order to maintain its main source of profit. Meanwhile, on Zeist, Katana decides that MacLeod cannot be allowed to return, and sends his immortal henchmen, Corda and Reno, to kill him.

Marcus manages to reach MacLeod first, and asks for his help in taking down the Shield. To her disappointment, she finds the passionate person she once admired has grown into a tired old man. MacLeod explains to her that he is dying and expresses his disapproval of terrorism. Before they can finish their conversation, Corda and Reno attack. MacLeod manages to decapitate them both, absorbs their energy during the Quickening, and regains his youthful appearance. In the process, MacLeod summons Ramirez back to life.

In Glencoe, Scotland - the location of his death in the first Highlander film - Ramirez is revived. He finds himself on a theatrical stage during a performance of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Meanwhile, MacLeod has found a new lover in Marcus. He attempts unsuccessfully to explain to her the concepts of his immortality. Elsewhere, General Katana arrives in New York, the scene of The Gathering and begins wreaking havoc.

Both Ramirez and Katana soon adapt to their new environment. Ramirez’s earring is apparently valuable enough to pay both for a new suit he acquires from the finest and oldest tailor’s shop in Scotland, and for an airplane ticket to New York City. Katana finds New York much to his liking. After entertaining himself for a while, Katana encounters MacLeod at a church. Since immortals are forbidden from fighting on holy ground, they do not fight each other, but MacLeod expresses rage at being immortal once again.

Soon thereafter, MacLeod is contacted by Ramirez, who joins them in their plan to take down the Shield. Katana, expecting this, forges an uneasy alliance with David Blake, who mentions that shutting down the planetary shield would require so much energy that the planet would be destroyed. The conflict between the two sets of allies eventually leads to the deaths of Dr. Allan Neyman, Ramirez, Blake and General Katana himself. MacLeod succeeds in taking down the Shield by using the combined energies of his final Quickening from General Katana. Marcus sees the stars for the first time in her life. MacLeod then claims The Prize by returning to Zeist with Marcus.

Why It Sucks

  1. A boring romantic story that is not only nearly rehashed from the first film, but it is also in completely two different genres for this film, which makes no sense.
  2. They made the Immortals, people with magical powers and good origins, into human-like aliens from another world sent to Earth in one of the worst retcons of all-time.
  3. There is not enough character development.
  4. The editing is quite bad.
  5. Inaccurate depiction of the future.
    • Speaking of the future, the whole cyberpunk-like dystopian future and science-fiction setting (that somehow one of the major characters from the last film did make this happen) is very ludicrously out of place in a Highlander film, other than seemly cashing-in both the genres back when they're popular, which resulted in the film heavily backfiring by making 15.6 million dollars on opening weekend.
      • The UK's version of the ending dubbed the "Fairytale" ending is somehow instantly turning this into a planetary romantic-like science-fantasy, from an infamous example as when Connor is gonna flying to Zeist, after win his battle with General Katana, which was questioned by Marcus, which Connor reply by saying its "Celtic magic"... when the story's continuity is messed up even more than it already was.
  6. Countless plot holes:
    • They revived Ramirez with zero explanation whatsoever despite him clearly getting beheaded by the Kurgan in the previous film.
    • Went against the director's wishes harder than most recent films to the point where the Director's Cut (also known as Renegade Version) doesn't feel like the same movie.
  7. The movie has way too many subplots for a 100 minute film.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The fight scenes are pretty good.
  2. The part with Connor regaining his power was really cool.
  3. Good score by Stewart Copeland.
  4. Michael Ironside's over-the-top performance can be entertaining at times.
  5. The special effects are all practical.
  6. While still not great and still the same movie, the Special Edition attempts to fix a lot of the movie's story problems, like removing all references to planet Zeist, and removing the idea of the immortals being aliens.


The film currently holds a 0% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 2.7 out of 10 and has a critic consensus that reads "There should have been only one." Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times named it his worst film of 1991 and described it as "the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I’ve seen in many a long day - a movie almost awesome in its badness."


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