Sunday, September 16, 2007

Highlander: The Source—The Death of a Franchise

Last night, FanBoyWonder sat down, turned on the Sci-Fi Channel to watch the world premiere (well at least the U.S. premiere) of the fifth and what’s sure to be the final film installment in the Highlander franchise—Highlander: The Source.

Here’s the upshot from Davis-Panzer Productions: The world is falling into chaos. As he roams a crumbling city, Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), the Highlander, remembers happier times before the love of his life left... Hopeless and alone, MacLeod finds his way to a band of immortal companions, including his mysterious friend Methos (Peter Wingfield), and a mortal, Watcher Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes). Together this small group sets out on a quest to find the origin of the first Immortal and The Source of their immortality.

FanBoyWonder’s take: For the love of God, please JUST STOP! It’s over. You’ve killed the franchise. The head has been taken, the Quickening released and the corpse has long since been desiccated. The life has been absolutely sucked bone dry from Highlander.

As we led up to the viewing, we tried to keep an open mind despite knowing that The Source’s film distributor, Lionsgate Entertainment couldn’t get it shown in theatres and Sci-Fi Channel picked it up as a “Sci-Fi Original Movie.”

You know... where “Saturday is the most dangerous night on television”….especially if you are a distributor looking to park your film. Last stop, Saturday night primetime. So we figured it can’t be good…perhaps even pretty bad. No, it was worse—like Highlander 2: The Quickening bad.

At least with H2:The Quickening, they had the production values of a big movie. With The Source, it LOOKS CHEAP. The entire movie was shot in Lithuania. Nothing against the former Soviet captive state, but Vilnius is NOT Paris where Highlander the Series was shot for half of each of its six seasons.

It looks like an average episode of Highlander had a bigger budget and better production values than The Source.

Normally when we do a review, we attempt some sort of explanation of the story but this jumble of violence, bad dialogue and worse acting defies description for us—so read here and save yourself time and/or the video rental fee.

We loved the original Highlander starting Christopher Lambert when it came out in 1986. So did a lot of people and they commissioned the aforementioned squeal H2 The Quickening. And then they kept putting out sequels, none of them having anything to do with the previous sequel and only marginally replicating the magic of the original.

Somewhere in-between sequels in 1992, Highlander producers Davis and Panzer commissioned Highlander The Series—with Adrian Paul as a different (but related) Highlander.

Despite it’s flaws at the beginning and some lazy storytelling shortcuts throughout the life of the series, we liked Adrian Paul and the series. It never quite recaptured the magic of the original film, but it carved out its own identity and we grew to care about the man who would live forever but could die tomorrow in combat.

However, as we mentioned before the show spent half the season in Vancouver, B.C.—pretending to be a city in the U.S. then the other half of the season in Paris. The City of Light became just as much of a character in the series as Duncan, or Richie or Joe.

Face it, Immortals in Vancouver is just not compelling enough for six seasons worth of television—no offense to our Canadian friends.

The problem that was never overcome is simple—The original Highlander film was a completed story—beginning, middle and end. Connor MacLeod became immortal, lived a long time, defeated the bad guy and won The Prize—which was mortality. (Go figure!)

Better writing, attention to detail and just plain respect for the fans (by NOT insulting our intelligence) could have overcome this problem, but like other franchise holders (Star Trek comes immediately to mind but are you listening DC Comics?) they just assumed the fans would keep coming no matter the quality.

It was from Star Trek The Next Generation that we learned this term—“Replicative Fading” Basically, if you keep making a clone from a clone and cloning the clone eventually you get Highlander The Source.

The Source was supposed to be the first of a trilogy of new Highlander films. So let us end where we began this posting—Please No more. Let this once proud idea die and rest in peace.

“You only have one life! If you value it, go home!” –Connor MacLeod


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