(UK Release Date: December 9, 1994)
(US Release Date: January 27, 1995)
Yes, it's safe to say that the entire saga of the Highlander(s) has the approximate narrative flow of Zombi 2 through 5! However Highlander also has a fan base more rabid than Cujo, so I'm sure to get a few hate emails from fat guys in tank tops, ponytails and wiry goatees with the actual Clan McLeod sword in a giant vertical glass case right next to the framed underwear model picture of Adrian Paul from Tracker. Look, before you bother to send that email detailing how they covered all that in The Raven and shored up all loose ends in Highlander: Endgame, and that the animated series isn't "canon" anyway, let me stop you by pointing out that Foundation's Fear had plenty of rationalization behind it too, buster!
Now that I've rambled more than Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead combined, it's time for me to talk about the third in the actual movie series, alternately known as The Magician, The Sorcerer, The Final Dimension, and The Final Conflict. Seeing as how the TV show lasted for another several years (and had been on for TWO years before this one got squeezed out) and seeing as how two new Highlander movies are slated for 2006, there's nothing "Final" about this one. No matter what you call it, Highlander III is a movie I had a lot of fun with. This is one true sequel to Highlander dispensing with the events of The Quickening (which takes place further in the future anyway) and picking up the story at a logical point.
It's also somewhat logical that our hero Connor McLeod of the Clan McLeod (Christopher Lambert) has to fight somebody in this one, hence the addition of a brand spankin' new loophole in the fragmented "rules" of the Immortals. (After that we held a funeral eulogy for Logic. Spock cried.) Turns out that if an Immortal just happens to be stuck in a collapsed cave under ground, he's not eligible for "The Gathering" and the prize can be won while he's coolin' his heels in Grendel-ville. How does one know THIS? Because that's exactly the deal, my dear, with Mario Van Peebles' Immortal Raider Kane, when the Con-Man opened up his can of whoop-ass on Clancy Brown (thus winning "the Prize"), the whole "There Can Be Only One" thing was accurate... on a temporary basis. I guess that means "There Can Be Only One If Its Convenient". Or did I misunderstand that? Maybe neither Connor nor Duncan were ever slated to be the prizewinner, but maybe some relative of Ramirez... "There Can Be Only Juan!" What do you think?
Van Peebles gives a deliciously hammed up and Cartoonish performance here as Kane, whose collection of lifetimes in the Sorcerer's Temple has given him the power of Doug Henning-like Illusions, and apparently also the ability to drive a Limousine... just in case he needs a few bucks from Donald Damned Trump. When a Japanese mining expedition accidentally unearths "Citizen Kane", heads roll on his singular quest to sword slap the highlander into a big ball of lightening. Which makes it all the funnier when, half way through the flick, he beats Connor into submission, shatters his sword and walks off, citing his main virtue: Patience. Some Darth Vader this dude is.
To make matters more erotic, part of the mining team includes a blonde babe named Alex Johnson (Deborah Kara Unger), who waits at least twenty four hours longer than Virginia Madsen did to have hot, naked Immortal Sex with the Connonator! But see, she looks just like someone named Sarah, whom Connor used to have all kinds of hot, naked Immortal Sex with way back far in time, like when The Beverly Hillbillies was in its first season. So, does that mean that she's really an Immortal too, and she also just forgot? Apparently that does happen now. Is she actually the reincarnation of, or a descendant of Sarah's? Is this all just a simple coincidence? Do they tell us? Hell no! All we know for sure is that she breaks through the wall that Connor has built around himself, seeing as how it's far too painful for him to let anyone get close to him... until her. But hey, Silly, he's adopted a mortal son named John, whom he's clearly very close to... so... who then now, bitches?
Does this review seem like its bouncing around like Tigger on Amphetamines? Try keeping up with the plot of this movie. Still, it's not a bad film at core. For one thing, the first act (told in flashback), shows a lot of where Connor received his fight training (Ramirez be damned), and his trademark sword, courtesy of the Sorcerer of the title Nakano (Makoto "Mako" Iwamatsu). He's no Yoda, but he's pretty cool. Also there are some nifty and distracting special effects that are somewhat enjoyable even by today's standards. Let's not forget how cool Van Peebles looks, even when he's being sillier than a McDonaldland commercial. He much less resembles those decidedly evil and mythical archvillains of sci-fi fandom here than he does that one crazy guy from your Fraternity that drinks too much Natural Light and always has a Warner Brothers quote for every occasion.
Naturally the best part is the Basic Instinct like sex scene between Unger, Lambert, Unger, Unger and Unger. She's hotter than a branding iron and a hell of a lot softer. But, like other entries in the saga, it's more of a treat for the eyes than a challenge for the mind. Even the practically breathtaking scenes of the Scottish highlands are tainted by more convenience than a 7/11 shopping trip.
One more thing, while the Cinematography by Steven Chivers is to be praised here, I have to question the credit of "Original Music by J. Peter Robinson"! Original? Kids, check out the score that covers the final battle between Kane and McLeod and tell me you don't start singing along with "He's the one they call Dr. Feelgood! He's the one that makes you fell All Right!". I don't mean he was influenced by the Crue, here, I mean, the only variances in that piece are subtle changes in the occasional bar to avoid being sued by Nikki Sixx himself. It even kicks off with the Mick Mars Tremelo opening to that Number. So much for being influenced by the music of Queen, man! On the bright side, he did cause me to break out my old Moscow Music Peace Festival T-Shirt and hop up on my Fouton, kicking my lamps and pillows over, headbanging and playing super-fast Air Guitar. "Ow! He's gonna be yo' Frank n' Stein!"
I've got one thing you'll understand, Highlander III is not what you'd call devoid of fans. Got one thing that's easily understood, that doesn't mean this movie's all that good! I like it, and not just because it's an Elvis' briefs-load better than Highlander II. Still, regardless of how many times the echo of "There Can Be Only One" reverberated throughout every scene, for Highlander III there can be only Two... and a Half... Stars (out of five). To recap... There Can Be Only One Immortal... unless one time-travels from the past, warps in from another planet, comes to the surface after a long spelunking trip, forgets she is one (if she ever was one), is Connor's cousin Duncan, is former Miss America Elizabeth Ward Gracen or is anybody that any of the above Immortals kind of likes. Got all that? (If so, please, please save the emails, Jeff Albertson!) It's got less secure continuity than Star Trek: Enterprise, and its plot is shakier than Jenna Jameson's Electrical Banana, but with Debora Unger baring all, Mario Van Peebles kicking cartoon ass left, right and center, and a continuingly satisfying (if thoroughly French) Christopher Lambert holding the whole thing together like human duct-tape, I wouldn't kick The Final Dimension out of bed for eatin' crackers. On to the next review of a movie with less accurate titling than The Never Ending Story. Anybody got a copy of Live Nude Girls I can borrow? How about you, Dr. Benford, you got one?
Gregory Benford is the winner of the Prize!
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