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Highlander
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Highlander

Highlander is a series of fantasy movies featuring Connor MacLeod (Christophe Lambert), the Highlander of the title. Born in Glenfinnan, in the Scottish Highlands in the 16th century, MacLeod is an Immortal: he does not age and cannot die unless he is decapitated. When only one Immortal is left, he or she will gain "The Prize", the precise nature of which is left open for the viewer to speculate on. This leads to a series of sword-fights between Immortals. When the one cuts off the other's head, he gains all the other's powers and abilities.

The Highlander films and the television series that were spun off from it have attracted a devoted following and led to the creation of a great deal of fan fiction, much of it available on the Internet.

Typical of the series is the use of flashbacks from previous events in the Highlander's long life.

Warning: Plot details follow.

Table of contents
1 Highlander
2 Highlander II: The Quickening
3 Highlander III: The Sorcerer
4 Highlander Endgame
5 Television
6 Series/Film separation

Highlander

The first film of the series, released on March 7, 1986. The film features a number of flashback scenes establishing Connor MacLeod's early history.

According to them he was born on January 1, 1518 "in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel" (historically this village is better known as the rally point where Bonnie Prince Charlie's troops first concentrated on August 19, 1745 See:Glenfinnan). In 1536 his clan was in conflict with the rival Fraser clan. Connor had his first battles in the conflict. The Frasers had employed an experienced immortal only known as the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) and he apparently recognized that Connor was a fellow immortal though even Connor had not discovered this yet. The Kurgan managed to mortally wound Connor in battle but the MacLeods recovered the body before he could decapitate it. The MacLeods mourned Connor but he revived shortly after his "death". Accusing him of being a witch in league with the devil Connor's clansmen tortured him and were about to execute him. But thanks to his cousin Angus MacLeod (James Cosmo) he managed to escape with his life. But he was left in exile from his clan and birthplace.

Connor eventually settled in Glencoe, Scotland where he apparently received training as a blacksmith. He practiced this trade and married Heather MacDonald (Beatie Edney), his first wife. In 1541 he was first located by a much older immortal who introduced himself as Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery). Ramirez soon appointed himself Connor's tutor in the situation of being immortal, their pursuit of the Prize and the rules of this age-long "Game". He also explained that his own Spanish name was just his current alias. He adopted it while serving as Chief Metallurgist for Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (also King of Spain between 1516-1556). He was originally Egyptian and his sword was a katana he received in Japan by his father-in-law Masamune. Masamune was both the father of Princess Shakiko, Ramirez's third wife and supposedly a genius ahead of his time in the forging of swords. It should be perhaps noted that the novelization of this film gives Ramirez's original name as Tak-Ne, his birth in 896 BC, his first "death" in 851 BC and his marriage to Shakiko in 593 BC.

Connor's training under Ramirez lasted for about a year. In 1542 the Kurgan managed to locate them both. He arrived at their residence while Connor himself was absent. The Kurgan and Ramirez dueled with the frightened Heather their only spectator. The Kurgan managed to decapitate Ramirez and proceeded to rape Heather, in the belief that he is further humiliating his old enemy by raping "his woman". Connor soon returned to find his residence in ruins, his mentor deceased and his wife alive but traumatised. Connor stayed by his wife's side for the rest of her life. She died of old age and natural causes in 1590. Dying in Connor's arms she confided that her only regret was not having his children. Connor had not physically aged in more than fifty years of marriage. After burying Heather and burning their residence, Connor started wandering the world. A number of other references in the film connected him to many historical figures and events. The movie hints that his experiences over time left him a bitter, cynical man.

The action then shifts to New York, circa 1985. Apparently, only a hand full of immortals were still alive by this point and their confrontations would decide the final survivor among them and the victor of "The Prize". Eventually, the last two surviving are Connor, under the alias of Russell Edwin Nash and the Kurgan, under the alias of Victor Kruger. Meanwhile Connor is suspected by the police as the sole person responsible for a series of murders by decapitation. Among the investigators of the case is police forensic scientist Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart). Her investigation gets her closer to Connor and they eventually fall in love with each other. This doesn't escape the attention of the Kurgan who abducts her to get Connor to finally stand and fight him instead of avoiding the final battle. Connor battles the Kurgan, defeats him, and apparently wins The Prize. Connor is left satisfied that the age-long Game is finally over. He proceeds in marrying Brenda and pursuing a new life. It should be noted that subsequent movies and series have retconed the battle with the Kurgan into a personal victory for Connor instead of the end of "The Game".

The film was directed by Russell Mulcahy and scripted by Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson and Gregory Widen. It remains arguably the best known film of the Highlander series and the one better received by the public. It is noted for its introduction of the themes and concepts further explored by the later movies and TV series and for its sound-track by Queen.

Highlander II: The Quickening

Released on January 31, 1991. The film features a series of events occurring over a period of about thirty years from August, 1995 to 2024.

The film's opening scene occurs on August, 1995. News broadcasts explain that the ozone layer will be completely gone in a matter of months and that the ozone hole has been significantly expanded and covers most of planet Earth. In Africa millions have died due to the effects the unfiltered sunlight has had on them. Among them is Brenda Wyatt, dying with her husband Connor MacLeod by her side. She makes the Highlander promise that he will work in solving the problem presented.

In the period following Brenda's death Connor becomes the supervisor of a scientific team attempting to create an artificial shield which will cover the planet and protect it from the Sun's radiation. The actual head of the team is Dr. Allan Neyman (Allan Rich). In 1999 the team succeeded in its goal and Earth gained its artificial shield filtering the sunlight in place of the ozone layer. Connor and Allan were proud in having apparently saved humanity and believed they would be remembered for a thousand years. However the shield has the side-effect of condemning the planet to a state of constant night. And humanity can no longer see the Sun, the Moon and the Stars.

The film then proceeds to the year 2024. According to a narration by Connor twenty-five years of darkness have had an effect on humanity who has mostly lost hope and apparently fallen in decline. The Shield has fallen under the control of Shield Corporation and its current head David Blake (John C. McGinley), taxing for its services in pursuit of profit. A number of terrorists have emerged trying to take down the Shield. Among them Dr. Louise Marcus (Virginia Madsen) a former employee of the Corporation. Meanwhile Connor has discovered a negative side effect of his Prize. His aging process had apparently begun again since his victory over the Kurgan. He has physically aged into a frail old man and expects himself to eventually die of old age and natural causes.

On the other hand Connor has been able to recover his memories from a previous life in his series of reincarnations. A flashback scene to "Planet Zeist 500 years ago" occurs. At first to the last meeting of the members of a rebellion against the rule of General Katana (Michael Ironside). The rebellion's leader seems to be a previous incarnation of Ramirez. He chooses "a man of great destiny" among them to assign him the mission against Katana. The man is apparently Connor's previous incarnation. At this moment Katana and his troops attack. The rebellion is easily crushed. 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. They sentence them to be exiled from Zeist and be reborn on Earth. Reborn as immortals in pursuit of the Prize: the choice to grow old and die on Earth or return to Zeist. Katana is not satisfied with their decision but the sentence is executed anyway. Apparently they are reborn on Earth and live the immortal lives introduced by the previous film. It should be noted that both immortals were stated to be born before 1524 so being older than 500 years old. Whether the reference to 500 years was an approximation or their Earth incarnations were somehow born before the death of their Zeist incarnations is left unexplained.

The film then returns to 2024. On Earth Louise Marcus discovers that the ozone layer has been reformed and the artificial Shield is no longer needed. The Corporation is aware of this development but has apparently decided to hide it from the general public in order to maintain its main source of profit. Meanwhile on Zeist, General Katana is still alive. His information seems to indicate that Connor's death of old age is a matter of weeks. However he decides to send his aids Corda (Pete Antico) and Reno (Peter Bucossi) to Earth in order to kill him in battle.

Louise manages to reach Connor first and asks for his help in taking down the Shield. To Louise's disappointment she finds the passionate man she once admired to have grown into "a tired old man". Connor explains to Louise that he is dying and expresses his disapproval of terrorism. Before Connor and Louise can finish their conversation, Corda and Reno locate them and attack. Connor soon manages to decapitate them both and in the process regains his youthful appearance. While he absorbs their energy Connor summons Ramirez.

In Glencoe, Scotland, the location of his death, Ramirez is apparently revived. He finds himself on a theatrical stage during a performance of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Meanwhile in New York Connor has found a new lover in Louise Marcus. He attempts explaining to her the concepts of his immortality but she founds them rather confusing. Elsewhere in New York General Katana arrives and proceeds to spread havoc around him.

Both Ramirez and Katana soon adapt to their new environment. Ramirez's earrings are apparently valuable enough to pay for the new costume he acquires from the "finest and oldest" tailor's shop in Scotland and for an airplane ticket to New York. On the other hand Katana finds New York much to his liking. After entertaining himself for a while, Katana manages to locate his old enemy. Their first encounter in centuries proves to be indecisive though.

Soon enough Connor is also reached by Ramirez. The latter joins Connor and Louise in their plan to take down the shield. Katana had apparently predicted this and so forges an uneasy alliance with David Blake. The conflict between the two sets of allies eventually leads to the subsequent deaths of Dr. Allan Neyman (employed by Blake and informant of Connor, killed by his employer as a "traitor"), Ramirez (sacrificing himself to save Connor and Louise), David Blake (killed by Katana while trying to double-cross him) and General Katana (killed by Connor in their final confrontation). Connor succeeds in taking down the shield. Louise sees the stars for the first time in her life. Then Connor claims his Prize by returning to Zeist with Louise accompanying him.

Set in the early 21st century, this film veers towards science fiction. It was directed by Russell Mulcahy and scripted by Peter Bellwood, Brian Clemens and William Panzer. Upon release this film was met with harsh criticism by both critics and audiences. Fans of the original film were less than pleased with the concept of immortals being aliens from Planet Zeist and with the revival of Ramirez, whose dramatic death scene in the previous film was considered among its highlights. Audiences found the conflict between the rebellion and General Katana to be too reminiscent of the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire featured in Star Wars. Critics and audiences alike pointed that the characters suffered from a lack of development and motivation as gratuitous action scenes left little time for it. An example often offered is that no reason was provided for Katana's sudden interest in Connor after apparently losing contact with him for 506 years and his insistence on killing his old enemy while he could wait for him to die without outside interference. However it should be noted that the film has found a number of fans who found its faults to be a source of amusement.

Highlander II's apparent failure has been seen by some as a result of the producers' interference with the work of director Russell Mulcahy. The later was behind a later re-release as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. The film was mostly reconstructed with scenes removed and others added and the sequence of events changed. Among other things all references to the Immortals being aliens from another planet were eliminated. This version is considered an improvement on the previous one. However the events of both versions were generally ignored by the subsequent films and series.

Highlander III: The Sorcerer

First released on November 25, 1994. Apparently a prequel to Highlander II, as the main events take place in 1994.

The film starts with a flashback that occurs sometime after the death of Heather. Events of the flashback can be estimated to occur during the late 16th century or early to middle 17th century. Connor has travelled to Japan to request training from the immortal Japanese sorcerer Nakano (Makoto Iwamatsu, better known as Mako), an acquaintance of Ramirez. Nakano held his residence in a cave of Mountain Niri and had gained a reputation as a master of illusion. It should perhaps be noted that the novelization of this film gives Nakano's first "death" as occurring in 743 BC.

How long this training lasted is left uncertain but it was never completed. A fellow immortal named Kane (Mario Van Peebles) and apparently an old acquaintance of Nakano, was also interested in mastering the power of illusion. Nakano had reportedly denied him training two centuries ago. Kane had apparently gained in experience and ability since that time. He was making his way across Asia in order to reach Nakano again. He also had two traveling companions with him. These two Mongolian immortals were left unnamed in the film but the novelization named them as Kabul Khan (Jean-Pierre Perusse) and Senghi Khan (Raoul Trujillo).

Kane would supposedly attack and decapitate every other immortal the trio encountered during their journey. Eventually they passed from China to Japan and started seeking Niri. Entering a nearby village seeking information, they proceeded in burning it down and slaying its population. Eventually they managed to reach the cave. Kane soon managed to defeat and decapitate Nakano despite Connor's attempts to prevent this. However the energies released during the battle caused the cave to collapse. Connor managed to escape in time but Kane and his men were left trapped. They were apparently soon forgotten and their situation prevented them from participating in the Gathering of 1985.

Another extended flashback occurs in the late 18th century. In 1788/1789 Connor was in France when he made the acquaintance of Sarah Barrington (Deborah Unger), an Englishwoman visiting relatives there. The two soon started to enjoy conversing together and then racing their horses against each other. Eventually they became lovers. But when the French Revolution begun Sarah had to return to England while Connor became involved in its events.

During the revolution Joseph-Ignace Guillotin introduced the guillotine as the main method of capital punishment. Historically the first execution of this kind in France occurred on April 25, 1792. In the context of the film it was effective against both mortals and immortals. At some point Connor was sentenced to this manner of execution supposedly for treason against King Louis XVI of France. Pierre explained that he was tired of his immortal life and so offered to die in his place. Connor was falsely reported deceased. Believing her lover dead Sarah was left grieving. Historically Louis XVI was deposed on August 10, 1792 and the monarchy officially abolished on September 21, 1792. So it can be supposed that Connor's failed execution occurred between April and August of 1792.

By 1800 Napoleon Bonaparte had managed to establish himself namely as First Consul of France and effectively as its dictator. The Revolution was over and Connor apparently left France for England in an attempt to reintroduce himself to Sarah. Connor soon located her. But Sarah still considered him deceased and was by this point a married woman and mother of a number of children. Connor left without contacting her and returned to his own solitude.

In 1994 Connor was again a widower. In 1987 Brenda, his last wife was reportedly killed in a car accident after only two years of marriage. Connor survived the accident relatively unharmed. He was left alone to raise their adoptive son John MacLeod (Gabriel Kakon). They had settled in Marrakech, Morocco and Connor was at peace for the first time in centuries. This peace would prove short-living though. In Japan two archaeologistss had started excavating Nakano's cave in order to discover whether the sorcerer's legend was based on fact or not. American Dr. Alexandra "Alex" Johnson (Deborah Unger), apparently a distant descendant of Sarah who resembled her greatly, believed Nakano was a historical figure. Japanese Dr. Fuji Takamura (Daniel Do), apparently a great fan of Babe Ruth, on the other hand believed Nakano to be a legendary figure.

The film sees MacLeod defeat a wizard with hypnotic abilities. The third movie largely ignores many of the plot inconsistencies introduced by the second film.

Highlander Endgame

First released on September 1, 2000. This film introduces characters and situations from the Highlander television series. In order to defeat a superior Immortal, Duncan MacLeod kills Connor MacLeod and thereby absorbs all his power.

Television

A 1990s television series used the same basic ideas as the films. Its first episode was released on October 6, 1992. The series centred on Connor MacLeod's much younger Immortal "kinsman" Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul). Connor (Christophe Lambert) makes only a few guest appearances to ensure continuity. Half of each year's production was shot in Canada, the other half in France, requiring considerable plot machination to get all the main characters to migrate back and forth regularly.

A 1994 animated series, Highlander: The Animated Series, was set in the far future, and featured the character of Quentin MacLeod, voiced by Miklos Perlus.

Highlander: The Raven was a series that took one of the characters in the previous series, Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen), as its central character. She was accompanied by former police officer Nick Wolfe (Paul Johansson). The first episode was released on November 7, 1998.

Series/Film separation

To newcomers, the most confusing aspect of the franchise are the perceived inconsistencies between the television series and the films. The television series is now regarded by most fans to be a separate 'universe', in which most of the events of the original film can be used as background, excepting for the facts that Connor was not the only Immortal left after defeating the Kurgan, and that Duncan is considered the main Immortal most likely to win the Prize, which is referred to by Duncan in the first season as an eventual happening in an unknown future. Connor's battle with the Kurgan is therefore simply viewed as an important era in his life, and not a final fight for the Prize. The second and third movies (and their plots and devices) are not considered part of the series' universe.