DEFENDING HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING – Fillin’ some plot-holes
It has been said that a work of art is only partially created by the artist, in that its overall meaning is reliant upon both the intentions of the artist and the conceptions of the viewer. In most works of art, whether it is a portrait or movie, the breakdown is usually around 60-70% artist intention, and 30-40% viewer perception. However, some forms of art completely ignore this balance, and put a much heavier burden on the viewer to make sense of what they are witnessing. Such is the case with crap-tastic postmodern art, and movies like Highlander 2.
Now make no mistake about it, I actually enjoy Highlander 2 a lot. In fact, it is my favorite of the sequels! I will concede that it is riddled with plot-holes, and was the product of studio pressure and overactive imaginations. Yes, it is a piece of crap, but with a bit of effort, it can make some sense and, dare I say, be enjoyed.
This rant contains spoilers, lots of them. Also, it may not make much sense if you haven’t already seen Highlander 2. If you haven’t watched it… well, I’d feel bad if I told you to watch it and you didn’t like it (a very likely possibility)…you can always just watch a review of it, I recommend Spoony’s on his site www.spoonyexperiment.com
Anyway, also note that the theatrical cut of the movie was so bad that it was redone on all US DVD releases. On the American DVDs all mention of Zeist were removed. So when watching the DVD remember, when they talk about “the past,” they are actually referring to Zeist.
So here it is, the top thirteen plot-holes in Highlander 2. I will not only highlight each one, but also attempt to explain and rationalize the movie’s huge gaps in logic.
13. The Highlander… is not from the Highlands of Scotland but outer space?!
That’s right, I’m starting with going right for the jugular, the HUGE gripe everyone has with this movie, Connor’s home not being Scotland but rather the planet Zeist. I wish I could have been in theaters to see fans “wtf?!” reactions when Connor suddenly remembered his home planet.
Ramirez: Remember Highlander…. Remember your home…
Connor: Yes.. I remember… five hundred years ago..
**Excited fans in audience anticipate a flashback to Scotland, alla the beginning of the first movie**
Connor: The planet Zeist..
**Fans begin to wonder if the elderly MacLeod is senile**
And we question: “Why is this never mentioned in the first movie, nor in the rest of the series?”
My rationale: The prize is actually three-fold. The victorious immortal gains their greatest desire at the moment, they remember their true origin of Zeist, and can choose to return to challenge Katana’s rule with the support and blessing of the Zeist priesthood.
At the end of the first movie, Connor gets his greatest desire (the knowledge and will of humanity) and his memory of Zeist. All of the other immortals, since they haven’t won the prize, falsely believe they are purely of Earth. This is actually a pretty deep allusion to one of the basic tenets of reaching enlightenment in Buddhism – once someone reaches Nirvana, they can escape the wheel of death/rebirth and ascend to a hire plane (Zeist, the home of immortals) or can stay in the wheel and help humanity (stay on Earth and help the humans.)
Yeah… I’m sure that’s what they had in mind with the Zeist concept…/sarcasm
12. How did Connor disrupt the core of the shield without burning to death? After he killed Katana, the game again ended and he had to be mortal again, right?
My rationale: After Connor won the prize, again, he was able to get his greatest desire. This time it was to be able to destroy the Shield and live out his existence with Louise.
Strangely, when Katana bit the dust, nothing blows up. In the Highlander series, stuff explodes whenever there’s a quickening, especially one coming from a major character. If it was up to me, I would have Katana’s death trigger the destruction of the Shield’s core… but then again, there is a lot of things I (and every other Highlander fan) would have written differently if able.
11.Why did Katana even bother forming a partnership with David Blake and The Shield Company (TSC)? He went down to Earth to kill Connor himself, so why doesn’t he just do that?
My rationale: If you watch the DVD release, General Katana fights Macleod after they exchange words at Brenda’s tomb. While fighting, Connor is never really challenged by Katana, and is in control for most of the duel. Heck, Ramirez did a better job putting Connor on his toes during their jovial sparring session later in the movie.
So after that, Katana is thinking, “Crap, he just might be a better swordsman than I am. I need to rethink this… maybe I can kill MacLeod without getting my hands dirty after all.” And then a beautiful friendship is born…
I should note here that in the theatrical release the two fights with Katana happen in succession at the end of the movie. Again, the editing was so bad that entire scenes were out of order.
10. Why the heck did Katana go to Earth to challenge MacLeod? He should have stayed on Zeist, Connor had no intention of ever returning. He even said so to Katana in the movie!
My rationale: This one’s simple, Katana is an idiot.
Okay okay, I can do better. At the time of their sentencing to take part in the game on Earth, Connor made a promise to Ramirez that he would return. This was done in front of Katana, whom could have heard it. Katana, believing that Connor is a goody-two-shoes and a man of word, was anxiously awaiting Connor’s return. In the time that passed between Connor’s victory on Earth, to the beginning of Highlander 2, Katana did his best to influence the priests of Zeist to his side. That way, when Connor returns, the hearts of the people of Zeist would not welcome back Macleod. However, as it became more and more apparent how resolute the priesthood was in their ways, Katana started to get desperate. Hatred for Macleod, some cockiness on his part, and frustration with the failure of his two lackeys, caused him to act rashly and go to Earth by himself.
Granted, Katana should have noticed that Connor had made a rather cozy living for himself on Earth and seemed ready to die an Earthling, but there was always the possibility that upon his deathbed, Connor’s addiction for living would get the better of him and cause him to return to Zeist. Once there, he would be returned to the same age as when he was banished, as if waking up from a dream.
So yeah, looks like Katana fucked up, but don’t tell him that…
9. Why are Connor and Ramirez called by their Earth-names by Katana while on Zeist? How is Connor a “MacLeod” before he’s even born on Earth into the MacLeod clan??
My rationale: Oh, this is a huge mistake, but I can still be creative and explain it away!
First of all, “Connor Macleod” is an awesome name, it is so awesome that Connor opted to be called that again in Highlander 2 as opposed to his previous alias from the first movie (Nash.)
Secondly, it appears that Zeist is run by a powerful theocracy. While Katana rules the planet with an iron-fist, and holds control of the military, he never once lifts a finger against the priesthood. So it can be assumed that the priests hold incredible magical power, and influence over the lives of the citizens. Their role is so large that they, possibly, are the ones responsible for naming the people of Zeist.
Now, again, to explain away this plot hole I need to be very very creative (and cannot support this in any way… it’s not my fault that the movie barely explained Zeistian society!), but I believe that planets priests’ name the people after gazing into their futures. The name they are given is meant to point them in the direction of their destiny.
In the world of Highlander 2, fate exists to an extent, although some things are purely up to chance (the winner of the prize for example.) The priests were able to see into the future and saw that the names “Connor Macleod” and “Ramirez” would be incredibly significant to these two, and named them both, at birth on the planet, as such.
And Katana? Well, he probably owned a katana at one point, and used it to stab the previous general in the back. He then took his sword, and now rules the Zeistian military.
8. The game reset when Katana sent down his two goons and himself. However, unlike all of the other immortals, they were not reborn on Earth, but rather teleported there. Why couldn’t the other immortals just teleport to Earth instead of being born across thousands of years?
My rationale: After Connor won the prize, the doorway to Zeist opened for him. However, it could go both ways. Katana, without knowledge nor consent of the priests, manipulated that doorway to get right to Macleod.
7. Katana mentions the rule of not fighting on holy ground, but why does he care about Earth religions if he’s from Zeist and knows it?
My rationale: Again, the priesthood of Zeist has an incredible amount of influence over the will of the people of Zeist, and religion along with mysticism, magic, and ritual play a large role in the lives of the citizens. Even Katana, perhaps the most sadistic Highlander villain in the whole series, does not lift a finger against the priests when they refuse to outright execute the leaders of the rebellion. Because of the role of religion on Zeist, all immortals have a natural instinct to respect holy ground. Granted, some of them are not quite of the ideal church-going yolk (Kurgan, I’m looking at you buddy), but they at least have the core instinct to not shed blood there. This instinct is a powerful one, but if overcome, doom follows for the guilty immortal.
Now again, the following is purely my rationale: Part of the penalty for killing on holy ground is that the immortal that does so is doomed to fall before the blade of their most hated enemy. However, with the exception of the Zeistian priests, this penalty is unknown to all immortals, on Zeist and Earth. The priests have an incredibly enlightened universal respect for all religions across the galaxy, and will not tolerate them being disrespected. They will not use their magic to outright change fate, but they are powerful enough to influence it.
6. How did Ramirez come back to life? Since when did immortals have the power to raise the dead?
My rationale: After killing Katana’s two goons, Connor won the prize, again. Remember earlier how I said part of the prize was getting your greatest desire at that moment? Well, at that moment, he missed his buddy. Yep, a real bro-mance. Also he felt a special connection to Ramirez after they were ritualistically bound together as teacher and student back on Zeist.
Speaking of Ramirez, did anyone else notice the strap he received for his sword-bag was comprised of a bunch of really expensive ties knotted together? Seriously, a proper strap wouldn’t cost nearly as much as that, and it would look much better and be more useful… I don’t know what they were thinking, they really couldn’t find some rope anywhere?
5. What the heck did Ramirez do to that lowering fan trap? Can all immortals use the force, or just him?
My rationale: Man, did they ever pull that scene out of their arses… Okay, well since Highlander 1, Ramirez has always shown a small knack for the mystical. He was an alchemist in the 16th century, taught Connor how to connect to animal spirits, and conducted that bonding ritual with Connor on Zeist. He appears to possess a small degree of magical ability, and commands a lot of respect amongst the people of Zeist whom hold magic and mysticism in very high regard (I think). Perhaps Ramirez was an apprentice priest turned rebel back on his home planet?
Ramirez is just full of surprises.
4. What was up with Katana screwing around in the subway? How did that bring him any closer to getting MacLeod?
My rationale: Again, Katana is an idiot, but this scene does have some (emphasis on some, as in not a whole lot) significance. Imagine you’re Katana, the first thing you would want to do after coming to Earth is to test your immortality. So he does, at the expense of a whole subway train of people, but he’s evil so it’s okay. Also, he wanted to have some fun…
Now as for how the heck he knew how to operate a subway train, why a subway train would ever need to go so fast as to turn all the passengers to jelly, and why he was not flung backwards as a result of the force like everyone else… I have no idea. You got me here Highlander 2, I admit I’m stumped. You win this round…
3. Throughout the movie, Katana makes numerous references to Earth culture. He even references Wizard of Oz! How does he have knowledge of such things when he is straight off of Zeist?
My rationale: Well first of all, who hasn’t seen the Wizard of Oz? I mean really, it’s been sold everywhere, and is a classic.
This is just another glaring example of how badly the character of Katana was written. Don’t get me wrong, I love this character because of it but, despite all of the people he’s killed, he manages to only be a touch more threatening than villains like Krankor and Dr. Evil.
Okay, seriously, he comes across as some kind of maniacal fae creature more than a military General. He’s very random, very unpredictable, full of hatred, and yet is mostly smiling and having fun in this movie. I know, he pales in comparison to the Kurgan, but you cannot deny that he’s so much more memorable than the villains from Highlander 3, and 4 (bland and blander).
So Katana’s knowledge of Earth culture… I’d say this could be due to one of three reasons.
– Katana has been going on vacation to Earth ever since Macleod won, not to kill MacLeod but just for some R and R.
– From Zeist, Katana has been able to watch Macleod and the rest of the immortals… this leads to all sorts of creepy scenarios… but would explain how he knows this stuff. This is probably the most likely reason too.
– Those Earth-related things are also a part of Zeist lifestyle too: High School reunions, Wizard of Oz, sports drafts, etc…
2. How does the Shield Corporation have a global monopoly when it is providing a service that (everyone thinks) is necessary to survive? It isn’t like they can shut it down if someone doesn’t pay their bill on time, right?
My rationale: As with Zeist, I wish that H2 went into greater detail about the Shield Corporation. One way I could see this company profiting off of this is by forcing food companies, vacation resorts (like Solar City! Yes, I just connected Sewer Shark to Highlander 2), and other nongovernment businesses that require the sun to produce a certain good/service, to acquire a special license through them. Once obtained, TSC will build a special UV filter over that company’s land to allow just enough beneficial UV through. Of course, from there Shield can offer “updated” filters to certain companies, computers to operate the filter, and all sorts of different software packages for it. This allows TSC to play companies all over the world against each other, and make out like bandits.
And at least Wendy’s is still thriving despite the planet going to hell.
1.How the hell does Highlander 2 tie into the series?!
Granted, none of the Highlander movies really fit too well together, but if you ignore some details here and there, you can call Highlander 1, 3, and 4 a trilogy. Highlander 2 is easily the black sheep since it takes place in the future with Connor as the protagonist, but that seems impossible since part 4 has Connor killed off in the 20th century.
My rationale: Some diehard fans have attempted to push Highlander 2 into the timeline, and there’s a few different ways one can do it. Here’s how I look at the series:
Highlander 1: Connor wins the prize
Highlander 2: Connor defeats Katana, wins prize again. The Shield is destroyed, and the Earth is restored. However humanity has gotten rotten during its time under the shield. Connor goes back to Zeist and, with the knowledge he now has, is certain that humanity is destined to a very bleak path unless something drastic happens. The priests of Zeist understand, and see where humanity’s fate is going. They cannot intervene, nor directly interfere, so they restart the game. To do this, Connor needs to sacrifice everything: he will be fated to lose so that the future is different. Connor agrees to this, reluctantly gives up his prize, and the game is restarted with him being born back again on Earth with no memory of everything that’s happened so far.
(If you want, you could toss in the animated series here. After H2 Connor goes back to Zeist, successfully convinces a few priests to come with him back to Earth to help humanity, but several centuries later it fails as Cortan rises to power and humanity continues its path to destruction. A dying Connor, after his defeat, goes back to Zeist to convince the remaining priests there to restart the game and write a new story for humanity)
Highlander 1: Connor defeats the Kurgan
Highlander 3: Connor wins… no prize though.
Highlander 4: Connor remembers his deal from Zeist while in Sanctuary. All that has happened so far has made him a little insane… and he realizes that he is not fated to win the prize. He decides to fall before Duncan in battle, so that he may succeed where he failed.
Highlander 5: Yeah… I’m going to ignore this one…
And there you have it… I now have a splitting headache.
I enjoy Highlander 2, and watch it often. However, I refuse to ever watch it right after watching the first movie. The difference in cinematic style between the two films is absolutely jarring. Highlander 1 reminds me of the first Terminator movie in its gritty realistic approach to science fiction. And Highlander 2… well, frankly I just don’t see the Connor of H1 dueling the Kurgan on flying hoverboards. Also, it is interesting that Katana, who commands an entire planet and kills so many people in Highlander 2 does not appear nearly as threatening as the Kurgan (but then again, who is?)
You know the funny thing? I went into this thinking “Man, I need to think of eleven plot holes for this movie, that’s a lot” but as I started typing, they just started coming to me. I actually had about twenty in mind (!!!) but narrowed it down to lucky 13. One has to admit it is indeed impressive that Highlander was able to survive, and even thrive, after receiving so many holes in its mythos from this movie.
As someone who time and again tries to defend Highlander 2, I must confess that it is not a good sign when one can ramble off so many plot holes off of the top of their head.
So I hope you enjoyed that. If not, I apologize, I will talk about a better movie next time (although that’s not saying much, I understand.)
– Furry Senpai