Oh, how I wish Highlander: Endgame (2000) lived up to its title. For reasons that only make sense to the presumably cocaine addled brains (my apologies if this was not the case) of the people behind these movies, they decided to make another film, called Highlander: The Source (2007). Perhaps it had something to do with the moderately successful television show that ran for six seasons, starting in 1992. In the tv series, instead of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), they got an actor actually born in the British Isles to play the representative of the Clan MacLeod, Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul). I have not seen a single episode in over twenty years. Yet, if my memory serves me at all, I recall it making a lot more sense than any of the theatrical iterations. I suspect this is why you have Connor at the beginning of Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994) emphasizing that he is the real Scotsman, and no one else. Christopher Lambert must have been feeling the pressure from the show. Eventually, it would seem, he gave in to his own flagging popularity and somehow roped poor Adrian Paul into this cinematic madness. Highlander: Endgame lives up to that description.
With another stupid opening crawl that, yet again, walks back much of the material you see in the previous three movies, Highlander: Endgame tells us that nobody knows where from where immortals come. It then dissolves to our two “favorite” Scotsmen, Connor and Duncan, palling around on the streets of New York. There is something troubling Connor, though he will not say what it is. Instead, he departs for his antique store, and arrives outside it in time to watch it explode. Inside it was Rachel Ellenstein (Sheila Gish). You remember her, right? The slightly older woman that Connor took in as a child after World War II and raised as his own? Well, the movie expects you to because it is the source of his mental anguish, and it drives him to join something called “The Sanctuary.” Aside from Duncan appearing early on, this is something that is also borrowed from the television show, so I guess whatever is told us is now the real canon of the franchise? In any case, it is a place kept by a secretive group known as “The Watchers,” who make it their business to keep tabs on all immortals worldwide. Because the Watchers fear the power that the last immortal will have if allowed to become the last one standing, they keep this group that Connor has joined locked away so that there can never be only one. They are rendered unconscious, and while under Connor dreams of a time when he learned of his birth mother’s, Caiolin (June Watson), sickness. Because the MacLeods had banished him (this is all covered in the first movie), his sudden appearance in the village does not go over well. She is labeled a heretic by representatives of the Church (sigh) and is about to be burned at the stake. She could save her skin if she renounces her son. When she refuses, the tinder is lighted and an enraged Connor begins killing everyone in his path to try to save his mother. This includes the main priest, and apparently his assistant Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne). As it turns out, Jacob Kell is immortal, too, and is distraught over the death of his mentor. Why he has not acted on his desire for revenge for hundreds of years is anybody’s guess, but in the present he has gathered a group of immortals to track down Connor. Together, they find the Sanctuary and murder everyone inside. They then go to Connor’s antique shop, and when they get there they find Duncan poking around, looking for clues about Connor’s, er, disappearance, or something? Among Jacob’s followers is a woman named Kate. Kate had once been Duncan’s wife centuries ago. Ugh. Look, there are a lot of flashbacks in this, as with all of them, and I cannot tell these sequences in order without massive confusion, not to mention cramps from all the typing. At any rate, it is later revealed that Kate is immortal as well, but she did not know it until her wedding night. It is at that point that Duncan takes it upon himself to kill her, knowing that she would recover. Understandably, she did not appreciate the method by which this ability was revealed to her, and has been holding a grudge against Duncan for centuries. Sigh. So, the rest of the Jacob-ettes come to the shop, and Duncan is barely able to get away. He is initially taken by Watchers that want to restart the Sanctuary, but is saved by a different group of Watchers who do not want this for him, led by another character from the show, Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes). Are you following this? Next, Duncan is briefly reunited with Connor, who was not killed by Jacob because, in true dumb villain fashion, he wants Connor to suffer as Jacob kills everyone for whom the original Highlander cares. In their brief scuffle, Connor realizes he is no match for Jacob. Hence, Connor goes to Duncan later on and tells his oldest, closest friend that he must kill him in order to be strong enough to face Jacob. Duncan does so reluctantly, and then, big surprise, goes on to kill Jacob. At least this time there is no suggestion that he is the last immortal.
I am going to skip over my usual categorization of parts of these films that do not make sense. I assure you, there is rich fodder with Highlander: Endgame, much of which I already covered. I mean, there is a scene where Jacob kills all of his followers, you know, just because, but then leaves Kate alive. Why? How? Not a whisper. But enough of that silliness. Instead, I am going to discuss a more insidious form of silliness, one that relates more directly to my Catholic Faith. Jacob Kell’s mentor is portrayed as one of those stereotypically looney priests from history. You know the kind, right? The ones you see in other films that are seeing heresy and the devil’s work everywhere they turn. They react to it in an outrageously zealous manner, and are quick to lash people to poles and set them ablaze. Were there such people, historically speaking? Perhaps. The problem is that most often they are depicted as one-man kangaroo courts, executing their warped brand of Church justice. These things did not typically happen without a degree of scrutiny, and indeed pretty much every act of the Church over the centuries has come as the result of careful discernment. There is also an avenue towards redemption, and it almost invariably came well before the first torches were lit. If you want a better example of how this all usually proceeded, see The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999). While I may not like how it depicts St. Joan of Arc (Milla Jovovich), her trial is at least more representative than the garbage in Highlander: Endgame. And the Church even went on to make her a saint!
I am beginning to sound like a broken record with these movies, but Highlander: Endgame also features the requisite amount of nudity and violence that you see in the others. At this point, they have so far transcended the original film that is so bad as to be good that they are all but unwatchable. What could I possibly have been thinking when I was younger?