The Highlander franchise has been around since the mid eighties. It is famous for the catchphrase: “There can only be one”, referring of course to the centuries old battle of the Immortals that die only by having their heads removed form their shoulders. They really should have had that catchphrase in mind when they decided to make four more live action films, three Television series (one animated) and various novels and comic books, and that includes this anime entry directed by a favourite anime director of mine, Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll and The Animatrix: Program amongst others)
The film begins with Colin McLeod on a boat in flooded, exotic New Jersey some time in the 22nd Century (a wee bit over one hundred years from now). He’s out there just trying to get by as a bounty hunter, taking peoples’ heads for money, which coincidentally means he’s usually up against other Immortals. It’s when he goes to a destroyed New York that the main action begins to take place and all the clichés of a post apocalyptic movie are brought out.
- Destroyed buildings: Check
- Evil overlord that our hero will eventually have to fight: Check
- Resistance fighters against evil overlord with which hero will side: Check
- Annoying kid side-kick that represents a minority: Check
- Super virus that will kill everyone but a special few: Check
- and Lots of skimpy clothing for all our female characters: that’s one mighty big check
And another thing on the plot; Colin our hero, with the woman he loves dying in his arms, makes a promise that he won’t go after the man responsible for her death. But as soon as the light goes from her eyes, he breaks his promise to her and vows to go after Marcus Octavius, the evil overlord of the destroyed New York (If you didn’t see that coming, you really need to see an optometrist). This of course leads to them both battling each other through out the ages for the next two thousand years. I personally found it quite ludicrous that Colin and Marcus can find each other in the middle of World War II, and then fight on the wing of a bomber in mid flight (Marcus of course being a part of the Nazi war machine. Dollar if you laugh!).
It’s not all terrible though. The animation is generally of a very high quality, the fights are for the most part entertaining and interesting, and in anyone else but my man Yoshi’s hands it wouldn’t even have these things going for it. Yoshiaki has a habit of putting his own personal stamp on his films; usually it’s with the recurring ‘powers’ that his characters have (watch his works back-to-back and you’ll see what I mean) but with this film it feels like his hands were tied up by a script that is made to appeal more to fans of the Highlander series. Having only seen the first entry in the franchise I don’t know effective it is at doing this, though repeated use of the previously mentioned catchphrase doesn’t help people who aren’t fans.
I really don’t know how this got past the script stage; it feels like someone was asleep on the job when they approved this. Sure it has some pretty decent battles in it, what with antagonist and protagonist both being able to survive wounds that would kill normal people, but it’s tough getting through the derivative dialogue, plot points and clichés that you have to be subjected to, to get to the good bits. Watch Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – by the same filmmaker – instead. The only thing it doesn’t hold over this film’s head is the animation, but not by much.
Note: There are apparently two versions. The theatrical cut this review covers and a rumored director’s cut. Hopefully the director’s cut will improve the experience but it is unknown at this point.