Plot: In this sci-fi/fantasy sequel, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) has become an elderly man after losing his immortality. Living in a bleak future where the world is protected from solar radiation by a massive shield, MacLeod regains his youth when he kills two assassins from his home planet. This results in an ongoing battle with the villainous and powerful Gen. Katana (Michael Ironside), but MacLeod receives help when the noble Juan Ramirez (Sean Connery) returns.
The theatrical cut of Highlander II was butchered before it was released and generally got negative reviews; long before The Snyder Cut we got the Mulcahy Cut AKA The Renegade Cut which had more footage and fixed some of the problems with the theatrical version of the movie. It still isn’t a classic movie but it is a lot of fun with plenty of action. We get some explosions, sword fights and the battle on a real train was quite awesome. Mulcahy actually had them build real sets and it still holds up as one of the film’s highlights.
All references to the planet Zeist were eliminated in this version and the immortals still come from Earth but from the past; it’s still a very strange movie and not everything works but this is a definite improvement over the theatrical cut.
A lot of the effects still look good especially the flying scene with the two assassins even if they are very silly characters. There is a lot of over-the-top laughter in this movie from not only them but even Michael Ironside who isn’t normally one for overacting. He still makes for an entertaining villain and John C. McGinley also gets to ham it up with nobody being remotely subtle in their performances.
I always felt Virginia Madsen’s character Louise doesn’t have enough to do and that doesn’t change in the Renegade Cut; she is just there to be the love interest. The sex scene between Connor and Louise is a new addition and feels a little awkward because they literally just met a few minutes beforehand.
One thing I’ll say about this film is that it is refreshingly different; it isn’t just a rehash of the first movie and tells its own story; you don’t even have to have seen the original Highlander to fully understand what’s going on. On the flipside that could also be seen as the biggest flaw as it bears very little resemblance to the original going for full-on sci-fi.
Sean Connery returns (thanks to some magic) and still steals the show; I love the scene with him getting the new wardrobe and he provides some choice lines, but it would have been nice to get a bit more explanation as to how he actually came back.
Christopher Lambert never disappoints and I think I’ve mentioned before that he has such an infection cheeky laugh that makes him so appealing on screen.
There are some humorous Paul Verhoeven-esque commercials in this version which provide some extra laughs; it had been a while since I’ve watched the theatrical cut but this version seems to have more one-liners but also more violence. The subway scene is one of the best with Katana taking over and crashing it just for the Hell of it.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the visuals of this film which are almost Blade Runner-esque with the dappled light and dark backdrops caused by the shield that covers the Earth.
The production was apparently a nightmare with a lot of it shooting in Argentina which caused all kinds of problems.
I found a full list on IMDb of all the additions/changes of the Renegade Cut which I’ve pasted below; I’m not taking credit for someone else’s work.
- 1. PROLOGUE TEXT: A new prologue eases the viewer into the year 2024, the world now inhabited by Connor MacLeod. The new text establishes that the Earth’s Ozone Layer has been severely depleted and, in response, the planet has been encased in an electromagnetic shield to protect the population from deadly radiation. After 25 years, however, the necessity of maintaining the shield is being questioned.
- 2. CONNOR AT THE OPERA HOUSE: As originally scripted, the Renegade Version opens outside an opera house. A restored shot of a water pail overflowing with rain dripping from the ceiling brings us into the crumbling facility, where we find an aging Connor looking through a program. Connor’s P.O.V. reveals that this evening’s production of “The Valkyrie” is being performed “in the presence of Dr: Alan Neyman President, TSC.” Connor locates Alan with his opera glasses, and the two old friends wave to each other. Later in the scene, Connor recalls a long ago battle between his forces and those of the evil Immortal, Katana, presented through a series of flashbacks that are cross cut with scenes from the opera being performed on stage. Katana’s dialogue about wanting all of the rebels’ heads has been cut from the Renegade Version.
- 3. KATANA AND CONNOR IN THE CAVE WITH THE EELS: Prior to grabbing an eel out of the water, Katana now addresses this additional line of dialogue to Connor: “My friends in here remind me of you and Ramirez’
- 4. THE SENTENCING OF CONNOR AND RAMIREZ BY THE PRIESTS: A restored shot of Connor in his opera box is followed by a shot of a huge set of double doors on the opera house stage. Through the computer magic of CGI, the doors open into the past, where Connor and Ramirez stand before the Priests awaiting judgement. New dialogue in this scene tells us that Connor and Ramirez are rebels who possess an unholy Immortality like Katana. Their punishment is exile into the future where they must do battle, “For there can only be one.” The victor will have the choice to “grow old and die in the future or return here with his freedom and his faith restored.
- 5. CONNOR WATCHES A SHIELD CORPORATION “NEWSCAST” ON HIS CAR TELEVISION: Connor leaves the opera house and watches a news story broadcast by The Shield Corporation (TSC) on his car’s television. New dialogue by the newscaster reveals there are rumours of a management shake-up at TSC. Connor’s friend Alan has become increasingly isolated, and the fact that he is “unavailable for comment” makes Connor concerned for his safety. The same footage was seen in the American versions, but before Connor goes to the opera. In that version, there is an extended scene in which Connor drives while considering how the world has deteriorated under the Shield, much like the Renegade Versions new prologue.
- 6. CONNOR TRIES TO CALL ALAN VIA VIDEO PHONE: Worried about his old friend, Connor stops at a video pay phone to call Alan but fails to get past the TSC receptionist. Connor decides not to leave a message. Several street punks show up and harass Connor for money to use in a street corner oxygen dispenser, but they run off when they realise who they’re dealing with. Connor returns to his Porsche.
- 7. TWO GUARDS AT TSC DISCUSS FISH IN THE LAKE: A restored long shot of the Shield generator bears the title “Shield Control” Two guards standing above the generators man-made lake hear a noise – the sound of Louise’s underwater commando squad coming to the surface. The two guards report in to the security guard, but when he sees nothing unusual on his monitor, he tells them the sound was just some fish making noise, prompting the guards to argue about whether or not any fish could live in the lake.
- 8. LOUISE DISCOVERS THE RADIATION LEVEL ABOVE THE SHIELD IS NORMAL: This sequence contains the same footage as the American version, but reordered to make the scene flow more naturally. Now when Louise attempts to determine the radiation level above the Shield, it seems as if 30 seconds have passed while she and her team wait to get an accurate reading. There is also additional dialogue from one of her cohorts as he tries to convince her to get moving before they’re all caught.
- 9. KATANA AND THE PRIESTS WATCH CONNOR ON A VIDEO SCREEN: When Connor arrives at his favourite bar, Katana and the Priests observe him from the distant past on a holographic projection bearing the caption “New York City
- July 16, 2024.” Katana and the Priests discuss the fact that Connor hasn’t made his choice whether to return to the past or remain in the present a revelation that angers Katana, who leaves to locate his assassins.
- 10. KATANA SENDS CORDA AND RENO TO THE FUTURE: Corda and Reno argue that since Connor is old and will die soon, there is no need for them to go after him. Katana disagrees and sends them to find and kill Connor anyway.
- 11. CONNOR’S WOUNDED HAND MAGICALLY HEALS IN THE BAR: Speaking newly added dialogue, Connor asks the woman harassing him if she is the type of person who knows when to stop. After the woman attacks and wounds him with a bottle, Connor’s injured hand magically heals itself. Distressed, Connor says “Oh no, not again!” Connor’s healing now appears as a direct result of Corda and Reno’s arrival in the present.
- 12. CONNOR AND LOuISE MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME: Outside the bar, Connor has his initial encounter with Louise, where additional dialogue reveals that Connor knows he is becoming Immortal again. This dialogue was cut from the American version because Corda and Reno don’t arrive until after this conversation and, therefore, Connor is not yet becoming Immortal.
- 13. EXTENDED FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN CONNOR AND CORDA: The battle sequence between Connor and Corda, is extended before Connor falls onto the top of the train. An additional shot of the train coming out of a tunnel sets up its arrival during the fight scene.
- 14. CONNOR AND LOUISE KISS… AND MORE!: The restored footage of this section features an extended scene in which Connor and Louise make love against a wall after their first kiss.
- 15. RAMIREZ’S FIRST FLIGHT: The scene of Ramirez’s airplane flight across the Atlantic has been split into two parts. In this shot, Ramirez is seen through the airplane window looking worried. The scene bears the title “Somewhere over the Atlantic.”
- 16. CONNOR AND LOUISE TALK ABOUT THE BLUE SKY: Louise asks Connor if he has ever seen the blue sky, since she is too young to remember it herself. He describes what it was like and she expresses her wish to see the sky at least once before she dies.
- 17. KATANA WATCHES RENO DIE: From the distant past, Katana watches Connor defeat Reno.
- 18. THE PSYCHIC COOK TV COMMERCIAL: As in the American version, Katana smashes through the roof of a speeding subway car when he arrives in the present. Restored footage inserted before his arrival shows us the state of television in 2024 as a TV monitor features a tacky promo for a program entitled “The Psychic Cook.”
- 19. MOTHER AND BABY ON THE SUBWAY: Aboard Katana’s subway car, extended footage reveals a mother with a baby in a carriage. As Katana hurls the train through the tunnel at blinding speed, there is also additional footage of several passengers being thrown against the back of the car and more blood and gore than in the original release.
- 20. CONNOR ARRIVES AT TSC: Connor drives up to the TSC entrance in his Porsche. He is allowed to enter the building after a hand scanner at the security desk validates his identity.
- 21. ALAN AND CONNOR DISCUSS THE SHIELD LAUNCH (RESTORED FLASHBACK 1): The first flashback restored to its correct position in the film occurs when Connor and Alan discuss the day the Shield was launched. In the restored footage, Connor and Alan look at a miniature model of Shield Control (although the plaque still reads “December Installation”). Connor puts on a pair of goggles he finds next to the model and his movement triggers the flashback transition. The camera follows his movement and continues around his body coming to rest on a younger Connor and Alan watching the Shield launch in 1999. In the American version, the 1999 Shield launch scene was placed at the beginning of the film in an attempt to arrange events chronologically:
- 22. ALAN AND CONNOR DISCUSS THE OZONE LAYER: A new transition from The Shield launch flashback (see description 21) occurs as the camera tilts down from the ceiling to reveal Connor and Alan in Alan’s office. Alan communicates to Connor, via computer screen, that the Ozone Layer may be back to normal. Alan tries to give Connor the coordinates he’ll need to get above the Shield to take a proper ozone reading, but he has only given Connor half of the information when he is interrupted by Blake.
- 23. KATANA TAKES A CAB: This scene, in which Katana is driven to an empty warehouse by garrulous cabbie Jerry Pritchett, contains both extra footage and dialogue. Jerry’s added dialogue concerns the decayed state of the world and the availability of his sister. In the American version, this scene is immediately followed by Katana’s arrival at Blake’s board meeting – as if the empty warehouse and the Shield Corporation were the same place.
- 24. RAMIREZ’S NEW TWO SIDED CONVERSATION WITH A FEMALE AIRLINE PASSENGER: This is the second part of Ramirez’s flight across the Atlantic. It bears the title: “Still somewhere over the Atlantic.” Ramirez’s conversation with a female passenger now includes an added line of dialogue from her. Now, when Ramirez says “Forgive me for asking yet again, but, ah, how do we remain so high above the earth with safety?” She replies “By drinking!”
- 25. KATANA CALLS TO CONNOR FROM THE TOP OF AN EMPTY WAREHOUSE: Standing atop the warehouse, Katana says “My kind of town. I’m waiting MacLeod. Come to me. I’m waiting.” This visual was originally placed at the end of the American version after Blake is killed, without the additional dialogue.
- 26. RAMIREZ JOKES WITH FEMALE PASSENGER: The producers used Ramirez’ “off the wall” line of new dialogue at the end of his Helen of Troy monologue. He says, “But on the contrary, Virginia, all of the most beautiful women had dark hair: Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Nephertiti, Joan of Arc, to name but a few. In fact, it’s well known that the dark haired ladies…” Well you’ve got to hear it.
- 27. BRENDA’S DEATH IN NEW YORK, 1998 (RESTORED FLASHBACK 2): Connor visits the grave of his dead wife, Brenda. In a new voice over, Brenda tells him she is sorry to be leaving him so soon. There is a dissolve into a shot of the setting sun (used as the opening shot of the American version) bearing the title: “New York, 1998.” Totally new footage follows, revealing Brenda in a hospital bed, burned and covered with bandages, the victim of radiation poisoning. She makes Connor promise to help save others from the radiation that is killing her. This promise becomes Connor’s motivation for building the Shield. Brenda dies while holding his hand. As he walks away, the camera pulls back to show a vast hall full of radiation victims. This shot was also found in the American version, but at the beginning of the film. This sequence also includes new music.
- 28. CONNOR ENTERS THE WAREHOUSE: Connor arrives at the empty warehouse in his Porsche and opens the door. A long shot from inside shows Connor walking in through the doorway.
- 29. ALAN IS SENT TO MAX AND BLAKE HOLDS A BOARD MEETING: Now correctly re-ordered in the Renegade Version is the scene in which Blake sends Alan to MAX, as well as the scene of the board meeting where Blake discusses “re-shuffling the deck” at TSC. In the American version, these scenes were reversed. At the end of the restored board meeting scene, Blake now has additional dialogue, saying “Ah, Wilson, could we get on this Highlander thing as soon as possible?”
- 30. CONNOR AND RAMIREZ DISCUSS THE SHIELD COORDINATES: Connor tells Ramirez about the system failure and reveals the Shield coordinates he received from Alan. Ramirez points out that they need the second half of the coordinates before they can go above the Shield.
- 31. CONNOR AND RAMIREZ ACQUIRE MAX SECURITY UNIFORMS: After the doctor faints, a restored shot shows Connor and Ramirez catching him, followed by another restored shot where they take the guards’ uniforms.
- 32. ALAN REVEALS THE REMAINING SHIELD COORDINATES AND DIES: The scene in which Connor and Louise find Alan in MAX contains both additional footage and dialogue. After giving Connor the remaining Shield coordinates, he tells Connor to go above the shield to confirm that radiation levels are normal. Before Alan dies, Connor assures him they were right to build the shield.
- 33. KATANA AND BLAKE DISCUSS LOUISE: As they watch Alan’s death via video screen, Blake reveals to Katana that Louise is the leader of COBALT. Katana mocks her. Blake vows that Louise and Connor will never make it out of MAX alive.
- 34. CONNOR AND LOUISE STEAL A TRUCK FROM MAX: Connor and Louise escape from MAX by Knocking out a guard and commandeering a truck. Katana tries to block their path as they drive out of the parking lot, but Connor runs him over.
- 35. CONNOR FIGHTS KATANA ON THE TRUCK: Connor and Louise follow Alan’s coordinates into a deserted area. Katana climbs onto the roof of the speeding truck where an extended fight scene ensues. The fight moves from roof to hood and ends when Katana is thrown from the truck.
- 36. CONNOR AND LOUISE AT THE SHIELD CONTROL ACCESS TOWER: Alan’s coordinates lead CoNNor and Louise to the Shield access towel. They pass a sign reading “Danger Shield Ceiling – Authorized Personnel Only.” There are several shots of Connor and Louise climbing a long ladder, surrounded by sparks and explosions.
- 37. KATANA AND BLAKE DISCUSS CONNOR: When Katana tells Blake his life will be very predictable once Connor is dead, Blake expresses concern that Katana is being overly confident. Katana asks if Blake is betting on him, Blake answers that he always plays the favorite.
- 38. CONNOR AND LOUISE CLIMB ABOVE THE SHIELD: Connor and Louise emerge onto a mountainside where they discover the blue sky. There are several shots of mountains and clouds as they discover the Ozone Layer has repaired itself
- Connor decides that the Shield must come down and that there is only one way to do it. This sequence was filmed in southern Argentina near the ski resort town of Barriloche.
- 39. BLAKE AND KATANA DISCUSS CONNOR’S NEXT MOVE: Blake worries that Connor, who has been missing for 24 hours, has gotten above the Shield. He fears TSC will end up in Chapter 11 if the truth about the Ozone Layer is revealed. Katana is convinced that all of Connor’s roads lead back to him. Blake smugly points out that Katana is wrong, as he points out Connor and Louise speeding through the desert en route to the Shield generator. Katana kills Blake for suggesting he has made a mistake. The American version of this scene is much shorter, with Blake telling Katana he is wrong after Connor and Louise escape from the exhaust fan room in MAX. Katana’s reaction in both scenes is the same.
- 40. GUARDS PATROLLING OUTSIDE OF SHIELD CONTROL: New footage of The Pyramid’s exterior and floodgates is followed by a shot of two guards standing on a platform. The final shot of the sequence reveals the bridge over the floodgates is crawling with guards.
- 41. THE WORLD WITHOUT THE SHIELD: When the satellite above the Earth explodes, there are two new shots of the earth and the city covered by the Shield. These are followed by an extremely wide shot of the Shield as it disappears from the Earth’s skies. The two restored shots that follow show open night skies over Jerry’s, Connor’s favorite bar and over the city skyline.
- 42. CONNOR AND LOUISE KISS AS SHIELD CONTROL BURNS: Connor and Louise kiss on the edge of a lake as the Shield generator burns in the distance. In voice over, Ramirez reprises his thoughts: “Most people have a full measure of life and most people just watch it slowly drip away. But if you can summon it all up at one time, in one place, you can accomplish something glorious.” The films final image is that of the planet Earth, now no longer covered by the Shield.
So thanks to whoever went to the trouble of writing all of that out.
Overall, Highlander II: The Renegade Cut fixes a few of the problems the theatrical cut had but the film itself is still flawed and incredibly silly. I do still enjoy it for what it is and even with the longer runtime it moves at a decent pace and has enough action to keep you engaged.