Not too long ago, I argued that the Highlander franchise should never have gone beyond the original 1986 movie starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, and Clancy Brown. However if John Wick director Chad Stahelski, or anyone else, ever does manage to pull a new film out of development limbo, there’s only one way to do it right: completely reboot everything and don’t conclude the first film with Connor MacLeod winning The Prize.
Highlander was practically destined to become a franchise not only because of the success of the first film, but because the premise has far too much potential for countless stories.
What happened to Connor between the 16th century and the 20th? If there are other Immortals all over the world, who are they? How many are there? What are their stories? How did their numbers get whittled down to just four in the beginning of 1986’s Highlander?
How did Ramirez and Kurgan find out who and what they were? Who told them the rules? What happens if an Immortal breaks that one rule and goes after another Immortal on holy ground?
You could get no end of media opportunities by crafting answers to these questions and more, but after 1986’s Highlander there were two major problems.
Calling It “Highlander”
Either the movie title Highlander limited who the writers were willing to make heroes in the various spinoffs, or they all just really love Scotland.
In spite of the mythology making it seem like there are Immortals all over Earth, no Highlander projects managed to give us a protagonist who wasn’t from the Scottish Highlands. In fact, not only were they all Highlanders, they were all from the same clan.
The hero of Highlander: The Series is Duncan MacLeod, the hero of the 2007 animated movie Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is Colin MacLeod, and leading Highlander: The Animated Series is Quentin MacLeod. If you thought nepotism was bad in Hollywood, according to this franchise, it’s really bad in Scotland.
Connor Wins The Prize
Connor wins The Prize at the end of the first film, meaning there are no more Immortals alive and nothing left to fight for. This caused writers of Highlander follow-ups to have perhaps the most confusing and frustrating approach to the notion of established canon.
Highlander II: The Quickening radically changed the mythos without even acknowledging it was radically changing the mythos. Highlander: The Final Dimension completely ignored The Quickening. The final live-action film–Highlander: Endgame–unapologetically ignores The Quickening, The Final Dimension, and the conclusion of the first film.
If the makers of a new Highlander want to avoid this absolute mess, the only way to do it is to start from scratch and to go into it knowing they need to give the narrative some elbow room. This is a story that could potentially span thousands of years.
George Lucas knew enough to not destroy The Empire in the first Star Wars movie. Proceed similarly.
Don’t tell the whole story in a two hour movie and then spend the next couple of decades trying to convince fans you don’t have amnesia. Make the hero’s quest in the first movie something other than surviving as the final Immortal and winning The Prize.
The canvas of Highlander is literally the entire span of human history. The setting is anywhere and everywhere on Earth. With that in your toolbox, if you can’t tell a complete story without giving away everything in the first film, then maybe set aside storytelling and explore accounting. Maybe politics.