Welcome to another week of future-gazing. This week it is Chad Stahelski’s Highlander reboot. This column is about looking to an upcoming project and talking about what I as a fan am hoping to see from it. This week I covered a story about the Highlander reboot being developed by John Wick director Stahelski. Stahelski said a lot of things that hit home to me. Maybe the director really could be the creative to finally tap into this franchise? So what better week to cover one of the best, most underdeveloped concepts in Hollywood, Highlander!
To begin with, I figured I’d give you some of my history with the franchise. I first watched the movie in 1986/87 and I was blown away. The movie doesn’t hold up too well now, but even as a boy I could see the potential in this concept. Also, it was a Scottish hero, maybe the only Scottish hero on film I had growing up outside of early James Bond. As an adult, I can see a LOT of flaws in Highlander. However, that potential is still there bubbling under the surface. So much so I actually mapped out a Highlander trilogy back in my late teens. Those ideas are lost like tears in the rain, but I still feel that sense of untapped potential from Highlander.
There Can Be Only One…
That was the tag line, and it’s a problem. In one movie we are introduced to a reality filled with immortal beings and by the end, Connor is the last one. Boom, it’s done. But audiences wanted more, so some really, truly awful sequels were devised. The franchise became utter trash.
In a reboot, we probably know Connor will be the winner, but if you go there too soon, we don’t get to explore his life very much. Connor is several hundred years old. He probably had thousands of cool adventures and we get to see these as small little five minute scenes. It simply wasn’t enough. I wanted more, and the structure of the movie just didn’t lend itself to more movies.
As a kid, then as an adult, I have too many questions I want to explore. How many Immortals are there? How old is the oldest of them, and how did Ramirez know to seek out Connor? Why did Ramirez seek out Connor to train him rather than defeat him? How did the Kurgan know Connor was an Immortal before he even did, and why seek him out? Why was Ramirez so concerned about the Kurgan? What is the point of The Prize, who chooses new Immortals, and what is this race all about? So many questions and not an answer to be had anywhere.
Anyone who reads this column knows I love me a bit of world-building in my stories. For me, Highlander is like Star Wars with no Empire, or The Hobbit without The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion. Again it goes back to fulfilling the potential of a concept. If you aren’t looking to end a story after one movie then you have more time to world build.
If I take the original Highlander and imagine it as a trilogy instead, then the possibilities increase exponentially. Imagine that very basic story split across a three-act trilogy? As a writer/filmmaker you suddenly have more time to develop your main characters. Characters like Ramirez (Obi-Wan role) and the Kurgan (Vader or Palpatine) can be further fleshed out. So here is how I would map out a Highlander trilogy.
The first movie would still be split between modern-day and Connor’s past. However, the bulk of that first movie would be in the past. For me, Ramirez dies far too soon for an Immortal. I’d Place Ramirez’s death as a climax of the first movie. Have Ramirez stay with Connor for longer, and see them become equals, or for the pupil to surpass the teacher. Ramirez could help Connor get over the death of his first love. The modern-day track in the first movie would have Connor winning a battle, but not against the main villain. Instead, perhaps that villain is the one we see killing Ramirez in the past. Although I think having Ramirez convince Connor to kill him to gain his power is even better.
With Connor sadly killing his friend he would gain Ramirez memories into his own. The second movie could then see Connor recall details of Ramirez’s distant past before Connor was born. Thus allowing the audience to discover the connections between Ramirez and the Kurgan. A reason for why Ramirez is afraid of the Kurgan enough to seek out Connor. That second movie would be about half and half between modern-day and the past.
The third movie would take place mostly in the modern setting, building to a climactic final fight between our protagonist and antagonist. I’d totally flesh out the character of the Kurgan more. I love Clancy Brown, but the Kurgan is a one-dimensional villain whose ultimate goal just seems to be nihilistic. What would a morally repugnant Immortal really do after all those years? I’d guess be in a position of power to sway the world in the direction he, or she wishes. That’s another thing, we need more of in the movie, female Immortals. Yes, there were female Immortals in the weird TV series, but not really the movies.
Some Good News and Some Fan Casting Wishes
The good news is that from what I’ve heard of the Highlander reboot from Stahelski we seem to share some ideas. Stahelski has spoken about making a Highlander reboot that does allow for sequels. He understands you can’t have Connor win The Prize at the end of the first movie and hope to go somewhere. And frankly, that, along with a few other comments he has made about the Highlander reboot has got me excited. You can catch up with Stahelski’s comments in a recent story we published Here!
As for casting, I certainly don’t have any specific actors in mind right now. However, I have one request to Mr. Stahelski. Please cast an actual Scottish actor as Connor. I love Highlander despite Christopher Lambert. I’ve never cared for Lambert as an actor never mind his horrible attempt at a Scottish accent. Oh, and can Ramirez be Spanish or Egyptian instead of Scottish? The reversal in accents was a very strange experience to me as a kid. Even though Sean Connery was amazing as Ramirez.
There was even talk from Stahelski of making Highlander a TV project. I’d be fine with that, but why not both? A Highlander trilogy of movies and then sign the lead star up to lead a TV show based on earlier times in Connor’s life. Connor was born in 1518, that’s a hell of a lot of time to play with.
Wrap it up, Fanboy
Overall, Highlander is a franchise I thought would never see the light of day again. I’m glad to hear I am not the only one who dreamed of rebooting the Highlander franchise into something more than it ever was. Highlander could be the next big fantasy movie, and a very different concept to anything else out there right now.
Hollywood is always looking for new ideas. Perhaps going back to older movies with unrealized potential is an avenue Hollywood could really mine. I can think of many pretty lame movies that had really good concepts that were badly executed. Maybe not everything quite has the potential of Highlander, but there is potential gold there. However, you have to get the right people who are passionate enough to be able to see the potential. I just hope Stahelski is that man when it comes to the highlander reboot.
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