Director – Brett Leonard, Screenplay – Mark Bradley & Stephen Kelvin Watkins, Story – Mark Bradley, Producers – [dvd cover only] Peter S. Davis & William Panzer, Photography – Steve Arnold, Music – George Kallis, Visual Effects Supervisors – Alan Church & Simon Giles, Visual Effects – Anibrain Digital (Supervisor – Jesh Krishna Murthy), Special Effects Supervisors – Michael Clifford & Jens Doeldissen, Prosthetics – Bob Keen, Ian Morse & Kevin Nelson, Production Design – Tom Brown. Production Company – Lionsgate/Davis Panzer Productions/Sequence Film Ltd/Grosvenor Park/Katana Productions/Mandala Productions/Lietuvos Kino Studija
Adrian Paul (Duncan McLeod), Thekla Reuten (Anna), Cristian Solimeno (The Guardian), Peter Wingfield (Methos), Thom Fell (Giovanni), Stephen Wight (Reggie Weller), Jim Byrnes (Joe Dawson), Patrice Naiambana (The Elder), Stephen Rahman-Hughes (Zai Jie)
It is sometime in the near future. The Immortal Duncan McLeod is passing through Eastern Europe. Duncan is nearby as fellow Immortal Zai Jie is killed by The Guardian, a creature of supernatural powers that protects the secret of The Source, a mystical power that many Immortals including Duncan believe to be a myth. All across the Solar System and galaxy, planets are moving out of orbit and into alignment. Duncan is reluctantly drawn in to join three other Immortals who come together and set out on a quest to find The Source. Guided by the visions of Duncan’s mortal former girlfriend Anna, they head across the lawless wastelands of Europe. They are hunted by The Guardian who slaughters the Immortals until only the predestined One is left to claim The Source.
Highlander: The Source is the fifth film in the franchise that began with Highlander (1986) starring Christopher Lambert. This proved a popular success and the franchise continued through three other sequels – Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Highlander III: The Sorcerer/Highlander III: The Final Dimension/Highlander III: The Magician (1994) and Highlander: Endgame (2000), plus three tv series with Highlander (1992-97), Highlander: The Animated Series (1994-5) and Highlander: The Raven (1998-9), as well as an anime film Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (2007) that was released around the same time as this.
I liked the original Highlander. However, I lost interest in the series a long time ago after realizing that each successive Highlander entry seemed to regard continuity between films as a ragged ball of wool that it could discard and drag in different directions whenever it suited its needs. Christopher Lambert retired from the series, allowing himself to be killed off at the end of Endgame, and the show is now carried by Adrian Paul who played the hero of the first tv series. I never got much into any of the tv series but several of the principal characters from the first series – Jim Byrne’s Joe Dawson and Peter Wingfield’s Methos – have been brought back here.
Highlander: The Source is directed by Brett Leonard. After debuting with the low-budget horror film The Dead Pit (1989), Leonard emerged in the mid-90s with The Lawnmower Man (1992), which became a modest hit because of its then-cutting edge computer animation, even though the rest of the film was intellectually dead. Leonard made other films reliant on CGI effects with Hideaway (1995) and Virtuosity (1995), both of which were flops. Leonard went away to make I-MAX shorts for several years, before returning with Man-Thing (2005), the only Marvel Comics adaptation of the 00s that has failed to get a cinematic release, and his best film to date, Feed (2005) about feeder fetishism. And then there was Highlander: The Source, a film so roundly reviled that Brett Leonard may now have difficulty even finding work making IMAX shorts.
It is astonishing to realize that someone could make a film that was even worse than Highlander II: The Quickening. Everything about Highlander: The Source is awful. Way beyond awful – we are talking Edward D. Wood Jr on a multi-million dollar budget. And not too surprisingly Highlander: The Source was a complete flop. It was released direct to dvd where it did almost no business, while in the US it was dumped straight into screenings on the Sci-Fi Channel. Producers Peter S. Davis & William Panzer who have been behind all the other Highlander films have declined credit on-screen (although they do appear listed as producers on the dvd box cover).
Highlander: The Source is a film made with a shoddy indifference to all but the most basic elements of filmmaking – like anything that goes beyond rudimentary technical effort from a directorial standpoint or a plot that anybody except a young child might have thought interesting or credible. The film’s premise about every planet across the universe suddenly coming into alignment is completely nonsensical in any astronomical sense. (If all the planets of the Solar System had come into alignment and were visible to the eye as they are at the climax, this would cause massive geological and gravitational instability in the Earth, including tidal waves, if not tearing the Earth’s crust apart). The dialogue throughout the film is absolutely awful. It is difficult to describe how dismally lines like “The alignment is pointing to a small island … It’s near water” sound on screen. It is hard to count the number of times the phrase “There can be only one,” the advertising byline for the first Highlander film, is used – there is hardly a scene goes by where someone does not use it.
The script throws up epic ideas – a quest since the dawn of time for a mysterious something and events of world-ending potential dependent on this – but in the end these peter out and nothing much happens. Without any surprise, Adrian Paul turns out to be the One that finds The Source, although all that happens when he does receive it is that it grants him the ability to have a child – you keep thinking, this is the secret they have been guarding since the dawn of time, not to mention had planets all across the universe moving for? In truth, The Source is only a weak variant on the McGuffin of The Prize in Highlander – a mystical Holy Grail of intentionally vague purpose that is used to drive the plot along. The ineptitudes of the script are such that the writers are too lazy to give the idea any trimmings to make it stand up as more than that.
Rather than pit Adrian Paul against another Immortal villain this time, there is the new character of The Guardian, which comes in body armour, long-engraved rings and a sped-up head like something out of Silent Hill (2006). Alas, the effect of the character’s appearance is ruined by the entirely campy performance given in the part by Cristian Solimeno. Moreover, there is no reason ever given why this character is running around eliminating people. At least Adrian Paul looks pissed off about being there and reduces his performance to a near-Neanderthal glower.
Hopefully, with the utterly dismal flop and public ridicule that greeted Highlander: The Source, it may get through to the producers that the Highlander series is one that needed to have been retired well over a decade ago and that everything they have been doing since has only been attempts to apply electricity to a corpse that has long been brain dead. Unfortunately, still ahead of us we have a remake of the original to look forward to sometime in the 2010s.
(Winner Worst Film in this site’s Worst Films of 2007 list).