Going back to the old hometown to take care of a relative is, in movies, usually a time for personal growth: you realize you’re on the wrong path, reconnect with a long-lost love, and generally point your life in a better direction.
In my case, I spent my time in the swamp working on stories, running errands for said relative, and watching the movies I’d brought with me over and over. I did uncover a new superpower, however, and one I am going to share with readers: years after initial viewing, I can still talk for hours about the first Highlander movie. This is not necessarily more useful than my other superpower—the ability to fill a Downy Ball to the line without looking—but it is a good deal more bloggable.
My History with the Methos…er, Mythos: That’s the other reason I thought this might be a fun topic to tear into: I didn’t see the movie till the late ’90s, by which time I’d spent years surrounded by people, including my mother, who were fans of Highlander: The Series. I’d watched the series quite a bit. (I’d also seen perhaps ten minutes of the second movie, which, like many right-thinking Highlander fans, I have decided does not actually exist.) Yet I can’t remember the moment I first came into contact with the premise, or the line “There can be only one”: like Star Wars, it’s one of those things that seeped into the collective unconscious of the culture, which I find even more interesting.
When I finally did watch the movie, I became an instant and mildly obsessed fan. I’ve always loved anything with a lot of swordfighting in it—Zorro, Robin Hood—so there was no real chance Highlander would disappoint. And though it still doesn’t, repeated viewings suggest to me that the film has got…issues. In some cases, issues that resist what is popularly known as fanwank; in some others, issues that delightfully adapt themselves to it. And here we are.
A Word of Warning: This is in no way intended for people who haven’t seen the movie: a lot of the things I want to talk about involve patterns, so while I’ll be roughly chronological about bringing things up, there will be references to later scenes. Probably a lot of them. Anyway, why haven’t you watched Highlander? It’s fun. There’s a Queen soundtrack. Go do it.
PART 1: WHAT’S CONNOR’S DEAL, ANYWAY?
This is something it took me several years to notice, in part because the conventions surrounding heroes in a movie like this are so strong that you fill in details that are never made clear. When we first meet our protagonist, he is sitting in the audience at a professional wrestling event, looking as if he’d just seen a bus filled with puppies drive off a cliff. (I could instantly relate: this is the exact face I make when I’m at a party I don’t want to attend.) He senses another immortal, and they abscond to the parking lot and have a swordfight that involves pointless back flips. Naturally, the Highlander prevails.
Through the rest of the movie, there’s a sort of implication—during his training with Ramirez, for example—that Connor is at best a reluctant participant in the whole Gathering process, and certainly not someone who stabs first and asks questions later. So what is he doing there? Is he torturing himself by going to watch wrestling that gives him origin-story flashbacks? Does he have an appointment with Fasil for some sort of showdown? Or is he actually hunting the guy?
Read the next one: More intro + our villain.
Next time: Stealth Ken Russell.