I can’t be the only one that sees the irony in a franchise which sports the iconic tagline of “There can only be one” getting rebooted, right? And yet, that’s exactly what several people have been trying to do with the Highlander series for years now. After several attached directors and actors though, we’re still no closer to seeing the story of sword-wielding immortal warriors who can only be killed by decapitation that began with Christopher Lambert’s Conor MacLeod in 1986 returning to the screen. And if it does return, it may not be on the screen you would be expecting.
That’s the impression given by director Chad Stahelski (of John Wick 1-3 fame) who is the most recent filmmaker to be attached to the project. He’s had that distinction since 2016, and as he explained to Collider in a recent interview, one of the major reasons why no movie has been forthcoming in that time is because it may not be a movie.
We’re trying to get it done. Anyone who knows anything about the property knows it has a lot of meat to it. It’s a good property. It’s got a lot of
potential. We’re just trying to figure out the best way not to fuck it up. Not to try and fit it into a 1 hour, 45 minutemovie, which, when your pitch is, ‘There can be only one,’ and in your first movie you kill everybody but the one, sequels have a problem of happening. So we’re trying to design in a way that gives us a little more lead in, a little more time with the mythology and see some of the best characters.
As anybody who has seen the rather ridiculous Highlander II with its almost incomprehensible retcon-ish explanation for the origin of immortals (they were aliens?… from the past?… but also the future?… who were rebels?… or something?) knows, this issue of future storytelling is actually a very pertinent concern to have. The original film was a standalone effort which barely made a blip at the box office, but then proved surprisingly popular enough as a cult classic to get a sequel, and thus had to have more story just tacked on.
Even planning out a film trilogy of sorts has the problem in that – much like has happened far too often – a film would be busy focusing on setting up a sequel/sequels instead of focusing on being good itself. So what do you do? Aim for something with a bit more leeway than a couple of movies, which allows you to explore far more ideas.
They did seven seasons of TV, and even though the TV show may not hold up today, the idea of it and the characters they brought in were super cool. So we’re trying to devise a methodology that leads up to The Quickening. You just don’t end with a one-on-one battle in New York, cut off a guy’s head, and that’s it. We want to do this in such a way that it becomes more of a series whether it’s short form or long form that would let us explore that in the best way. I have a huge, heartfelt love and respect for the project, so we’re trying to find the best way to do it to give fans what they want.
As Stahelski mentioned, the previous TV series – which starred Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, one of Conor’s clansmen – was very popular as is ran for years from 1992 to 1998. It was created in a time though when TV definitely took a back seat to movies in term of production quality. We’re currently in what many have dubbed the golden age of television, so if the Highlander reboot were to return on the small screen, it will definitely not be compromised in any way.
We’re well past the script phase in terms of what we want to accomplish with a feature-length version of what we want and based on there being more after that. We want to tell the complete story of The Quickening, the Immortals, and all that. But the overall environment is changing so much. Look what Netflix is doing with TV now. As an action designer myself, there are two or three episodes of Game of Thrones that blow away 90% of features. Netflix has a whole new delivery system with features on that coming off differently and letting filmmakers and directors expand out without being crushed by opening weekend box office. So there’s a couple different mediums we want to explore and what is the best way to bring this out in.
Highlander is a classic concept that could indeed be very good if reimagined well, but it could also be rather crap. It’s all going to come down to the execution. At least we know that Stahelski’s action directing chops is certainly up to par, in that regard.
Now if only they can get a fitting leading man as well. Thus far both Tom Cruise and Ryan Reynolds’ names have been attached, and while I’m a fan of both men’s work, they really don’t scream Conor MacLeod to me (Stahelski has previously confirmed Conor will be the focus again). James Purefoy would have been absolutely perfect if he was still 20 years younger. Some fans have thrown Tom Hardy’s name into the hat, but
Last Updated: January 21, 2019