Dimension Films has released "Highlander: Endgame" (the fourth in the "Highlander" film series) in an "Ultimate Two-Disc Collection" that promises "More Action, More Steamy Scenes, All-New Ending!"
My question: WHY?!?
More pointedly, where's the action, and where are the steamy scenes? This DVD edition is supposed to be 12 minutes longer than the theatrical version, and yet, nothing here makes me believe that I'm really seeing more of "Endgame" than I would have had I actually seen it in a theater.
The basic premise of the "Highlander" films recalls the grandeur of medieval epics--Immortal humans who carry swords with them at all times, battling through the centuries to take each other's life force. There are beheadings left and right. Plus, the Immortals get to say a pretty cool line when they lop off a head: "There can be only one."
However, no one has ever gotten it right. The first "Highlander" was a plodding, miserable affair. The thuddingly stupid script made little sense. Star Christopher Lambert, a French actor, always looks bewildered in these movies. (His return to "Highlander" projects suggests that he needs money badly and that he is just happy to have a career.) The project also featured, of all people, Sean Connery. How far the mighty James Bond had fallen, indeed, to have appeared in such nonsense.
The sequels "Highlander 2: The Quickening" and "Highlander: Final Dimension" were simply unbearable. They weren't even good enough to be camp or kitsch classics. Each one completely dismissed the previous film(s), as if to say that whatever we had learned was all a sham, that this time, it was the real thing.
Meanwhile, "Highlander" the TV series was doing some damage of its own. Star Adrian Paul has been a more dependable actor than Lambert, but the storylines were garbage. The creative team made little effort to explore the potentially rich mythology behind the Immortals. Instead, we got amateurishly-staged swordfights and awful accents from bad actors.
Suffice it to say that I couldn't care less when I heard that "Endgame" was coming to a theater near me. I avoided it like one would avoid an in-law, but my poor friend David Keckich suffered the indignation of paying good money to see it. Here are some of his comments concerning "Endgame": "The special effects budget is liberally estimated at $853.25. I could do better with a few boogers and some dental floss...There is a climactic fight scene wherein THE CAMERA PANS TO SOME PLUMBING for a few seconds during the action. I don't have any idea why, unless the movie was made in someone's basement, and they had to show the pipes to make them tax-deductible."
I finally saw it for the purposes of reviewing the DVD, and BY JOVE did I waste precious hours watching and writing about this wretched affair.
In the movie, Connor (Lambert) and Duncan (Paul) come up against Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne), an Immortal who breaks all the rules concerning "The Game" that the Immortals play. Since Kell is so powerful, Connor and Duncan realize that they have to join forces to defeat Kell. That's all that the movie sets out to accomplish, but it drags on forever.
Like sequels 2 and 3, "Endgame" conveniently develops selective amnesia and refers to the first film on a whim. There are a lot of inane flashbacks to Connor and Duncan's shared past, as if to say that, all of a sudden, these two have been doing everything together for ages. We have a flashback that shows how Connor knew Kell back in the good old days. Whatever. These films constantly rewrite their own histories, and they no longer have any credibility whatsoever. If they don't respect their past, why should we?
The worst insult of all is the Kate character, Duncan's wife. Who is this girl? And where are the "More Steamy Scenes" that the DVD promises to show?
"Endgame" is a recent movie, so Buena Vista delivers a nice, dirt-free transfer. It's framed at 2.35:1 (despite the back label that states 1.85:1--this studio always manages to goof on its labels) and is enhanced for widescreen TVs. The image suffers from a bit of grain inherent in the film stock, and the dark lighting (to hide the shoddy "special" effects) turns a couple of the nighttime sequences into an endurance test for viewers' eyes. Overall, a good transfer that suffers from elements beyond the control of DVD compressionists during the mastering phase.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is suitably loud for this sort of enterprise, but it fails to impress. There are standard-issue directionality effects that aren't atmospherically subtle, and the sound field isn't as immersive as the ones in "Saving Private Ryan" or "Titanic." C'mon, guys, simple stereo effects simply won't cut it in today's market. Still, dialogue is clear, and no hiss, "tinniness," or imbalance of sound mars the track.
Buena Vista found a bunch of extras for this edition of "Endgame" (after all, there are two discs). On disc one, you can watch the film with a commentary track by the producers, or you can read the script while comparing it to the final cut of the film if you have access to a DVD-ROM drive. There is a featurette on the visual effects, a "There Can Be Only One" trivia game, and three deleted scenes. Surprisingly, the trailer for "Endgame" is not included among the eight trailers found in the "Sneak Peeks" portion of the disc.
On disc two, you can watch a behind-the-scenes featurette. Like the supplemental materials found on disc one, this is a wax job, a self-indulgent piece that amounts to little more than everybody praising everybody else for a "good" time. Also, these bonus materials become highly repetitive of one another.
Finally, horror of horrors, you can watch a SECOND VERSION of "Highlander: Endgame." The producers thought that the fans would like to see the rough print of the movie as it would appear on an AVID computer editing machine, complete with unfinished special effects, temporary music selections, and extraneous subplots. By the gods, why anyone would want to sit through "Endgame" twice is beyond me (yet, I bet you good money that someone out there actually saw this twice in the theaters).
Dimension actually put a lot of effort into this DVD. Heck, it even has nice motion menus. However, I will never understand why anyone bothered to spend so much time and money trying to make "Highlander: Endgame" a prestige DVD package.