How Not To Screw Up The Highlander Reboot

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Twitter was all of a flutter last Friday, as there was speculation that Highlander, the cult classic eighties film, was potentially being rebooted. Henry Cavill is said to be attached to the project as well. While writing for this very site, I have written of my hatred for reboots and remakes – but this is something I could really get on board with. How to create a reboot of a film with a cult following? Well – we have some ideas.

The Magic Came From A Mesh Of Influences

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Credit: Universal Pictures

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The magic of what makes Highlander Highlander comes from a mesh of interwoven influences that belong, perhaps, to a less politically correct time. Think about it; we had a Scottish actor play a Spanish character, a French actor play a Scottish and American highlander. There are a host of sequences set on locations across the US, Scotland, Germany – and with that comes a patchwork of time references, different clothing, customs. And yet, arguably, the characters did not adapt. They were still fully much themselves and did not necessarily have to adapt their persona, either.

Forget Script Lines As A Homage

Reboots and remakes are sometimes criticised for being cringey and/or cliched, especially when it comes to dialogue. If you think about Ghostbusters for example, the glib remarks about ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghost’ became very irritating, and quickly. The idea of a homage to the older film does not always work, especially when it is clumsily executed. If this is done to Highlander, it will destroy the reboot – especially because the mesh of influences being bought together are difficult to replicate.

So – forget the script lines as a tribute to the older film. It’s cringey, cliched.

The Dowry And The Arrogance

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Credit: Universal Pictures

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The need of the Highlander to win the prize is matched by having to play the part – there is the dowdy and the arrogance. A sequence of scenes sees Christopher Lambert’s character chucked out of his Scottish village settlement, as he has survived a fatal injury. The gift of immortality has to be concealed to not draw attention to him. However, when the Kurgan comes to call – more on him in a second – there is an arrogance, an embrace of the immortality gift. This is matched with Brian May’s soundtrack contribution of Gimme The Prize – that there can only be one who wins the prize, the equivalent of walking among Gods and legends. That is the arrogance.

Reboots and remakes often have quite one-dimensional characters, because the reboot has just been taken verbatim from the original media. But actual, real character development – going from the dowdy to the arrogance in embracing being a Highlander – would be refreshing to see. By avoiding making a political point such as through casting, this seems to be a good way to go.

The Kurgan Needs To Be Scary With A Reason

Hands up; who was totally terrified of the Kurgan? The distinctive vocal tone with an attitude all at once vindictive and entitled, the Kurgan was incredibly scary if you watched Highlander as a child. This was especially added to when his head was partially severed, meaning the voice changed ever so slightly, and pins were needed to keep the head, well, in place. The Kurgan was scary but actually had a reason – compared to other villians, he was evil with a cause. The Kurgan wanted the prize, and all the Highlanders needed to be dead for this to be accomplished – with the heads being severed, but churches being the only place of refuge.

What About The Queen Soundtrack?

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Credit: Universal Pictures

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Musically speaking, the original Highlander film was significantly enhanced by the Queen soundtrack, which also did a lot for the band as well. Whether it was the soaring vocals of Freddie Mercury singing New York, New York, a choreographed music video battle to the sound of Princes Of The Universe, or even a lyrical name check with A Kind Of Magic, the music was pretty special. (More on the latter in just a minute.) The music arguably added a lot to the original release of Highlander, and often underscored some of the most dramatic, even tender moments. A Kind Of Magic is an album of a generation – and is still so often played today. It’s place within the film should not be underestimated – but would it really fit with a reboot? Hmmm..

Rachel Is A Kind Of Magic

The story of Rachel as one of the key characters of the original Highlander films is very poignant. Rachel was a small girl, a child running from the Nazis. Her mother, father and everyone else had died meanwhile. She accidentally finds the Highlander in his hiding place, who takes care of her. Shot by a Nazi, he protects her – and regaining consciousness, the child is confused. To which he whispers: “shh, it’s a kind of magic”. Following a witty take down of the Nazis as a ‘master race’, Rachel is taken to live in the States, and watches the lonely Highlander as a kind of receptionist assistant. She should take centre stage, too.

Cameos? The Jury Is Out On That One

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Credit: Universal Pictures

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Cameos are sometimes a bit hit and miss – especially if created in an in-your-face fashion. The real Erin Brockovich actually appeared in the film of her life – but you probably did not know that, unless your eagle eye spotted this in the film credits. Arguably that was a better cameo. It’s the same with Doctor Who – such as with the last scenes with the 5oth anniversary episode. (If you know, you know.) It would be lovely to have Christopher Lambert back on screen after all these years – but in a way that is subtle, nuanced. Reboots and remakes often have an element of cheesiness to them, which is to their detriment – but to see a reboot of a classic, one beloved by generations still, would be so very refreshing.

There can only be one Highlander, and there can only be one Freddie Mercury – but this has such potential. Let’s see it happen.

What do you make of this story? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages! And if you enjoy listening to film podcasts, why not check out our podcasts, Small Screen Stories and Small Screen Film Club wherever you get your podcasts!



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