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DVD Review: HIGHLANDER 2 Special Edition

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PHOTOGRAPHY

HIGHLANDER 2 SPECIAL EDITION

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 109 minutes, 2 discs, featurettes, deleted scenes, trailers

STUDIO: LION'S GATE/ REPUBLIC PICTURES

RELEASE DATE: 7-20-2004

ANALYSIS:  HIGHLANDER 2 has had a troubled history from the beginning. The producers put themselves into a corner with the end of the first movie. They made some mistakes by trying to write themselves out of that dead end. Then they found Argentina when they thought was a great place to film the sequel. The problems were only to begin as they were mandated to expand Sean Connery's role beyond a cameo and they had to bring in new crew members (and equipment) from other countries as the movie's production went on because Argentina's film industry wasn't experienced for the production of a film like Highlander 2. The problems continue to mount as the producers and director Russell Mulcahy fought with the bonding company before the bonding company stepped in and took over the movie.

However, HIGHLANDER 2 redeemed itself when a Director's Cut was released in 1995 incorporating scenes cut from the movie (and scenes shot 4 years after the movie was first released) edited in their proper order and the references to the immortals coming from the Planet Zeist were cut out. Now the producers have been able to visit the Director's Cut again in 2004 with over 100 new and improved special effects shots (however one short scene before the climatic fight between Katana (Michael Ironside) and Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) did get cut). The special effects make me like HIGHLANDER 2 even more despite the loss of one scene. The original HIGHLANDER 2 (aka HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING) was a mess and the DC clears things up (and the new special effects in the 2004 edition look better than the original effects).

VIDEO/AUDIO: The 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer is great. This transfer features over 100 new and improved special effects in addition to it being a new High Definition master struck from the original film negative. The colors are great while the blacks range from OK to great. Image detail is nice and sharp. The only thing I noticed during the transfer is that grain does show up from time to time and one sequence looks faded compared to the rest of the movie.

New English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and 6.1 DTS ES were made for this DVD edition. You can also hear the movie in English 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. The only subtitle option is English. I will focus on the 5.1 DD EX track. Dialogue is easy to hear. Stewart Copeland's music score is the most active on the track, but the sound mix does get more active sounding in the second half of the movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

THE DECONSTRUCTION OF HIGHLANDER 2 amounts to over 20 minutes of B-roll footage giving insight on how things were done and what happened between takes. You can view the 12 separate segments alone or as part of a branching option when you watch the movie. The rest of the extras are found on disc two.

HIGHLANDER 2: SEDUCED BY ARGENTINA is a fifty minute documentary about how the sequel came about and shooting the film in Argentina. they face numerous problems from having to bring in equipment and crew members to inflation to the bonding company taking the picture over (before the movie was saved later by the director's cut which included new scenes shot 4 years after the original production and new special effects 10 years after that). This extensive documentary features interviews from various members of the cast and crew, and an extensive amount of behind-the-scenes footage from the production (including video of the city set being constructed). Christopher Lambert enjoyed making the movie while visual effects designer Sam Nicholson met the woman he would marry years later (she's the woman who sat in the plane next to Sean Connery).

THE REDEMPTION OF HIGHLANDER 2 is a featurette going into how the movie's special effects were re-done with computers for this DVD. Visual effects designer Sam Nicholson talks about what was being done, how the original effects were done, and examples of how the new effects look through various stages of work.

THE MUSIC OF HIGHLANDER 2 enters the big ego of Stewart Copeland as he talks about the music of Highlander 2, the computer he used to write the score, and how the score was composed.

THE FABRIC OF HIGHLANDER 2 has costume designer Deborah Everton talk about how she designed the costumes of Highlander 2 from using certain styles for the main characters while making the extras look over-the-top in the way they dress.

SHADOW AND DARKNESS: THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF HIGHLANDER 2 features director of photography Phil Meheux talking about the lighting of Highlander 2 and being influenced by other cinematographers in how he lights a scene.

Also included are 5 1/2 minutes of deleted scenes including an alternate "fairy tale" ending (which I'm glad wasn't used). Too bad they didn't include the scene they cut from the 2004 version of HIGHLANDER 2.

ORIGINAL CANNES FILM FESTIVAL PROMOTION REEL is a 9 1/2 minute trailer shown at Cannes back in 1991 and it has made it's first appearance since then(from a new HD transfer) for this DVD.

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL TRAILER is so-so. I think the Cannes Promo Reel is much better. Even though they did a HD transfer for this, it has some speckles and grain present.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Impressive set of extras and a new transfer (with improved FX) makes this DVD worth owning by any fan of the HIGHLANDER films.

this DVD Review is (c)12-30-2004 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia