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Lions Gate presents
Highlander: The Source (2007)

"There can be only me."
- The Guardian (Cristian Solimenos)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 28, 2008

Stars: Adrian Paul, Thekla Reuten, Peter Wingfield
Other Stars: Jim Byrnes, Cristian Solimeno, Stephen Rahman-Hughes, Stephen Wight, Thom Fell, Patrica Naiambana
Director: Brett Leonard

MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:26m:06s
Release Date: February 26, 2008
UPC: 031398217893
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- D+A-B B+

DVD Review

After over twenty years, four movies, six seasons and a spinoff, the Highlander mythos of Immortals who periodically do deadly combat to become the one survivor, has become hopelessly complicated and internally inconsistent, with few versions having much to do with one another. While Highlander: Endgame tried to act as a union of the theatrical and television versions, it was thoroughly unsatisfying as a way of getting closure to the many threads left hanging at the end of the series. This latest entry into the series manages that to some extent, but it has the feeling of something that has been subject to too many rewrites to the point of losing any comprehensible viewpoint or story.

The macguffin this time round is The Source, a holy grail of sorts that the Immortals are all seeking (though oddly it has never been so much as mentioned until now). That illustrious group includes martial artist Zai Jie (Stephen Rahman-Hughes), astronomer Reggie Weller (Stephen Wight), Cardinal Giovanni (Thom Fell) and the ancient Immortal Methos (Peter Wingfield, reprising his role from the series). Titular Highlander Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) unwillingly gets pulled into the quest thanks to a series of visions experienced by his estranged wife Anna (Thekla Reuten), also unmentioned until now. As society crumbles, an alignment of celestial bodies foretells the coming of The Source, but the Guardian (Cristian Solimenos), an Immortal with super speed, stands between them and the object of their quest.

While Hitchcock famously observed that the macguffin itself is irrelevant other than to put the action in motion, it's always nice when it makes some kind of sense. The Source not only comes from out of nowhere, but none of the Immortals seem clear on what it is or what it can do, and even after watching the film it's hard to say exactly what it is or what it means, other than a vague sense of being born into something more than an Immortal. The result is a sense of flailing about and convenient coincidences, made ridiculous by the notion of celestial alignments (a hoary piece of hokum if there ever was one) creating cosmic radiation, or for that matter that such a thing could be aimed at a particular spot on the Earth. The finale, when The Source is finally reached, feels entirely arbitrary and just an excuse for some choreographed swordplay and special effects overkill.

Things don't get any better with the events of the story, which seem to be driven more by the fact filming is cheap in Lithuania than by any sense of story or logical developments. When you add in a Russian trawler that takes the gang to an island full of cannibal bikers, the mind reels. The lack of flashbacks, a staple of the series, strips the story of the often epic feel that the series managed on a shoestring. While there aren't many Quickenings (the electrical storm that follows after one Immortal beheads another in combat), there is a truly spectacular one when the Guardian takes a life about a third of the way in.

Adrian Paul portrays Duncan as sick of life this time around (is he equally sick of the character?), and this seems at odds with where his character has been in the past. Eventually he finds his way, of course, but neither the starting point nor the transitions ring very true. There is a nice touch for fans of the series as he recalls Tessa briefly, and it's good to see Methos and former Watcher Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) again. Methos is a bit underwritten, without the sardonic lines that we're used to hearing from him, but at least the relationships between these two and Duncan work reasonably well. Methos does get off an amusing crack about having known Jesus to Cardinal Giovanni. The latter character is an interesting one who is both visually striking with a platinum blonde mane of hair and with competing internal motives. However, the inherent structural problem in the Highlander world means that inevitably the supporting cast must die sooner or later, making continuities difficult. The conclusion could work decently well as a climax to the legend if it made a little more sense, or it could open up yet another round of films. Whether that's a good thing remains to be seen.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Shot on digital video, the feature looks quite good in its anamorphic widescreen presentation. There's fine detail and texture, with reasonably deep blacks and fine shadow detail. The monochrome palettes uses in the various scenes are a little monotonous, but that's a design issue and not a transfer one. While there's a fair amount of mosquito and compression noise around the main titles, there's no sign of edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: 5.1 and 2.0 DD audio tracks are presented that offer good range to George Kallis' score. Explosions have OK depth, though not overwhelming. The foley clang of swords comes across very well. Dialogue is usually clear though at times the subtitles are useful.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Forbidden Kingdom, In the Shadow of the Moon, War, Saw IV
2 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Video game sneak peek
Extras Review: A Tribute to Bill Panzer (15m:21s) offers a look at the longtime producer and raconteur who helped make the DVDs of the television series so enjoyable. It's unclear whether his 2007 death will spell an end to the Highlander legend, since he did seem to be a prime mover behind it. The tribute is an effective one, making you wish you had met the guy.

The Process is a very substantial "Making of" that runs nearly as long as the feature itself (1h:21m:43s). There is plenty of background information and behind-the-scenes footage present, though those looking for post-production material may be disappointed since it closes with the wrap of principal photography. Nor is there any explanation for the long delay between that wrap in 2005 and the film's release in 2007, though the confusing presentation would indicate substantial reshoots and revision on the fly. It's in nonanamorphic widescreen, however, which is ridiculous at this stage of DVD's existence.

There's a comparison of storyboard to the finished footage for three scenes, running a total of 6m:31s. It's interesting mainly for the variations from the finished picture (such as a sequence with the Immortals falling into a pit trap made by the cannibals that never made it to the screen). There's also an insubstantial advert for the video game, and four unrelated trailers, two of which are in nonanamorphic widescreen.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

There are some old friends here for the fans of the series, but a combination of inaccessibility and incomprehensibility make it a tough slog for anyone else. The transfer is excellent, and the supporting documentary is pretty thorough if uncritical.

 


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