Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994) / Action-Fantasy
aka Highlander III: The Sorcerer
aka Highlander 3
aka Highlander: The Magician
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, nudity, sexuality, and language (a PG-13 trimmed-down version was released theatrically)
Running time: 106 min.
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Mario Van Peebles, Deborah Kara Unger, Mako, Ganriel Kakon,
Director: Andrew Morahan
Screenplay: Paul Ohl, Rene Manzor
Although a critical and commercial failure when it was released theatrically, Highlander would become a cult hit on video and cable, and developed a loyal fan base of its own through a unique, if nonsensical, mythology about immortals who battled until the end for the ultimate prize of knowledge. "There can be only one" became the popular catchphrase, and once there was only one left, the film ended, and so should any notions of a story continuation. Nevertheless, where there's money to be made, studios will go to cash their check and make a sequel, and Highlander II: The Quickening was the result. Trouble is, everyone hated it, mostly because it virtually undid everything people liked about the first film.
The Final Dimension (originally released theatrically in the US as Highlander III: The Sorcerer) begins sometime in Connor MacLeod's (Lambert, Mortal Kombat) past, where he goes to the Orient to learn the great fighting skills of a master, Nakano (Mako, Conan the Barbarian), who is leaned in the ways of illusion. After the training, MacLeod can gain all of Nakano's knowledge by lopping off his head, which he refuses to do. Unfortunately, a ruthless warlord named Kane (Van Peebles, Jaws the Revenge) gets to Nakano first, and nearly does in MacLeod before getting buried alive (literally alive) in the cavernous mountain lair where Nakano resides. Hundreds of years later, taking place after the end of Highlander, MacLeod learns that he actually isn't the only one left alive, as Kane is unearthed by archeologists studying the area, and thus the battle begins anew between good and evil immortals.
If people complained about Highlander II because it either contradicted or ignored nearly everything that happened in Highlander, then this third film, Highlander: The Final Dimension, could be criticized for adhering to the first film far too much. In fact, it's such a complete rehash in almost every respect, it might as well just be called a remake rather than a sequel. Although the makers of this entry wisely just ignore Highlander II altogether, they may arguably have made a worse film. The second film was out and out bad, but laughably so, to the point where one could find it amusing and fun on the level of a so-bad-it's-entertaining fiasco. For all of its severe faults, at the very least, it tried to take things into a new direction, even if that direction proved to be completely misguided.
This third film makes a more egregious error by not only being terrible, but also unfathomably boring as well. Although there are some things one could snicker at, the makers of this film didn't try to make a good film at any point. It's not exciting, it's not trying to do anything but give the fans what they think they want. After The Quickening fans wanted a return to the first film, to be sure, but they didn't want a pale imitation. Why watch an inferior copycat remake when you can watch the first one again?
As far as acting, Christopher Lambert is still his drab self, barely acting through scenes like some sort of robot, but it's hard to really notice or care when there are bigger fish to fry in the blame department as to why The Final Dimension is such a travesty. Mario Van Peebles doesn't do anything more than imitate Clancy Brown's Kurgan from the first film, to the point where I was confused as to whether his character, Kane, was supposed to be the same person. He's not, as apparently there are two immortals with the exact same personality and voice, as well as their penchant for prostitutes and wild joyrides through the city in automobiles containing helpless passengers. There's no explanation as to why Kane speaks English, and despite being trapped with his other cronies for 400 years, why they look exactly the same as they did when first entombed. Those are some damn fine threads to last for centuries!
My review for Highlander II ended with the words, "In the end... there should have been only one". I would normally have qualms about repeating that gag again for another sequel, but given the fact that this sequel is a also a repeat (of a previous movie), it's probably an ironic statement in two ways. When given the choice of sequels between off-the-wall incomprehensibility and flavorless redundancy, the best choice is none at all. To spice things up, I'll add one word to my previous phrase: In the end, there should have been only one end.
-- Followed by Highlander: Endgame, Highlander: The Source, and an animated feature, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance.
©2007 Vince Leo