21 February 2008

Highlander: The Source Review

Last night, I treated myself to a geek fest of pizza rolls and a late night viewing of Highlander: The Souce . (The folks at M80 Marketing were gracious enough to send me an advance copy of the DVD. Everyone else will have to wait until next Tuesday to score a copy.) I was a little giddy remembering sneaking a watch of the original Highlander movie on HBO when I was but just a lad. At 35 the prospects of pizza rolls after 9:00 PM is a risky proposition at best, but I felt duty bound to forge ahead.

It was around 3 this morning that my nostalgia caught up with my acid reflux and I tried to digest my earlier experience. The original Highlander movie was a watershed moment for a young geek. What was there not to love about a movie that combined trench coats, swords, flying heads, a bad guy as evil as Darth Vader, and the girl next door charms of Roxanne Hart? For a young adolescent, it was one of my first brushes with the cult classic.

The gas pains of the pizza rolls then forced me to remember the pain of watching Highlander 2 in all its planet Zeist glory. By that time, I was beginning college and a general disenchantment with the world had started. What was one more fond youthful memory that got smashed? It was with this baggage I returned to the Highlander saga. But this time it was with the hopefulness that being a 30 something father brings to one’s life. Maybe this time around would be different.

The Source takes place in the “proverbial not too distant future”. The society in Eastern Europe has broken down due to some unnamed malady. There is a very “Escape from New York” feel about the chaos that now rules the streets. It is against this backdrop that a loosely aligned group of Immortals recognizes that the time of the Source is at hand.

The lovesick and apathetic protagonist Duncan MacLeod finds himself wandering like an Errant Knight amidst events he could care less about. Sick of being playing Immortal’s games, Duncan reluctantly joins the quest to find the origins of the Immortal’s powers. Their way is stymied all the while by this incarnation’s psoriasis skinned baddie, The Guardian.

As I got into the movie, it seemed like pretty standard Highlander fare. All the elements of a heroic tale are present to an almost text book Joseph Campbell tee. I do applaud the script writers for not dumbing down the political details and secondary characters. There are enough clues to both elements to let the viewer’s imagination fill in the blanks.

The script attempts to use the same “fill in the blank” technique with Duncan and his role in the quest for the Source. It seems the writers were shooting for a less cerebral Immortal version of The Fountain. Just like the Aronofsky opus, The Source addresses some fundamental concerns of the human experience.

The realization of this small plot device forced me to reexamine my initial opinion of the movie. The Source obliquely speaks to us in our 30’s and 40’s who grew up with Highlander in what we consider its purest form. Impending mortality, personal legacies, disenchantment, broken relationships, and lost life goals all nag in the subtext of the script. While the elements of swashbuckling that appealed to me as an adolescent are ever present throughout The Source, there is a more “grown-up” appeal.

This makes the Connor MacLeod story a fairy tale of our younger days. What else could explain the continuity issues and the franchise turning its back on the original movie? The Source and TV series then become the grown up, real world Highlander. The things of childhood have been put away and the real issues and struggles of life begin. Not the imagined and petty problems of our teen years.

After making this mental leap, I felt a little warm and fuzzy about The Source. My bloodlust and emotional needs had been met. Now, since I’ve resolved that issue, will someone tell me how to stop my pizza roll induced heartburn?

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