When I heard they were making an animated Highlander feature film, I was relatively unimpressed. Highlander has had a very…”rocky” film and television history, to be polite, so I was expecting some more uninspired tripe along the lines of the ill-conceived and short-lived Highlander: the Animated Series. What I got was something completely unexpected: an animated film ripe with memorable characters, engaging storylines, mind-blowing fight scenes and drop-dead gorgeous animation. “Highlander: the Search for Vengeance” should be on every animation fan’s shelf, regardless of whether they give a damn about the Highlander franchise or not.
Colin MacLeod (Alistair Abell) is a Highlander: an immortal swordsman doomed to walk the Earth until all of his kind have slain one another. Centuries ago, MacLeod saw his beloved wife, Moya, crucified by a Roman General and fellow Highlander, Marcus Octavius. And so began a centuries-long rivalry that has lasted into the distant future. In a post-apocalyptic world, Colin has found Marcus ruling over a decimated Manhattan from his golden tower. Colin is joined by a group of rebels who need to stop Marcus from unleashing a virus that will murder thousands. However, their lives are immaterial to him, as Colin cares only for vengeance.
Yeah, I know, a Highlander in a post-apocalyptic future reeks of “Highlander II: the Quickening”, and the mere mention of that title might be enough to frighten off any decent Highlander fan in the audience. Well, let me just say, “Highlander: the Search for Vengeance” is everything “Highlander II” should have been. You know, good.
As far as continuity goes, I’m not the biggest Highlander buff in the world, so I’m not exactly sure how or even if it works into the established Highlander timeline, and I really don’t care. Whether you know everything about Highlander or nothing about Highlander, it doesn’t matter. This movie is a stand-alone tale which nicely recaps the Highlander mythos and holds up by itself, isolated from the rest of the franchise. It is very friendly to new-comers or just casual fans like myself, but is chalk-full of enough references and…just…Highlandery stuff to appease even the staunchest fanboy.
I think the most important place to start is the animation. When I bought the DVD I was entirely expecting something nice but cheap-looking, like the “Ultimate Avengers” animated films. Straight-to-video animation is usually good but never impressive. Well, let me say something so important I’m writing it in bold text: this movie should have been released in theaters. The animation is provided by Madhouse Studios, the same people who have given us “Ninja Scroll”, “Vampire Hinter D: Bloodlust”, “Perfect Blue” and HBO’s Spawn the Animated Series. On top of that, the animation was directed by the celebrated and endlessly talented Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the director of “Ninja Scroll”, “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” and “Wicked City”. So if you’ve seen just one of the films mentioned, you should know to expect some heart-pounding fight sequences and brilliantly innovative “camera” work. The animation in this film is so absolutely breath-taking it boggles the mind that it went straight to video. This movie has all the hard work and technical achievements of a big-budget theatrical animated film.
So if you haven’t guessed by now, “Highlander: the Search for Vengeance” is a collaboration between the United States and Japan. It was written by David Abramowitz, who might be best known to you Highlander fans as the guy who wrote Highlander: the Series and Highlander: the Raven. So needless to say, this guy knows his Highlander stuff. The story of Colin and Marcus as they battle through the ages is fantastic and epic. You loathe Marcus for his Hitler-esque desire to prune humanity into his vision of a master race, but you loathe Colin almost as much for being such a cold-hearted and single-minded zombie. There are other memorable characters in the film, as well. I wasn’t expecting to like Delilah, the prostitute rebel with a heart of gold, but Abramowitz actually works her character into something exceptional. Her sacrifice at the end of the film is especially moving. Then there’s possibly my favorite character, Amergan, the disembodied spirit of a Druid Priest who has haunted Colin across the centuries. He provides some of the comic relief and is personified expertly by Scott McNeil, one of the most prolific and popular voice actors in the industry. But he provides more than just well-timed wise-cracks, he’s actually out to try and coerce Colin from the dead end path of vengeance. I especially enjoyed his little revelation at the end which snaps Colin out of it.
“Highlander: the Search for Vengeance” is bound to be overlooked by the general public, what with Highlander not being the money-making machine it once was. Still, anyone who enjoys animated action films, and really, anybody who enjoys action films period should get a real kick out of this. Definitely one of the best releases of the year and it’s a real shame it wasn’t shown on the big screen.
This is the final Transformers One Sheet – I don’t know if any movie in history has had so many posters that all look almost exactly the same…
via Coming Soon
Sci-Fi Wire is reporting that Tyrese Gibson is closer than ever to playing “Luke Cage” – an early African-American Marvel comics superhero.
“They’re doing rewrites on it now, and we actually have a meeting coming up on it soon, from what I hear, just to see where we are with the whole thing,” Gibson said in an interview while promoting Transformers. “Right now they’re in the process of getting the rewrites done, and then they’ll, I guess, do kind of a formal presentation to see if it’s going to be a go.”
Gibson is very enthusiastic about the project. When asked why he wanted to play the “Hero for Hire” he replied: “I just love his presence, and I love the fact that he’s one of the first black comic-book characters. I’d like to make the comic-book world proud with what I’m looking to do with Luke Cage. So hopefully the opportunity all pans itself out. Me and Singleton are both looking to be a part of it, if the screenplay turns out right. I met with [producer] Avi Arad, and he’s very excited about the possibility. But you can’t do a great movie without a great script, and the ducks have got to line up.”
I typically refrain from making title-related puns in my reviews, but to be frank, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” totally wipes out. Tim Story’s last Fantastic Four film was an utter disaster of a comic book movie from start to finish. I hadn’t left a comic book movie feeling that disappointed since Ang Lee’s “Hulk”. Well, it pains me to say this, but Story didn’t learn a single thing from the slew of negative responses the first film garnered. Just about everything that made the “Fantastic Four” a chore to watch is present in the sequel as well as a cornucopia of new annoyances and irritations.
Reed Richards AKA Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and Susan Storm AKA the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) are finally getting married. However, the sudden arrival of a mysterious celestial being that causes disasters all across the world has put their wedding plans on hold. It seems this Silver Surfer (played by Doug Jones, voiced by Lawrence Fishburne) is the herald of Galactus, the Devourer or Worlds, and Earth is next on the menu. Reed, Susan and the rest of the Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm AKA the Human Torch (Chris Evans) and Ben Grimm AKA the Thing (Michael Chiklis), must team with their old foe, Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), to save the world. But Doom has his eye on the Surfer’s board which is in reality the Power Cosmic, the source of the Surfer’s incredible power.
I’m a comic book nerd and I have no compunctions about admitting it. So when I go into a comic book movie, yes, I look for accuracy, but at the same time I try to view the movie from an unbiased perspective and try to understand and appreciate the various changes. Unfortunately, in the case of Tim Story’s Fantastic Four series, these changes aren’t just bad due to inaccuracies to the source, they’re just bad period.
Making Galactus nothing more than an angry storm cloud is unacceptable. So apparently a giant guy in purple spandex and a stupid helmet would be too difficult to bring to life in a live action movie. Well, if you want to do Galactus then find a way to make it work. How? Don’t ask me, I’m not the one being paid millions of dollars to come up with the movie. Making Galactus such a non-character, basically nothing more than a sentient cloud of fire and space dust, is unforgivable.
Then you have the other villains of the film. There’s the sorrowful Silver Surfer who actually has next to no character depth or personality whatsoever. I know he’s supposed to be quiet and enigmatic, but for someone whose name is in the title of the movie, he’s really quite boring. However, he isn’t the real villain of the film. Dr. Doom returns and that laughable yuppie voice he speaks with returns with him. If there’s one thing Story could have changed, why couldn’t he have let Doom speak with a commanding voice while wearing the helmet? I feel like Dr. Doom should be serving me wine at a high-end restaurant, not enslaving humanity. He’s only marginally more threatening once he obtains the Power Cosmic, too. I think Tim Story based this Dr. Doom on the version that appeared in the first season of the 90’s cartoon series. Once he attains the Surfer’s God-like powers he doesn’t unveil any complex hidden agendas or outrageous world-domination schemes…he aspires to do no more than blow shit up. That’s not Dr. Doom. Hell, that’s not even Blastarr.
The movie tries to fit too much into too little a run-time. You’ve got Reed and Sue’s wedding, Johnny getting Super Skrull-like powers, the army recruiting the Fantastic Four, Reed and Sue having doubts about being heroes, Johnny growing up, the Surfer doing stuff, Dr. Doom doing stuff, Galactus hovering ominously overhead…Tim Story has so much he wants to tell but doesn’t have the time nor the directorial skill to tell it all.
As far as the acting and the effects go, it’s all a bit mediocre. I actually don’t mind Gruffudd as Reed, Evans as Johnny or Chiklis as Ben; they actually bring the characters to life fairly well. Jessica Alba has never been a good choice for Sue, though. She plays up the super-bitch aspects of Sue but casts aside all the warmth of the character, making her rather unlikable. It also doesn’t help that with the blonde dye-job, the blue contacts, the layers of make-up and cosmetic enhancements…she basically looks like a mannequin brought to life. The effects are alright, though Reed’s stretching still looks far too fake and cartoonish. The Silver Surfer’s effects were quite good but just about every single action sequence he appears in was used in the trailers and TV spots, so don’t be expecting anything new or exciting when you get to the theater.
I’d say that “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” was the biggest disappointment of the summer, but to be honest, I had little hope for this movie from the start. There’s just no real reason I can think of to go see this movie. If you’re a fan of good action movies, then skip it, as it’s very poorly put together. If you’re a fan of the Fantastic Four, then definitely skip it, as it’s a very poorly scripted and poorly conceived adaptation of the comics.