I’d like to talk about a growing concern of mine: the Highlander reboot. I recently re-watched Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, a wonderful anime film based on the 1986 live-action film, Highlander. Highlander is the story of Scottish warrior, Connor MacLeod, who discovers he’s an Immortal after he’s killed by a ruthless Highlander in the year 1536. While not a financial success at the time of its release, the film quickly developed a cult following, which led to 4 sequels, a 119 episode television series, a 22 episode spin-off of the television series, novels, video games, an animated series, comics, and an anime film. Watching Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, quite possibly the best film in the Highlander franchise since the first, rekindled my curiosity in how the upcoming Highlander reboot was progressing.
As a result of undergoing numerous director, script, and cast changes, the Highlander reboot has been suspended in cinematic limbo for years. Although this reboot is now on its third director, with possibly more to come, I’m going to give Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the second unit director of Snow White and the Huntsman, a chance in the hopes that his vision of Highlander isn’t one of CG-filled nonsense. Right now, my primary concerns for the reboot are the casting of the film and the quality of the script.
When it comes to casting the Highlander reboot, those over at Summit Entertainment have already shown they’re far more interested in profiting off of the Highlander name and fandom, than producing a quality remake. As I stated in my review of the Roots reboot, the best way to approach a reboot is by analyzing the original film, acknowledging its flaws and oversights, and determining how they can be improved. This is why I was absolutely baffled when it was announced that Ryan Reynolds had been cast in the role of Scottish Highlander, Connor MacLeod.
That’s right, Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds of National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Waiting…, Just Friends, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Green Lantern, The Change–up, R.I.P.D., A Million Ways to Die in the West, Self/less, Criminal, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I like Reynolds. He’s an attractive man who obviously works diligently to keep his abs rock hard, for which I am eternally grateful, and he is capable of giving a strong performance. Reynolds has starred in a handful of good films, and I particularly liked him in The Amityville Horror reboot (the original was terrible too), The Proposal, Safe House, Mississippi Grind, and Deadpool. However, Reynolds has essentially been playing the same character in most of his films for over a decade now, and as a result his filmography lists a myriad of poor choices.
Wisely, Reynolds chose to drop out of the film, but the fact that he was even cast in this role shows there are terrible decisions at play here. Currently Tom Hardy (The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road) is being strongly considered for the role of Connor MacLeod, but despite the fact that Hardy’s an accomplished actor, I still don’t think he should play Connor MacLeod. This is an opportunity for a Scottish actor (other than Gerard Butler, for Christ’s sake) to be cast as the lead in a big budget North American film. So why not do so? Why not give Richard Madden (Robb Stark, Game of Thrones), Sam Heughan (James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser, Outlander), or Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus, Rome) the opportunity to shine on the big-screen? Not only are these actors Scottish and familiar with swordplay and stunt work due to previous roles, but they are also talented actors, especially McKidd.
My point is there are several Scottish actors capable of revitalizing Connor MacLeod, they just have to be given the opportunity to do so. Movie production studios have an obsession with casting the same actors in practically every theatrical release, and I get it, they want to maximize the chances of a return. But if a quality film is produced, it will make money. What I love about actors like Will Smith, Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, and Tom Cruise is that they choose their roles wisely. You may see one of the aforementioned actors in one or two theatrical releases a year, because they recognize that it’s not the quantity of films an actor does, but the quality that guarantees a fruitful career and a respectable body of work. Ryan Reynolds does an average of three films per year, but most of them aren’t worth seeing free of charge. So why not give a lesser-known actor a chance?
The Highlander reboot’s production team initially wanted Tom Cruise for the role of Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, originally portrayed by Scottish actor, Sean Connery. Allow me to give those unfamiliar with the Highlander franchise a little background on the Ramírez character. The Egyptian, Tak-Ne, was born in the 9th century, later assuming the moniker of Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez in the 16th century, prior to undertaking the tutelage on Connor MacLeod. This film’s production team thought it would be a good idea to cast Tom Cruise as an Egyptian character. Why not just cast an Egyptian actor to portray an Egyptian character? Thankfully, Cruise chose not to take this role; English actor, James Bryhan, has been cast as Ramírez instead.
Another cause for concern is that this reboot was going to be filmed using a second script written by Step Up writer, Melissa Rosenberg. The same Melissa Rosenberg who wrote the screenplays for the Twilight film series. Granted, Stephenie Meyer is chiefly to blame for the vomit-inducing Twilight series, but it was Rosenberg who gave us this memorable line…
Rosenberg’s script will not be used, but knowing that Summit Entertainment commissioned her to write a script for Highlander…well, it terrified me.
Summit Entertainment’s hiring of Rosenberg, coupled with the studio’s previous casting choices, has led me to suspect Highlander is not in good hands. As of right now, the reboot is scheduled to be filmed using the first script written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. However, given Marcum and Holloway’s previous work, knowing this only serves to heighten my fears, not ease them.
Whether Summit Entertainment will deliver a decent Highlander reboot remains to be seen, but given the studio’s production decisions for the film thus far, my guess is: probably not. It’s unfortunate that most of the films in the Highlander franchise have paled in comparison to the first film, or even the television series. Again, the only film with a script that managed to capture the action and romance of the 1986 film is the anime, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. Right now, there’s still time for Highlander’s production heads to recognize that wiser casting choices need to be made, and do so. Tom Hardy’s a great actor, but if the script’s trash his performance won’t be enough to save this film. There’s still time to ensure the script used is a well-written script. I mean, one would hope Summit Entertainment’s Highlander production team would learn from the company’s recent failures, like Gods of Egypt, The Last Witch Hunter, and Ender’s Game, and rely on a good script, as with The Hurt Locker and 12 Years a Slave, but I’m not sure they will. It’d be a shame if this Highlander reboot was awful, especially since the studio has had years to perfect it.