Jun 27 2012 12:30pm

How to Come to Terms With Ryan Reynolds as the New Highlander

How to Come to Terms With Ryan Reynolds as the New Highlander

In in order to enjoy Highlander in any form you have to be willing to overlook conventional logic and reason. And though the recent casting news of Ryan Reynolds as the lead in the impending reboot film might sound lame, it actually makes perfect sense.

Because Highlander has always been about being brazenly lame. And if there’s one person who gets how do that it, it’s Ryan Reynolds.

It takes a particular kind of quiet inanity to be a fan of the Highlander universe. Literally every single installment of the franchise, from the films to the television series, to the animated series, to the comic books, to an unrelated animated film, to the spin-off series The Raven all contradict each other’s continuity both subtly and broadly. Sometimes a Highlander thing will contradict continuity while you’re watching it. (Highlander: Endgame.) Better still is when Highlander is so embarrassed of its behavior that it releases new versions of itself omitting the embarrassing things it did (Highlander 2: Renegade Edition).

Which fictional character has Ryan Reynolds breathed new life into?  Deadpool? Green Lantern? Remember when he was in Blade: Trinity? No? Who here among us isn’t a fan of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place? When it comes to movies Ryan Reynolds is totally a mainstream version of original Highlander star Christopher Lambert. By this, I mean, he’s never been a good movie, despite being sort of charming and weird in the movies he is in. To put it another way, Ryan Reynolds is the “bro” version of Christopher Lambert.

While post-Highlander Christopher Lambert seemed to actively choose movies that sucked, Ryan Reynolds simply can’t help it. He just slops into these parts, which is why the Highlander reboot is ideal for him. It’s an honest representation of exactly what he is in the culture: someone who will never die unless somebody does something terrible to him with a sword. But really, no one will want to do that because he seems like such a nice guy. Ryan Reynolds is a holy ground. Sure, we think we could make fun of why he sucks, but we can’t seem to get at him because he’s always ensconced in crappy movies, which he uses as a kind of shield.

In reality, the only reason why a Highlander fan should be bummed out about the Ryan Reynolds casting is because it sends a clear signal that the new adventures of Connor MacLeod won’t be weird. The only reason you put Ryan Reynolds in your movie is to court the mid-brow demographic, otherwise known as “most people.” He’s not objectionable, but he’s nothing special. Christopher Lambert on the other hand, is fucking weird. And in that weirdness he brought something approaching gravitas to the original Highlander. Though Sean Connery is his older, wiser mentor character in the original movie, Christopher Lambert is—dare I say it—a better actor than Connery. There’s something odd, unique and original going on with him in that movie, and he even manages to bring a certain level of pathos to the other, really, really bad Highlander movies.

Ryan Reynolds is more like an Adrian Paul choice to play your lead sword-swinging immortal. Like Paul, he’s more conventionally handsome, and thus more appealing to a broad demographic. The difference between Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and Adrian Paul’s Duncan MacLeod was easily summed up in the way they dressed and what the claimed to do for a living. Connor wore a trench coat and sneakers, while Duncan always looked like he was ready to hit up a 1990s era nightclub. Connor owned an antique store, while Duncan initially lived in and operated a gym. I’ll give all the cool points to Connor on this one.  

So, will a Ryan Reynolds MacLeod be the antique-store owning type or the type who rides a motorcycle and goes to the gym all the time? Do we even need to answer that question? The thing is though, Ryan Reynolds might not have been terrible in Green Lantern, it’s just that the movie was terrible. Other than (arguably) the first film, all the Highlander movies are terrible. So if the new one is also terrible, you might as well have Ryan Reynolds in it. While I’d like to say it would be nice for Highlander to cast Adrian Brody or some other actor with awesome range, and then make interesting and dynamic decisions on the script, it really wouldn’t feel right. Highlander is supposed to be kind of bad and embarrassing. And with the casting of Ryan Reynolds, that tradition is being maintained.

Bring it on.

Ryan Britt is the staff writer for and is a kind of magic.

1. StrongDreams
Actually, Duncan owned an antique store in the first season and moved to the dojo in the second season. Richie was trying to rob the place when he got caught between Duncan and Bull from Night Court.

Viewed as a standalone, the Highlander TV series was quite good, I thought.
2. Earl Rogers
No, Ryan Reynolds was definitely terrible in Green Lantern, not just because the entire film was one big misfire.

I was fourteen the last time I actually -cared- about anything Highlander-related, so I really have no reaction to this, other than the wish that Hollywood would look into more new films rather than trying to rehash the past.
5. J Mccaffery
@1 & 4

OMFG that guy was Bull From Night Court all along. Mind blown, childhood ruined.
6. Croaker41
I was 14 or so when Highlander came out and all of my friends and I loved it. We did agree the "Prize" turned out to be kina lame though. That aside, loved it. Clancy Brown remains one of my all time favorite character actors. He was the best villain the series ever had, and one of the best in any movie ever as far as I'm concerned. I simply refuse to admit to the existence of any other Highlander films. It never happend understand?
7. Robert Sparling
i recall the Highlander movies only vaguely, but my reaction was" my, how horrendous". I did watch a lot of the show as a kid because it had sword fights and I will give the show and Paul more credit for making a fuzzier version of the vampire-esque (we live forever but we don't actually need to drink blood) seem more interesting than the movies. They fleshed out the world some, brought in The Watchers, Methos and the Four Horseman (a bit odd yeah), and then MacLeod turned evil for a season and killed Richie, which was neat. Plus it gave every European character actor a few weeks of work because someone needed to get their head chopped off. How the police failed to notice a decapitation/week is beyond my ability to guess though.
8. juanito
I for one enjoyed Ryan Reynolds in "Smokin' Aces". He had a real believeable desperation, adrenaline, etc, etc. He was also great in "Chaos Theory." Though... these aren't precisely box-office successes.
Ian Tregillis
9. ITregillis
This had me laughing aloud. Thanks for the great analysis, Ryan.

Long long ago, a friend of mine returned from a tour of duty in Korea (I think?) where he had obtained a bootleg VHS of Highlander 2 before it was available in the US. (That's how I remember it, anyway.) But we were SO EXCITED to watch the sequel to Highlander, foreign subtitles and all, before anybody else we knew.

And then we put the tape in...
Natalie Zutter
10. nataliezutter
"It’s an honest representation of exactly what he is in the culture: someone who will never die unless somebody does something terrible to him with a sword. But really, no one will want to do that because he seems like such a nice guy."

This describes him so perfectly! I think the poor guy is just a victim of being pushed into the wrong genre. He's legitimately good in comedies aimed at men (The Change-Up) and women (Definitely, Maybe), but then his agents wanted him to do the superhero thing, and he's just a bad fit for that.
tatiana deCarillion
11. decarillion
They couldn't find someone hot with a native accent for the reboot? The only Highlander anything that I've seen in the original film; we have it somewhere on DVD in the steelcase.
12. Bolt_V3
"Highlander has always been about being brazenly lame".

No... no it hasn't.

I'm not even that huge of a Highlander fan and this is making my eye twitch. The first film was great fun, had good actors and was a fine story. Everything after that has been nothing but crap that contradicts everything laid down in the first movie.

"Highlander is supposed to be kind of bad and embarrassing."

No... no it isn't.

Just because something has sucked for a while doesn't mean you can just go "Well, everyone EXPECTS it to suck, so just half ass it and make a bit of cash on the deal." That's infuriating logic.

Why not make something truly good with it and take the franchise a good direction?
13. Earl Rogers
"The first film was great fun, had good actors and was a fine story."



Oh, man. Soda, all over my screen. Don't do that!
Matthew B
14. MatthewB
Highlander: There should have been only one.
15. David Martin, Ph.D.
"Highlander has always been about being brazenly lame."

No, it has always been about being incredibly awful; without question the worst series of films made since the invention of celluloid.
Alan Stallings
16. astacvi
Well, the first one had a French Scotsman and a Scottish Spaniard, so I'll grant it went directly to Weirdsville right off the bat, but for all that it still had a certain charm to it. I don't know of anything afterward that got any better than awful, including the TV show.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
17. tnh
Play nice. If Bolt_V3 enjoyed the movie, he or she enjoyed it. There's no such thing as illusory pleasure.
Ryan Britt
18. ryancbritt
@15 Yes. Totally. But what about the Leprechaun movies?
Daryl Strickler
19. Seacaptain13
@15 Worst? Are you forgetting the Starship Troopers Franchise? 1st one ignored the book, got a couple names right but that's it and the next ones are straight to DVD crap. The only reason I've seen them all because I love Sci-Fi and would still rather watch them then the past Oscar winners since RotK. Can't forget Twilight series which is unwatchable by 50% of the population - sigh, pout, lip chew, sparkle. There I described all those movies for you, I guess I should have had a spoiler alert.
Kat Blom
20. pro_star
Well, Ryan definitely has the hotness factor going for him.

As for the vocals...we shall see. I seem to recall that for the original Highlander, they wanted Connor to have an "unplacable" don't know...have Ryan bring out his inner Canadian and scare everyone with a Canadian accent? What's that aboot?

Could be interesting, but I may just wait until it comes out on DVD.

Okay, sorry, work has me going crazy. Back to lurk I go.
Peter Tijger
21. Peter-Tijger
I absolutely LOVE the first Highlander movie. easily one of my favourites of all-time (lol, pun intended).
Really, what's not to like about the first movie? Everything is cool about it. Lambert is great....indeed, weird...greatly weird, weirdly great...hmmm.
Connery....'nuff said. The music of Queen....'nuff said...almost. "Who wants to live forever". The music alone is enough to get teary-eyed and in the scene it's used in the Highlander movie......ah well, gets me everytime....aye, blossom.
And of course....the KURGAN !!!
I really, really like the story of these warriors almost eternally alive, fighting for a prize, "there can be only one !" I love the story presented in this movie, really do.
And let's not forget these great shots....from an aquarium the camera goes up, rises out of the water and there we are, over a river, ages back in the highlands.
The cheap effects are something I'm not bothered with. It was back in the day, a bit the f what !??!?!

But it's only this first movie.........I don't even want to think about everything that followed.

A remake with Reynolds. I'm not so sure about this......because I regard the first movie as something that can't be topped. Impossible ! So it can only fail. We'll probably get an action movie that's fun to watch, but nothing special. The first Highlander, you can bet your hairy behind under a kilt that was special !

@ MatthewB...........I lol' are so right there. :D
22. Andrew S Balfour
I stopped taking this article seriously right around the assertion that Highlander and Ryan Reynolds are inherently lame. The original film is *incredibly* 80s, that can't be denied, but to call it lame is, at best, unfair. The series, likewise, suffered primarily from being made in the early 90s. Were they perfect? Hell no. Were they awesome? Most definitely.

Maybe next time TOR wants someone to write about Highlander, they'll pick someone who doesn't open with "This shit is lame, but you can enjoy it anyway. Even though it's lame."
23. StrongDreams
Even though I really liked the TV series (and never watched the movies or Raven) I gotta say one thing...

The prize was lame.

It's the fatal flaw of the movie franchise. If you kill all the immortals, what do you get? Having never seen the movie, I turn to Wikipedia which says, ESP and mind control. So, winning The Prize turns you into Palpatine? Not great, even if you are well-meaning about it. Then of course, how can you have a sequel if all the immortals are dead and the Prize is lame? Make the sequels lamer.

The TV series, as much as I liked it, pretty much ignored the Prize. It was kind of shown that eventually the last immortal would get all the quickenings, but there was never any clue that they made a difference, except the year that the writers got stuck and made Duncan evil. Quickening never seemed to do much for most of the show. Richie didn't get powers when he killed a couple of immortals, Duncan didn't get memories or anything really useful.

Rest assured, with Hollywood obssessed with sequels and reboots, whatever else happens in the Ryan reboot, either there won't be one final Prize, or he won't get it in the first movie.
Peter Ahlstrom
24. PeterAhlstrom
I'm in the crowd that very much likes the first movie (except for its modern-day love story, which was laughable, and I also don't like villains like the Kurgan) as well as the TV series. I never saw either as brazenly lame. (And I've never seen the second movie, though I did watch the third and fourth.)
Ryan Britt
26. ryancbritt
There is a certain amount of irony intended here. I actually like all the Highlander movies. I meant what I said about logic going out the window when you talk about this franchise, though. Also, the article is more about seeing why this casting might make sense from a cultrual perspective, rather than talking about what is ideal in the mind of fans (of which I am one.)

But sure, if they wanted to make a good Highlander movie, this would not be the way to do it. (Which I mention) I just think (outside of the first one) a good Highlander anything is a contradiction in terms.

This is not to say I don't like Highlander and am not entertained by all if it. So, your thing in quotes there isn't what I said or meant at all and I'm sorry to have given the wrong impression.
27. Tamara2
Highlander is always somehow on the edge of weirdness, even the more seemingly sensible, by-the-numbers bits, like the tv show and The Raven. Adrian Paul WAS ALSO WEIRD. (yes, not as weird as Lambert, but not like normal tv action lead either.) None of it was ever particularly good, but all of it always had me kind of...unable to look away. The inconsistencies, the odd acting, the somehow surrealist mundanity of the settings and the cutting back and forth between Europe and America with no seeming rhyme or reason...dunno, there was just always something compelling there. I haven't seen Reynolds in anything since, er, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, actually, but maybe putting someone with a comic background there will work to bring that classic disconcerting weirdness.
28. StrongDreams
but maybe putting someone with a comic background there will work to bring that classic disconcerting weirdness

Oooh, like Dark Shadows?
30. mndrew
Imagine if they cast actual Scot's in the other Scottish rolls? Imagine just how this would point out the idiocy of casting this 'actor'?
I picture Gerrard Butler as the clan chief who banishes him; Craig Ferguson as the priest screaming to burn him at the stake; Robby Coultrane as the best friend who is baffled by the resurrection; Karen Gillan as the love interest. He would be laughed off the screen.
What the heck was wrong with either Ewan McGregor or James McAvoy?
Constance Sublette
32. Zorra
I've always wondered when Diana Gabaldon saw The Highlander (1986) movie, and when she began writing The Outlander (1991).

Love, C.
33. Kimberley
I was fourteen when I watched the original Highlander flick on VHS. It was the first time I had ever had the school close for something called a 'snow day' (ah, Texas). You want to talk the right age and the right time for it: as far as I was concerned, that movie was AWESOME. Thinking back on it now...Clancy Brown had the perfect kind of weirdness going for him that Christopher Lambert did. Have we heard who they're putting up against Ryan yet?

And actually, I'm hoping they'll give a nod to the original film by casting Gerry Butler as Ramirez. Everyone else in the film is supposed to be Scottish except for him, and he's the only bastard in the movie with a Scots brogue because he can't do another accent to save his life. Besides: Gerry as a Egyptian Spaniard? Oh, yeah.
john mullen
35. johntheirishmongol
Christopher Lambert is more horrible an actor than Ryan. He was awful as Tarzan, weird as Connor, stupid in that chop socky karate movie based on a game...Mortal Combaat...I was trying to block it out.

Besides, Highlander is an amazing concept that has totally sucked in execution from the very first movie and proof that Sean Connery can suck too (as if Zardoz hadn't proved that)

I did actually like quite a bit of the series until it started getting mystical and the star began to take himself too seriously. Raven had a few fun episodes too. At least they were generally entertaining and frankly, the swordplay was way better.

I don't have any objection to a redo, if they can write a script that makes sense, but maybe that is too much to ask.
Diane DesAutels
36. dpdesautels
I watched the TV series until they had a demon-manipulated Duncan kill Richie; it was bad enough back when they had a MUGGER kill Tessa -- in a blatantly foreshadowed exit, BTW -- maybe punishing the actress for wanting out? I did enjoy most of it, and even some of Raven (Amanda's silly spin-off), though I don't regret skipping the last season full of mystical nonsense.

I'm not one of those "pick-everything-apart" types who obsess over minor discrepancies until they lose all the fun, 'though I do think it was stupid to bring in the "weird French Scotsman" Christopher Lambert, after having ignored the whole point of the first movie (the only one I watched -- it was quite pathetic enough, and everything I've heard says the sequels are worse) by still having *lots* of old immortals running around.

Good elements, IMHO, included Adrian Paul, Jim Byrnes (Joe Dawson) and the idea of the Watchers, Richie's character arc (until its abrupt end), and Peter Wingfield (Methos/Adam Pierson), though the Four Horsemen went TOO over the top (like the Kurgan!) -- villains are more interesting when they aren't cartoons. I like the opportunity ageless immortal characters offer for visiting a wide variety of places and times in flashbacks.

The internal inconsistency that bugged me most was the whole Quickening thing, especially when/why it does or doesn't affect personality & abilities, but also the silly excuses for FX inherent in the makers' decisions re. what it does and doesn't cause to explode / break / launch skyward.
39. boquaz
Highlander inspired more than just "Who Wants to Live Forever" from Queen. Highlander is a great cult piece, but it's always boggled my mind that a good chunck of Queen's "Greatest Hits" were involved with it. Yeah, they're dated now, but think back to the 80s. That was big.

My main question is can they reproduce the success of the soundrack?
40. TomR(Mac)
30+ comments and no one mentions the Ryan Reynolds starring film 'Buried' in either the Negative or the Positive.

That film, along with Smokin' Aces, made me believe that Ryan Reynolds could turn in a half-way decent performance.

He had to have been doing something right in Buried. For the entire runtime he's the only actor we see. That's ninety minutes trapped in a box, underground, with Ryan Reynolds.

Surely there is something for both camps to enjoy in that one sentence alone.
Michael Gapen
41. m_gapen
There can be only one. Unless there is a 2, 3 or 4. And if there is a 4, then there is no 2 or 3.

Viva la Highlander!!
42. Hilndlas
Apparently I am older than most on here but I loved the first movie and still list it as one of my favorites, and I also loved the TV series and even enjoyed Raven. I thought then and still think Adrian Paul is hot and has the athletic ability to pull off the character and loved the supporting cast. The other movies were sad and incomprehensable. But I still love my Highlander and Christopher and Adrian's characters. There can be only one (or two).
43. eaglesfanintn
I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I also enjoyed the first Highlander and actually just rewatched it a couple of months ago (maybe I was feeling nostalgic that day). While there were definitely some misses in there, the storyline was great, some of the scenes and swordfights were awesome and I always like Connory (whatever accent he's trying to do).
Then came Highlander 2 and all the other stuff (read, crap). The movies were awful, the tv series was blah and I never saw Raven or read the graphic novels.
That being said, I think there's enough of a story to reboot the original. Forget the whole, no new ideas in Hollywood, meme. (Which Spiderman is this) I don't have too much of a problem with someone recreating a (cult) classic and mainstreaming it a bit. I'll reserve judgement on Ryan Reynolds - others have pointed out that he has some hits and misses.
The bottom line for me is, let's see what they do with it and then come back here and praise or deride them (or probably do a bit of both).
44. seyford
Four reasons to love Highander
Queen... Clancy Brown... hot antiquarians... and a spanish-egyptian Sean Connery.

Now, will Ryan be shooting in his hometown of "Seacouver?"
45. jbo
Are you implying X-Men Origins: Wolverine sucked? I loved that movie. I also really enjoyed all of the Blade movies, including the one Reynolds was in. Safe House wasn't bad either. Reynolds is not a bad actor. Green Lantern did suck, but mainly because of the terrible villain.
Ashe Armstrong
46. AsheSaoirse
I would prefer someone weirder but as long as it's big cheesy fun with a rockin soundtrack, I'm happy. Keep the plot simple, remember the mistakes of the past, and we can have a decent movie that is just fun and pure action.

As for the original, I was and still am a big fan, mostly of the first movie and the series (though the anime movie is also rather fantastic and I highly recommend it). It was cheesy and silly and soaked in the 80s (and 90s for the show) but it was so much fun. It still is. Plus, the ENTIRE SOUNDTRACK was done by Queen. QUEEN!! How can you not adore that movie just because of that?! And then Clancy Brown chewing the scenery right the hell up! Connery too! The Spanish peacock!

When taken piece by piece, sure, it's lame, it's expected to be lame, but it's fun. It's DAMN fun. So that is my hope for the reboot. That it's fun.
Sandra Wilson
47. SandraW
@Hilndlas, apparently I am in the same boat being older than most here.

I really liked the first movie and found the rest just too illogical for what was set up in it and horrible. But really liked the tv series and Paul was a hunk. Since I liked the Amanda character I even watched the Raven when I could find it.

What no one seems to have mentioned so far is the totally off the wall horrible "final" movie shown on (made by?) syfy where Duncan wins the prize. Oh, yuck!
48. Andrew S Balfour
Ryan: Sorry to have taken the wrong impression. This might just be the wrong week for me to be commenting on the internet.
50. ErinStatia
I will see the movie no matter what. Afterall, I made it through "Endgame" in the hopes that Joe and Methos would redeem it... *sigh* the disapointment...

I was hoping that the studio would take a different take on the Highlander universe. Alas, studios seem to HATE doing that. Wouldnt it be a much more interesting and fresh take to view the Immortals through the history of the Watchers? Certainly an organization that was able to keep themselves secret from freakin' immortal beings would have enough of a history,of political, and ideological tensions to inspire a viable movie?
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
51. tnh
Zorra @32: I wouldn't be surprised. Highlander is one of those unstoppable fictional universes that beget spinoff and follow-on narratives like litters of plot-bunnies.
53. In defense of Ryan
Ryan is a good actor and I do believe he can create any character that is necessary to fill a role. I do not think he looks for movie that are deep and brooding but fun for him to portray. He has said this is a hobby for him. Chris Evans has said the same thing. How great is this to get paid enormous amounts of money to do something you like to do. These boars are way too critical, If you like Ryan or movie roles he takes GO and if you don't DON'T GO!!
54. scotch
"Christopher Lambert is—dare I say it—a better actor than Connery"

A bold statement. Insane and incomprehensibly wrong, but bold.

Yes, Christopher Lambert was weird in Highlander. He was weird in that he seemed weirdly devoid of character or the ability to speak in a Scottish accent. He was so outclassed by Sean Connery and Clancy Brown that it was hard to take him seriously as the prototagonist.

Yes, he was compelling, mainly because he was so bad that you wondered what the hell was going on. His acting is the equivalent of the first Twilight book...the lack of recognizable human emotion makes you wonder when it's finally going to be unleashed. Never mind that it never was.

It's actually hard for me to think of a worse actor than Christopher Lambert who's made a career in film. The only name that springs to mind is Keanu Reeves, but he's miles ahead of Lambert. Okay, Steven Seagal. Steven Seagal is a worse actor than Christopher Lambert.

There can be only one.

Connery? The best Bond ever? Connery from Zardoz?
55. Fjord Prefect
As of July 2014 I think this movie has been shelved. At first I though that this was a good thing, but now I'm not so sure. This is a franchise that's obviously too valuable to let go, so it makes sense to assume that a new movie will eventually be made. The problem is that projects that enter "development hell" rarely come out the other side unscathed, and they usually end up sucking bad. So after a few more years, once enough Hollywood cooks have spoiled this particular reboot pot, we'll most likely be handed yet another disappointing heap of garbage to throw in the corner with Endgame and The Quickening. Of course, including the soulless, irritating and pointless Ryan Reynolds in the lead role will only help to guarantee that outcome.

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