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 Tor.com and is a kind of magic.