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"There can be only one." A great quote from the eighties film Highlander. Some fans kind of wish that film makers would have followed that advice and left Highlander as just one film. The sequels that followed were not great with the second one in particular receiving poor reviews from critics and movie goers alike. Oh well at least the Highlander television series was decent.
For some reason the powers that be decided that live action films were not enough. Highlander: The Search For Vengeance sees the property expand into the world of animated feature films. This had the potential to end in tears, but thankfully the project was given to director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. For those of you who don't know Kawajiri is the genius behind Ninja Scroll and the stunning Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Ninja scroll starred a samurai warrior whilst Vampire Hunter D is a sword wielding human/vampire hybrid who battles nosferatu. Given that background they picked the right guy to create a film which features an immortal who fights using a katana.
The movie takes place in New York. It is the year 2187 and the world is reeling from the effects of global warming. Cities lie in ruin after floods shattered the landscape. See what happens when you don't recycle! Enter Colin MacLeod an immortal who can only die if someone cuts off his head. He is on a mission of vengeance seeking a fellow immortal named Marcus Octavius. There is some serious bad blood between the two which spans all the way back to the year 125 AD when Marcus, who led a Roman army, attacked Colin's village killing his wife in the process.
Marcus still has fond memories of his Roman days and is now trying to create an empire of his own. He sits atop of a futuristic tower commanding a small army and group of scientists who are developing a virus he intends to use to take over the world. Living in the ruins of New York are a group of survivors who seek Colin's aid to break into the tower to find a vaccine for the virus. Can Colin get his revenge and save the survivors from the threat of Octavius? You will have to watch to find out.
We don't get much in the way of story, but who cares. The movie is a fun ride whilst it lasts. The futuristic action sequences are cool, but my favourite moments would have to be the flashbacks. Every so often they would kick in showing Colin's back-story. We get to see how his wife sacrificed herself trying to save Colin's village from the Roman force that outnumbered them. That is followed by a scene were Colin discovers that he is immortal after receiving a mortal wound. The other flashbacks show Colin and Octavius clash during different time periods.
As with many anime DVDs you can check out artwork in the extras. There you will also find a fifteen minute documentary that describes how the film was made. It covers the challenges faced with making a movie were studios based in the States and Japan have to work together. You also get an interview with the director that lasts around eight minutes. If you dislike reading subtitles don't worry as Kawajiri's dialogue is dubbed. When watching the interview the director mentions that the movie is around ninety minutes long. After hearing that it became apparent that the English language version had ten minutes of footage cut. That's disappointing as a longer running time may have given the movie more depth.
Although the plot is paper thin it does a good job of hammering the message that pursuing vengeance can consume your life. This movie gets a thumbs up from me. My only gripe is that the swordfights which feature are over too quickly. They have a good build up which doesn't pay off as the duels end after a quick slash which the viewer cannot even see. Anime fans who liked Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust should like the movie due to the similar style used in all those films. Highlander fans should also check this anime out. They may be pleasantly surprised that a cartoon pulls of Highlander better than the live action sequels.
Review originally posted on Ciao (August 2010)