The Idea Behind Highlander Is Pretty Ridiculous

Ramirez and Connor Highlander

Like Immortals at The Gathering, The Highlander reboot draws ever closer to reality with each passing month. A reboot is just what this franchise needs because, as entertaining as it may be, things have gotten well out of hand. My hope with the reboot is that Highlander finally dismisses the notion of a particularly ridiculous premise that's plagued the franchise for so long. Namely, there can be only one, but why would anyone want that?

The Immortals in the Highlander universe all live under the truth that "There can be only one," meaning that the last Immortal remaining will win "The Prize." The Prize is the knowledge of all Immortals who ever lived and, as Ramirez put it in the first movie, "power beyond imagination." Using this power, the Immortal can be the ultimate gift to the world, or its destroyer.

It's a fine prize, although one that's remarkably flawed and has been under-explained throughout the history of the franchise. For example, couldn't a group of Immortals just pool their collective knowledge and use their abilities to shape the world in the way they see fit? Hell, even a handful of Immortals could form an Illuminati-like tribunal that could influence worldwide policy on Holy Ground protected from outside interference and no one could stop them.

Good or evil, it just seems like the logical play. The alternative strategy of roaming the world and striking down Immortals at random rarely works out well, and only puts a target on the back of any person looking to gain The Prize for their own selfish means. When everyone has an internal sensation that warns them of the presence of another, why take the risk of picking a fight you might lose?

Let's not forget that the golden rule of Highlander is chanted often, but rarely practiced by the masses in the Immortal group. If it truly came down to Duncan and Connor MacLeod as the last two Immortals on Earth, are we really to believe they would kill each other? Friendships can change over millennia, sure, but both guys seem rather intent on maintaining peace rather than waiting out the clock until they have to kill each other.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the premise of the Highlander franchise is that the stakes of the game aren't all that high. The reward is great, but it's reliant on a number of competitors all choosing to engage in the game and be motivated by a lust to control all of humanity. It's enough to sway the minds of dark hearts, but it gives the heroes of the franchise little more to do than stand and face them when another evil surfaces.

If a Highlander reboot were to raise the stakes a little and give both sides reason to participate in The Game, the franchise would improve significantly. For example, what if their immortality is bound by the condition they defeat another Immortal in a duel every x years? This would at least be enough motivation for the good guys and create an interesting problem in which Immortals must decide if they'll continue to live or run out the clock.

Or, it could just be established that "There can be only one" is bullshit and was originally thought of by another Immortal to encourage in-fighting and further dwindle the numbers. If the mantra has to remain, at least let a reboot explain how Immortals come to be, and if there can ever really be a day where this is just only one and no others will follow.

The first installment of The Highlander really needs a comprehensive origin story, especially in light of the various and conflicting origins that were laid out in the first set of films. How a set of Immortals learned never to fight on holy ground, but never traced back their origins to the first Immortals, I'll never know, but let's not make the same mistake of repeating the errors of the first franchise.

Which, admittedly, is a bold strategy to take in rebooting a franchise. After all, part of the appeal of reboots is their nostalgia factor, and making a Highlander film that fundamentally changes everything may not be what diehards who celebrate the franchise today signed up for. If the diehards aren't attached, that can sometimes spell box-office disaster for even the most successful of franchises.

This is especially in the case of science fiction/fantasy franchises, which tend to flounder at the box office unless they're one of the bigger names in the genre. Highlander is well-known, but it would be tough to argue its cinematic run is the legacy it has hung its hat on. Luckily, what little news we have on the reboot shows that those involved recognize that, and that changes will be made that increase the odds of this film being a box-office hit.

Let's be honest, it's laughable to say the over-arching plot of The Game has been anything more than a hindrance to the Highlander franchise over the years. The series literally retconned the ending of the first film, and it's not like things got any less complicated as the films and shows went on. There's a sense that writers were making things up as they went along, or just flat out ignoring any set canon when it became inconvenient.

At its core, Highlander is about Immortals living for centuries and waging wars and feuds against each other at great cost. Some have lost their livelihoods, others their loved ones, and some both. Let's center a story around an Immortal with a score to settle, and then work out the greater details of The Highlander universe as we go. If the main story is good enough, the rest will fall into place.

Right now The Highlander reboot is still in development, and those who think the franchise should try and stay as true as possible to the original franchise can share their take in the comments below. Those looking to revisit the film can currently stream the 1986 original on Hulu, and then binge the television series right after.

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Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick contains multitudes and balances his time reporting on big happenings in the world of Star Trek, the WWE, reality television, and other sci-fi shows.