Reboots are all the rage at the moment when it comes to making movies. If a film was successful twenty or thirty years ago, there’s every chance that somebody somewhere in Hollywood is working on a plan to drag it out of the archives, give it a fresh coat of paint, and present it to the public once more as if it were a brand new idea. Nothing is safe, and nothing is sacred. One such film is the 1980s classic fantasy action film ‘Highlander,’ which was a box office bomb but has since become a cult classic on streaming and DVD.
Despite the failure of the first film in terms of critical reception and movie theater ticket sales, it spawned several sequels, including ‘Highlander II: The Quickening,’ which is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Somehow, the disastrous second film ended up being classified in the category of “so bad it’s actually good,” and spawned a further three sequels, the last of which went straight to DVD. Somehow, the legacy of the films has persisted despite the fact that they have a long track record of never making any money.
The existence of ‘Highlander’ entertainment products has spread beyond the confines of movies. There’s been both a live-action and animated television series, and more than one official ‘Highlander’ video game. There’s even an official ‘Highlander’ game at some online slots websites and 10 free spins no deposit, where the irony is that the online slots game has generated profits in a way that the films never did. If there’s enough interest in the franchise for online slots to be made about it in the 21st century, though, it’s unsurprising that there are still people who believe that a ‘Highlander’ movie could turn a profit if it were done successfully. That might, in turn, inspire another online slots game, and the process could repeat.
The first reliable news we heard about a new ‘Highlander’ film was in 2018 when it was confirmed that Lionsgate had officially sanctioned the project. Ryan Condal, best known for writing the Dwayne Johnson movie ‘Hercules,’ had submitted a script, and Chad Stahelski of ‘John Wick’ fame had agreed to join the project as director. Lionsgate head Patrick Wachsberger confirmed that the studio was happy with the script, and the go-ahead had been given to commence pre-production. In the two years that have elapsed since there hasn’t been much more to report on the film. It’s now feared that Lionsgate has got cold feet about the idea, and it may never see the light of day at all.
If something has gone wrong with pre-production, it probably won’t be for want of trying. In May 2019 – over a year since Lionsgate confirmed the project was happening – Chad Stahelski was still speaking positively about the film and spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the fact that he was the person responsible for the delay. Perhaps conscious of the poor reception that the original films received from critics and the paying audience, he said that he’d been taking his time to get everything right, and wasn’t completely sure about what format the project would eventually take. In the space of a single interview, he went from talking about making a trilogy of new ‘Highlander’ films to the possibility of making a limited-run television series instead. Reading between the lines, that information appeared to suggest that Condal’s script has already been discarded, and the director was seeking new ideas.
The idea of a limited-run television series might not be a terrible one. In recent years we’ve seen the standing of such shows increase in terms of public perception, with bonafide Hollywood A-listers like Reese Witherspoon willing to swap the big screen for the small one for projects like ‘Little Fires Everywhere.’ Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming platforms have budgets that could rival any major movie production company, and expectations for the performance of a series are generally lower than those of a major movie’s performance. A film could have its reputation ruined by a poor opening weekend at the box office. A television series would have more time to find an audience through streaming, and could still be picking up new viewers a year or more after its original release. The extended run time of a series also allows more time for plot ideas to develop. Stahleski is on record as saying that he doesn’t want to make a generic supernatural combat film where people decapitate each other; he’d like to make something more substantial. A story told over somewhere between five and ten episodes would offer him the space to do that.
If there is a television show in the works rather than a ‘reboot’ film, it doesn’t appear to be any closer to entering production than it was when Stahelski gave his mid-2019 interview. We’re now in the middle of 2020, and there’s been nothing further to report on the film at all. Lionsgate hasn’t publicly stated that they’re no longer interested in the project, but nor have there been any casting announcements, or any sign of preparations being made for filming. Under normal circumstances, we would at least expect to know who would be appearing in the lead roles by this point. We’re not living through normal circumstances at the moment, but the current spate of enforced film delays that the industry is enduring can’t be blamed for the ‘Highlander’ delay. The project didn’t have any recording days booked before the cancellations began.
When a project goes quiet in the way that ‘Highlander’ has, it’s usually said that it’s entered ‘developmental Hell’ – a state where it hasn’t been canceled altogether, but it’s also not considered to be a current concern. During such a state, it’s not uncommon for a director, producer, or other vital components of a project to get bored and walk away from it. We haven’t heard that Stahlelski has abandoned ‘Highlander’ yet, but it’s unlikely that he’s going to wait around forever for the chance to translate his vision into a finished product. It’s obvious at this point that we won’t see the reboot idea come to fruition during 2020. It doesn’t appear particularly hopeful that it will appear in 2021, either. By that point – four years after the green light was given – it seems dubious that it will ever appear at all.