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Highlander

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the pitches

Title: (Trilogy) Highlander, Highlander: The Gathering, Highlander: The Prize
Produced by: Ridley Scott
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Ewan McGregor (Connor), Naveen Andrews (Kurgan), David Oyelowo (Ramirez), Donny Yen, Sandra Bullock, Kevin McKidd (Duncan)

Highlander

For thousands of years, the immortals have moved through time affecting the course of history.  Some of them have used their long lives to help mankind overcome and some of them have used their gifts to enslave.  Always moving through time these warriors have had one goal, the prize.  There can be only one.
 

In a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides, two armies march into formation with banners uniting and dividing the growing masses. Horse and riders appear on the cliffs above and all are watching one lone warrior make his way onto the battlefield.  He is alone and carries a single sword.  He moves effortlessly through the two armies to find his target. He quickly comes upon him and with a swift slice, has removed his head and lighting begins to strike the battlefield causing the armies to disperse. 

The passage of time moves forward, and similar battles begin and end in the same way.  Always a severed head and lightning, but with many different men and women holding the swords. In the distance of every battle four horsemen, unphased by the supernatural, ride on as the lightning intensifies.   

In 1536, Connor MacLeod rides to battle with his kinsmen and leaves behind any chance at a normal life.  He is quickly stabbed through the chest moments after the battle begins by the sword of a mysteriously dark warrior on a ghostly horse. The bronze warrior is kept from taking MacLeod’s head by the warring clansmen.  After the battle clears and the wounded are attended to, in the distance the horsemen gather and in agreement declare that they have found the chosen one. 

Gasping for air in a pile of varied kilt-wearing bodies, MacLeod emerges and stumbles to find his kin. 

Having quickly been branded in league with the devil, MacLeod flees into the cold Scottish countryside alone but somehow alive.

A rider out of place at this battle finds MacLeod and begins to educate him on his “unholy” gift.  He introduces himself as Juan Sanchez Villalobos Ramirez, currently of Spain, and previously in the service of Egypt.  He explains his age(almost 3000 years old) and the rules of the immortals.  After some convincing MacLeod excepts his new life as the student of this stranger to the Scottish Highlands. 

Ramirez traces his life out for MacLeod in vivid flashbacks to illustrate the choices that made him, and the many lives he has lived.  More and more secrets of the immortals emerge as the years go by and MacLeod and Ramirez continue moving on through time.  Love comes and goes, friends die and new immortals are found and trained by the pair.

Ramirez continues to share more of the origins of the immortals and his role in their history. He is preparing to share his final secrets minutes before his head is taken by the man called the Kurgan.  He is the bronze warrior who triggered MacLeod’s immortality almost a century before.

Highlander: The Gathering

Dismayed and lost in grief MacLeod, after an absence from Scotland for 86 years, returns to his ancestral homeland and finds a new clan of MacLeods starting down the same path. He finds Duncan, waking after death in battle, and begins to teach him in the ways of the immortals.  Desperate to understand the ongoing fight of the immortals and find meaning the two drift in and out of each other’s lives. 

The two remaining horsemen begin to appear, one on a reddish-brown horse and the other on a white horse, at different battles and observe the outcomes as the march of time continues.  Never flinching in their observations of the battles of men or the single combat between immortals. They wait at the ready for what must come.

The pieces begin to fit together as the centuries move on and more immortals become known to the men of the clan Macleod. Separate in the search for the truth about their kind, the Macleods uncover the threads of Immortals throughout recorded history.

Exploring the historical records of many countries and religious organizations, they learn that every major unexplainable event in history was the result of the quickening pouring forth as a poor soul lost their immortality. These gatherings coincided with the moments that tipped the scales in the balance of good and evil.

In their search and with the help of sympathetic immortals, various wars are remembered and crucial moments are realized as being under the influence of immortal actions.  From the Trojan War to the War of the Roses, other immortals filled in the hidden history for the MacLeods.  Their memories reveal knowledge forgotten throughout the last several hundred years. 

As the years turn to decades the truth of the prize begins to become clear, the winner will have control over the entire world. War and darkness or peace and prosperity.

Highlander: The Prize

At the last battle for the fate of the world, Connor finds the answer to the last of Ramirez’s secrets.  Ramirez, so long as he kept his head, was a guardian.  He was the rider who so very long ago, adverted the plague of famine from destroying the world.  The other riders continue to hold war and pestilence at bay as they wait for the chosen one to claim the prize and destroy death.  These immortals were a safeguard against the evil that had longed to take the prize and plunge the world into darkness.

The time of the last gathering is at hand and Connor MacLeod must face his old enemy.  The Kurgan has been on a seemingly unending mission to kill as many immortals as he can, always looking for the chosen one who will bring him his prize.

The Kurgan from the beginning of time was known as Cain. Following years of peace and prosperity, he grew jealous of his brother and took his life.  His full punishment did not come immediately, it took thousands of lifetimes.  

Having had a family before his brother’s murder, he watched his family die off one by one. Their descendants spread across the earth and ever so often out of his lineage came immortals who only wanted power and destruction.  His brother’s heirs longed for peace and reluctantly were drawn into the conflicts unleashed by their uncle’s jealousy    He was exiled and began his life as a marked man. 

He had unleashed unnatural death and was now forced to keep unleashing it upon the earth for the rest of all time, unable to continue a family of his own, unable to have what he stole from his brother.  After years of hiding his true goal, he admits to Connor that the killing of the other immortals was only to find the chosen one who could release him from his sentence.

He wants to be free of life and free those who he deemed too weak to live.

The oldest immortals, who are the last of the horsemen gather to either release or to hold off the plagues of man. Sworn to this duty from the moment of their rebirth as immortals, these ancient ones hope they can move on like their old friend Ramirez and finally know peace.

Connor takes Cain’s head and the prize is released, freeing himself, Duncan, and the rest of the immortals of their curse for there can be only one.

Title: Eternal Blades
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Gerard Butler (Connor), David Wenham (Duncan), Halle Barry (Spaniard), Liam Neeson (Kurgan)

Opening Text:

Long before the Celestial Wars, the gods had placed hundreds of care takers on each of the ‘Blessed Planets.’ These immortal demi-gods carried out the celestial rulers’ will, maintaining a planet’s order and balance, but when the gods died, the immortals were lost. Their destiny became their own. Their purpose and duty left for them to decide. Their power was theirs to use how they pleased.

We open on a swordfight on a grassy hill, two opponents giving their all to best the other, but neither can connect. These men are dressed in ancient Scottish attire, their sword and shields of 17th century craftsmanship. They deflect blow after blow until one is struck in the forearm, losing his sword along with his arm. Down on the ground, he surrenders, and the winning Highlander agrees to let him live. A crowd cheers and we see this was a demonstration. Families in modern clothes, all filming with their phones, applaud, stuff donations into a box, then quickly move on to the gift shop.

The winner of the battle stands over the defeated Highlander. ‘No applause for the champion?’ asks the victor, as our hero Connor MacLeod picks his severed arm off the ground. ‘I wish you’d stop doing that, Duncan,’ says Connor, and we watch him piece himself back together. The friends cut to a pub where they tell stories of old empires and old loves, sing ancient songs, dance outdated dances, then stumble to their respective homes. Connor falls into bed, but Duncan is met by a shadowy figure waiting for him in the dark. The man asks him to raise his sword, and when the Highlander brings up his weapon from the earlier fight, the shadowy figure says, ‘No. Your true sword.’

Duncan and the man cross weapons, each clash sending lightning to the skies. Duncan’s home crumbles under the destructive force, and the combatants spill into the nearby fields. The skies blacken, and a storm builds around them shrouding the men from watchful eyes. Trees explode, and the earth cracks with every parry and thrust. When Duncan is defeated, he asks for mercy. The villain says, ‘this is your mercy,’ and he cuts off Duncan’s head.

Connor is awoken the next day as someone breaks into his home. He reaches for his sword only to have it kicked away. Luckily, it’s someone Connor knows. She calls herself Spaniard. The Spaniard tells Connor that his fellow clansman has been murdered by Kurgan, and that they need to run. They flee to Africa to summon the Council in a place where the immortals formerly communed with the gods.

Here we are introduced to other demi-gods and we get some explanation of who these people are and what they’re doing on Earth. Some are still trying to help humanity, others running corporations or criminal organizations. None of them respect Connor, who, like Duncan, had decided to shrink away from their god-like powers and live as normal people.

They talk about Kurgan and how he believes that by killing all the demi-gods, he will be transformed into a full god, which would give him absolute power over the planet. No one knows what he wants to do with the power, and many believe the theory is unfounded. ‘We’re all that’s left of the gods,’ they say. ‘There will never be another one.’

The council is divided on what to do with Kurgan, but some agree he needs to be dealt with. When they form their team, Connor wants to join and avenge the death of Duncan, but only the Spaniard agrees to let the Highlander in. She says he needs to embrace his full power, and we get a sweet montage of training in both swordplay and paranormal powers. We also learn that each sword was given to them directly by the gods, each sword containing a piece of his/her power.

As Connor is trained, the montage shows Kurgan finding and slaying other immortals. He takes a piece of each demi-god’s sword and reforges it into his own, enhancing his abilities each time. We also learn that his motivation to become a full god is to resurrect his family who died centuries before. Also sprinkled throughout the movie is Connor’s own past and dealing with repeated loss, and what led him to hide away from his powers.

When the Spaniard thinks Connor is ready, the group finds Kurgan, but fails to defeat him. Most of them die, but Connor is able to disarm him, and Kurgan retreats, leaving his sword behind. Connor is alone, but imbued with new abilities. He returns to the council where they see he is more than what he once was, and the factions of the immortal council vie for his side and possibly a new direction for what the council could become. Some think they could come together to finally rule the planet, others believe they should carry out their original intent, keeping the forces of Earth in balance. What they agree on is that Kurgan must go.

The climax see many immortals band together to defeat Kurgan and Connor becomes the head of the council. As he takes the head seat, his hefty eternal blade at his side, the voice of a god speaks to the group. ‘Be careful, Highlander. Your power is too great. Serve us again or become our enemy. We are watching.’

Chris Sully

Chris Sully

Title: Highlander
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Heughan (Connor), Joe Manganiello (Kurgan), Oscar Isaac (Ramirez), Jessica Chastain (Brenda Wyatt), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kastagir)

Scotland, 1536

An 18-year old Connor is seen with family and friends, preparing for war against their longtime rivals, Clan Fraser.

Clan Fraser’s leader has taken on the services of the Kurgan (Joe Manganiello), an imposing mercenary in black leather armor. The Kurgan tells Murdoch that he wants to kill Connor on the battlefield and that nobody else should fight him. The battle begins and Connor, who has never been in battle before, is very scared. He soon finds nobody wants to fight him, but eventually the Kurgan finds him and easily defeats Connor by stabbing him in the chest, shouting “there are can be only one!” Other warriors from Clan MacLeod see the Kurgan preparing to decapitate Connor and attack him, forcing him to retreat. Connor is taken back to the village but is so badly wounded everybody assumes he is going to die.

Connor makes a remarkable recovery and is now back to normal, in only a few days. While he is happy to be alive, his friends ostracize him. His own wife says that his recovery is the work of the devil. Most everybody in the clan mirrors that sentiment. Eventually the townspeople form a mob, tie him to a pole, and take him out to be executed — but he is freed by an elder, who convinces the villagers to commute the death sentence in favor of exile.

Flash forward to 2020

Connor MacLoed, who now goes by Russel Nash, is walking down the streets of New York city. MacLeod feels as if he is being stalked and darts into a nearby parking structure to see if someone will follow. He is followed and quickly attacked by another man, with a sword. Connor pulls out his sword (because of course he is walking around New York City in 2020 with a sword) and the battle begins. The two fight back and forth until Connor eventually wins and decapitates his assailant. A powerful energy release (the Quickening) takes place and Connor absorbs all the power and knowledge from the immortal he has just defeated. We immediately understand that this is not the first OR the last time Connor MacLeod has been through this process.

Flashback: 1500s

Separated from his clan and former wife, Connor is now with a new woman and they are living happily in the countryside. During his daily routine, he is approached by a man who looks to be a Spaniard, who we eventually learn is named Ramirez (Oscar Isaac). The Spaniard attacks MacLoed at first and they sword fight for a few minutes before Ramirez bows down before MacLeod and reveals that he is not there to kill him but to train him as an ally for the battle to come.

Training montages galore show MacLeod learning about the Highlander and proper sword fighting and tactics and …… Years pass and the two form a strong bond. Then, as in the original film, the time comes when Kurgan attacks MacLeod and Ramirez. Kurgan is a huge, hulking man who has killed many before and absorbed their power. His strength is too much for just one person and it requires the fighting skills of both warriors to hold him off. Eventually Kurgan strikes down Ramirez and decapitates him. He turns to MacLeod to do the same, but before he can complete the task, is run-through with a sword by Heather, MacLeod’s wife. The injury doesn’t kill Kurgan, but is enough for MacLeod and his wife to escape off into the mountains.

Back in 2020

We see more of the daily life of MacLeod. Inside his apartment, we see the collection of weapons, books and photos from his many lifetimes. These tell a story of his many victories, cultures and loves.

Being that it is 2020, the sword fight in the garage lead to an investigation and it doesn’t take long for some security footage to out Russel Nash (aka MacLeod) as the prime suspect in the decapitation. MacLeod is quickly arrested and investigated by the police, along with consultant Brenda Wyatt played by Jessica Chastain.

Brenda Wyatt and Nash/MacLeod form a bond during the investigation and MacLeod eventually reveals to her elements of his past. During one such conversation, Brenda flat-out says Highlander. MacLeod (and the audience) are shocked to hear that Brenda is familiar with the term. As it turns out, a mythology had formed around the Highlander and the gathering and she had been researching this for years. She had specifically become an expert in swords and put herself in a position to consult on cases that might lead to meeting one of the fabled warriors. Brenda even knew about Kurgan and the others.

Nash/MacLeod, with Brenda’s help, is cleared of all charges and the two form a life together.

Shortly after, MacLoed is reunited with his old friend Kastagir (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who he hasn’t seen in 100 years. Kastagir warns MacLeod of an impending threat. Kurgan is close and they recently battled, but Kastagir was able to get away. The two decide to meet up again soon.

At their next meeting, MacLeod arrives to find Kastagir and Kurgan already fighting. He immediately dives into the fight and we get one of those classic 10 minutes battles (a la They Live, minus the bubble-gum).

Throughout the fight, there are many close calls and eventually Kastagir finds himself on the ground, with Kurgan standing over him. MacLeod has been thrown to the side and is slowly getting up. Kurgan is rambling on, drawing out Kastagir’s death for WAY too long, when he is attacked from behind by a third warrior, unseen until now, emerging from the shadows of the alley.

Kurgan’s head slides off of his enormous body and he falls to the side, revealing Brenda Wyatt. Kastagir and MacLeod are both baffled, along with the audience. After a few seconds, the quickening begins and the force from Kurgan is transferred into Brenda’s body, making her an immortal and filling her with the power and knowledge of 100s of warriors.

Brenda passes out and falls to the ground.

We fast forward several days

Brenda is hospitalized, with MacLeod standing by her bedside. Her eyes slowly open and a feeling of relief comes over MacLeod. Over days, she recovers and is released to return home. MacLeod watches over her and helps her around the house as she gets back to her old self. During this time, Brenda reveals that she had always wondered what would happen if a mortal were to decapitate one of these secret warriors. She had followed MacLeod that night in hopes of getting her opportunity. She was beginning to feel the power and had memories from lives she had never lived. It was a state of euphoria she had never experienced.

Just as the closing credits are about to roll and we get that false sense that all is well, the camera pushes in on Brenda to reveal a familiar, sinister smirk that we had seen from Kurgan during so many scenes earlier in the movie. Something evil has taken over Brenda, but we won’t get to see more, until the sequel to the reboot.

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