November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Highlander Endgame
 GNP CRESCENDO GNPD 8067 [62:31]
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Highlander Endgame is the fourth film in the Highlander series, but like Star Trek: Generations, is also a 'hand-over' feature, serving to introduce characters from a spin off TV series to the silver screen. Thus the Christopher Lambert's Connor MacLeod shares his final feature adventure with the small screen's Duncan MacLoed, played by Adrian Paul. The film has met with generally miserable reviews from uninvolved critics, and a fair degree of praise from fans, who seem to generally regard it as vastly superior to the second and third films, and possibly on a par with the original. Even so, everyone agrees that the screenwriters have been unable to resolve the many contradictions in the sprawling story-line. By its very nature, Highlander rambles, a labyrinthine narrative of immortals across centuries and continents. Perhaps it is therefore inevitable that this soundtrack album should prove a somewhat diverse beast, mixing everything from elements of Scottish folk music to orchestral passages (which are probably samples), electronic atmospherics, instrumental rock and 'dance'. I would imagine it works well enough with the film, but it makes for a very uneven album and I doubt there is a human being on the planet who will enjoy listening to all of it.

The Highlander series has never gone in for continuity, musical or otherwise. While having a different composer for each film never did the Alien sequence any harm, one might be forgiven for thinking there has been just too much diversity in this particular saga. After Michael Kamen's memorable score for the first film (plus the disgraceful product placement of Queen's entire then-current album, which alongside the same year's Top Gun made the idea of feature film as glorified pop-promo acceptable to a mainstream audience), we had Stewart Copland (and terrible pop songs from everybody) for Highlander II, followed by J. Peter Robinson and more terrible pop songs (plus some very fine and appropriate Celtic folk from Loreena McKennitt) for Highlander III. Now we have Stephen Graziano and Nick Glennie-Smith, and if there are any terrible pop songs in the film then presumably they have been dumped on another album.

Stephen Graziano is a new name to me (he seems to have done a lot of TV over the last few years, but few features that anyone has seen), while Nick Glennie-Smith (The Rock, The Man in the Iron Mask) is well known for his work with Hans Zimmer, modern master of the collaborative film score. Together, but individually (Graziano scored the first half of the film, Glennie-Smith the second) they have produced very much what one might expect, all bar the inclusion of a genuinely memorable theme. Highlander III ended with Loreena McKennitt's version of the traditional 'Bonny Portmore' (from her fine 1991 album, The Visit), and having said there is no continuity between Highlander movies, I must now admit my surprise at finding this album begins with a version of the same song. Indeed, for a while I was even fooled into thinking it was Loreena McKennitt singing it, and you may as well know this, I am a big Loreena McKennitt fan. But no, this is someone by the name of Jennifer McNeil, who I hereby declare the world's finest Loreena McKennitt impersonator.

After the ballad comes what must be, at over 10-minutes, one of the longest 'Opening Titles' ever. There is another 10-minute plus cue too, 'The Legend of the Immortals', and two more that clock in at over 6-minutes. Not that they ever really develop any structure or build to any particular climax, rather being the sort of suspense/action music which simply underpins and 'Mickey-Mouses' the on-screen drama. Indeed, the entire album really rather goes on until it ends, mixing atmospherics and action, this later of the dark, electronically textured sort found in Eric Serra's score of Joan of Arc, with snatches of Celtic folk, sampled choirs, pounding sampled drums, and pretty synthetic glittery bits. There is a big tune, but it is never allowed to breath in the same way James Horner expanded his Braveheart melodies to telling effect. As such, this seems to be very much a score for fans of post-Zimmer modern action writing and devotees of the Highlander series, big screen and small.

One tip: if you plan on seeing the film and don't want the story spoilt, do not read the track listing beforehand.

Gary S. Dalkin


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