The franchise potential behind Highlander may be decapitating its return.
Photo: Fox

We all feel like immortals when it comes to discussing a new Highlander. It’s been over a decade (though it might as well be centuries) since we first caught wind of the proposed remake of the 1986 cult movie, with names like Ryan Reynolds, Justin Lin, and even Tom Cruise floated at various points.

The latest big name to come aboard is Chad Stahelski, director of the John Wick franchise. He’s been attached since 2016, and yet there have been very few updates in that time. Lionsgate reportedly has a script—but, Stahelski says, the project won’t necessarily be limited to just one movie.

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Speaking to Collider, the director suggested the sheer scope of what someone could do with Highlander is what’s holding it back.

Anyone who knows anything about the property knows it has a lot of meat to it. It’s a good property. It’s got a lot of potential. We’re just trying to figure out the best way not to fuck it up. Not to try and fit it into a 1 hour, 45 minute movie, which, when your pitch is, ‘There can be only one,’ and in your first movie you kill everybody but the one, sequels have a problem of happening. So we’re trying to design in a way that gives us a little more lead in, a little more time with the mythology and see some of the best characters.

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Which, yes, means they are thinking about possible new TV iterations. That’s a route the franchise has already been down a few times—mainly with Highlander: The Series, which ran from 1992 to 1998—but Stahelski thinks there’s potential to do better.

They did seven seasons of TV, and even though the TV show may not hold up today, the idea of it and the characters they brought in were super cool. So we’re trying to devise a methodology that leads up to The Quickening. You just don’t end with a one-on-one battle in New York, cut off a guy’s head, and that’s it. We want to do this in such a way that it becomes more of a series whether it’s short form or long form that would let us explore that in the best way. I have a huge, heartfelt love and respect for the project, so we’re trying to find the best way to do it to give fans what they want.

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As for what that “best way” may be, Stahelski, of course, mentioned Netflix as an option. He also said, “We’re well past the script phase in terms of what we want to accomplish with a feature-length version of what we want and based on there being more after that.” So while a movie is not out of the question, it just seems like the team is still trying to find the right landing place for the material—someone who is willing to bet big on a franchise with potential, but maybe not a huge fan base.

My main concern here, and the Collider piece mentions it too, is this idea of planning for the future. Any time someone makes a movie with an eye on making a sequel, it rarely works out. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are the exceptions, not the rule.

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As laid out in the article above, the rule should be: Make one great movie! One great season of TV! Back yourself into a corner! Put everything you have into making this one movie or show as amazing as humanly possible. If that works and people love it, then worry about what comes next.

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If the team behind Highlander is already looking at it as seven seasons of TV instead of one great story, they’ll be lucky to get that. Very few of your favorite movie franchises (Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, The Matrix, the list goes on an on) began with the idea of, “Oh, we’re making three of these, no matter what, so let’s not finish the story in one movie.” Plus, it’s much easier to get a company like Lionsgate or Netflix to pay for one season or movie, see it become a massive success, and then have them invest in a proven hit, rather than overextend yourself from the beginning.

There’s a lot to still decide with when it comes to Highlander. Thankfully, since we’ve already been waiting for a remake to happen for a long, long time, we can bide our time, just like the immortals.

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