Highlander II: The Quickening is a 1991 science fiction film directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside and Sean Connery. It is the second installment in the Highlander film series, and transitions the fantasy of the first film into science fiction. It was released on 12 April 1991 in the United Kingdom (in a 8 minutes longer cut) and 1 November 1991 in the United States. Set in the year 2024, the plot concerns Connor MacLeod, the Highlander, that after regaining his youth and immortal abilities, he must free Earth from the Shield, an artificial ozone that has fallen under the control of a corrupt corporation.
Highlander II was shot almost entirely in Argentina after the country's economy crashed. As the local economy experienced hyperinflation, the film's investors and completion bond company took direct control of production and final edit, removing director Mulcahy and his creative influence while changing parts of the story. The resulting film contradicts the established canon of the first movie regarding the nature of immortals and MacLeod's past, such as depicting immortals as aliens from the planet Zeist rather than human born with an energy connecting them to nature and making them unable to die unless beheaded. MacLeod's former mentor RamÃrez, killed in the first film, is inexplicably resurrected and now depicted as an alien sorcerer. While the first movie used the word "Quickening" to refer to the energy that gives an immortal their power, this movie uses the term to refer to a magical force RamÃrez uses to bond his soul to MacLeod's, allowing him to return from death when the Highlander needs him.
The film has received very negative reviews from critics and fans of the series. It was universally panned for its retcons, large plot holes, poorly developed characters, confusing story structure, abundance of subplots, and bad editing. The original theatrical edition was also a box-office bomb, grossing $16 million in the US on a production budget of $34 million.
In 1995, an alternate director's cut called the Renegade Version was released to home video that attempted to address the many story problems, such as removing all mention of Zeist and the idea that immortals are aliens. This was followed by a Special Edition DVD release in 2004, which was largely the same cut as the Renegade Version but with some altered special effects. The sequel Highlander III: The Sorcerer follows the events of the first film contradicting and ignoring the events and revelations of Highlander 2.