Remember when we first met John McClane? He was just your anything but mild, hardly mannered, stereotypical New York City movie cop flying into L.A. to make up with his estranged wife and spend Christmas with his kids. Suddenly, during the office holiday extravaganza, our average hero is launched into a hardly average situation. Terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Ooooooo, a European terrorist! So 80s! ) take over the skyscraper to steal some bearer bonds, and basically force John McClane to kill them all in a very surly fashion.
I adored Die Hard from the moment I first saw it on HBO as a teenager. The film’s well crafted story and dazzling effects still hold up to this day. Then, like any good thing, they had to go and wreck it up. How you ask? By making an obligatory sequel, of course.
Die Hard 2 :Die Harder (Yes, it’s really called that.) was released in 1990 and portrayed John McClane (now with the LAPD) in the middle of a terrorist take over of the Dulles airport in Washington, DC. The terrorists all have to be killed, and who but John McClane is surly enough to take care of that task?
Nobody! Oh, and did I mention it is Christmas in this one, too?
John McClane has to be the least lucky guy on the planet! Every time he travels, he has to kill terrorists.
I suppose you could argue that since McClane survives each time that he is the luckiest guy on the planet, but you would be wrong. Fast forward five years, and we find John McClane an alcoholic suspended from the NYPD and on the verge of being divorced by his wife. Just then, a terrorist forces him to run all over New York City and solve puzzles to prevent bombs going off in public places. Die Hard: With a Vengeance brought a nice close to the saga of an everyman placed in extraordinary circumstances…and it wasn’t even Christmas.
But wait, we’re not through, yet. Terrorists are hacking computers in D.C. Better get John McClane to drive a hacker from NYC to the Pentagon! Wait, the whole city is being held hostage by their technology? We need the analog cop and his new and exciting, wise cracking sidekick! Live Free or Die Hard was released on July 4, 2007 and continued to place John McClane in ridiculous circumstance after ridiculous circumstance until it seemed as though he was going to die hard. But, of course, it was the terrorists who ended up dying hard.
With A Good Day to Die Hard hitting theaters in February, I cannot help but look at the roots of this story and wonder if there is anything left worth wringing out of it. I can understand why the first sequel was made. Die Hard changed the action movie genre for good. Every action movie from 1988-90 was seen as an imitator: Speed was Die Hard on a bus, Cliffhanger was Die Hard on a mountain. Why not cash in?
But, what have we done to John McClane in the process? He went from being a wise- cracking everyday guy to a terrorist slayer. I am sure movie terrorists tell their children to behave or John McClane will get them. He is no longer relatable. John McClane as a detective has more special ops and weapons training than all of Seal Team Six, but he doesn’t hire those skills out. He goes on about his humdrum day to day life until the terrorists make it personal.
I will watch at least one more Die Hard movie, mostly out of pure obligation to the original, but I’ve got to admit, this time I’m just not feeling it.