So, Valentines Day is coming up, and Mel looks at me and asks, “Did you wanna go to a movie?”
“Sure.” I say, already falling into “guy” mode and dreading the possible responses. “What do you wanna go see?”
“The new Die Hard is out this weekend. Let’s go see it.”
THIS ladies and gentlemen, is why I love this woman. She didn’t pick this for me, SHE wanted to go see it. We were in Los Angeles that week, entertainment capitol of the world, and we’re going to see Die Hard on Valentines Day. And while our original idea of seeing it at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd fell through, (Really Grauman’s? You’re not even SHOWING the film?) we did find an IMAX presentation—NOT in 3D if you can believe it—at an AMC in Downtown Disney.
John McClane, in IMAX. Yippee Ki-Yay, right?
Unfortunately, that’s where the giddy fun part of this review stops, because once the lights dimmed, the movie began.
But first, back story:
Die Hard is of course, a classic. A New York cop trapped in a office building full of terrorists on Christmas Eve. Even if you don’t like action flicks, you need to see the first film, which is actually taught in film schools as an example of how to do it right. It’s just an all around well-crafted movie, with real characters doing real things despite the extraordinary circumstances.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder stretches that formula, gives us a bigger play area by moving from a building to an airport, and I am not sure why it gets despised as much as it does. Not as good as the first, granted, but still fun.
Die Hard With A Vengeance relocates us to all of New York, ties back into the first film and ups the ante in almost every way conceivable. Great fun, but we are beginning to tire just a bit of John McClane and his uncanny ability to survive everything thrown at him.
But here’s the genius of the series. He is too. Somewhere over the course of these movies, McClaine gets funny. He’s pissed off, aware of his own mortality and the fact that he keeps surviving strikes him as funny. And the angrier he gets, the funnier he gets. Kinda like the Hulk in reverse.
Live Free Or Die Hard tackles cyber terrorism on a grand scale, and while the movie involves whole cities under attack, it works because it starts small. One shoot out in an apartment. One car chase on a freeway. They build the action and McClane’s anger (and humor). Yes, this film features him blowing up a helicopter with a car, and culminates with a leap onto an exploding freeway from an attack jet, but they got there slowly over the course of the film. It’s probably the most fun of the series.
A Good Day To Die Hard opens with a confusing montage of Russian politics culminating in an assassination. The guilty party is Jack McClane, estranged son of our hero. John flies to Russia to see his son, and immediately gets wrapped up in a series of over the top action pieces, which unfortunately, is the only lesson the film learned from its predecessors: Ratchet up the action quotient.
Having been on the ground in Moscow for all of fifteen minutes McClane steals a truck and is involved in a high speed chase with an armored car that looks like it destroys as many vehicles as the end of The Blues Brothers. Again, the chase itself was fun, but so unbelievable it took me right out of the film. McClane is tossed into these as an unstoppable and nearly emotionless Terminator. Don’t get me wrong, for an action film, it’s very impressive action, but he was the wrong character to use here. Some of these are so outlandish you’d have trouble believing James Bond (or even the Terminator) would have walked away from them alive, let alone a cop from New York.
They try to rein it in with some character building moments between father and son, but instead it’s bickering with the hot head and the old guy. All of the genuine emotion from the previous films was no where to be seen, and even Bruce Willis seemed bored at times. Maybe it was the generic bland script. Maybe it was the “let’s shoot this documentary style” camera work.
Where was the humor? Where was my John McClane?
Perhaps most unforgivable, was the assault on the audience’s collective intelligence when the plot takes us to Chernobyl, and we’re expected to believe there’s a magic spray that eliminates radioactivity. Seriously? When did this become a science fiction movie? By the end I couldn’t even appreciate the action anymore. Like McClane, I was just pissed and had lost my sense of humor as well.
With the announcement of good box office, Die Hard 6 is an inevitability, (admittedly, potentially with the coolest sounding title ever: Old Habits Die Hard) and I’m sure I’d welcome John McClane back to the saddle, if only to wash the taste of this film—the weakest of the bunch—from my mouth.