In This Episode:
The discussion was meant to centre on the fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise, however it is possibly the worst film Chris and Allen have looked at for the show to date. So we, instead, cover the other, better, Die Hard movies, the ingredients that work in them, the number of knock off’s inspired by them and the evolution of the character of John McClane from vulnerable, wise-cracking everyman to a seemingly bulletproof superhero.
Die Hard (1988) is based on Nothing Lasts Forever, a thriller by American crime writer Roderick Thorp. The book was his second featuring ex-cop Joe Leland. His first Leland novel was used as the source for the 1966 Frank Sinatra film The Detective. So when 20th Century Fox pressed ahead with their Nothing Lasts Forever project they were contractually obligated to offer the lead role to Sinatra. The only snag? ‘Ol Blue Eyes was 73 years old, so passed on the offer. Fox removed any connections to The Detective and retooled the script as a sequel to Commando (1985) for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He too passed on the project and it was altered again, including renaming the lead John McClane, to become a stand alone film.
A summer sleeper that became a blockbuster, reshaping action movies forever and turning Bruce Willis into a giant star. Four sequels would follow beginning in 1990 with Die Hard 2, sometimes referred to as Die Harder. The most recent, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), sees Willis, as McClane, going on a mission to Moscow to reconnected with his estranged son, who happens to be a super CIA spy.
The film is the first original Die Hard movie, not based on an existing source, it is also the furthest removed from the taught, contained, high octane thriller of the original. McClane’s journey throughout the series has seen him evolve from a wisecracking, foul mouthed everyman to a seemingly bulletproof, indestructible man-machine, the antithesis of the John McClane we came to know and love in the early outings. The vulnerability of our hero from the previous films, which make his struggles to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds even more incredible and gets the audience behind him, is completely gone. Instead its replaced with father/son bickering with a backdrop of loud explosions which can’t, as Leonard Maltin points out in his review, even muster a decent one-liner for Willis.
Clearly our opinion is in the minority. The movie took a huge amount at the box office in the face of a negative critical response. Holding a 14% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes but taking over $300 MILLION at the worldwide box office.
Ho Ho Ho! Now I Have A Machine Gun:
A Good Day to Die Hard feels like it was built for the sole purpose of easing John McClane out of the franchise and replacing him with McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney) to reinvigorate the property for Fox, and years to come.
Latterly the original movie has become a perennial holiday favourite, with a meme filled internet flame war over whether it should even qualify as a Christmas movie or not. Whether you subscribe or not shouldn’t take anything away from Die Hard, a stone cold classic. The follow up comes close in quality, the third has a wonderful pair up of Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, the fourth is just a generic internet action thriller and finally we round out with the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard, Yippie Ki Ay Mother Russia!
How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org