No franchise fills me with as much unbridled frustration as Die Hard. What started with an almost perfect action debut has steadily descended into a painful and spectacularly unoriginal interpretation of John McClane’s story. Hollywood need to stop churning out these uninspired, hackneyed jobs that present us with a Bruce Willis who plays the iconic role with as much enthusiasm as you would expect from a visit to the dentist. So imagine my anger when I read that not only are there plans for another Die Hard but it is being approached as prequel/sequel hybrid, a phrase that should fill any franchise fan with stomach churning dread.
The thing is, I had absolutely zero confidence in 20th Century Fox bringing John McClane back to the silver screen for a sixth time, before I read that they were planning a prequel/sequel hybrid. As if they couldn’t choose between a bad idea for a sequel and an even worse idea for a prequel, and thought Die Hard would work better constantly switching between two different eras and actors in what is almost guaranteed to result in a soulless, lazy attempt to wring the last morsel of star power from old Bruce Willis. What do they hope to achieve by making an origin movie of sorts? We know all we need to know about the character that has been effectively established in the first three films. Do we really want to see a young McClane walking a beat on the streets of New York? NO.
My lack of confidence and optimism comes from the fact that the studio seems to have completely lost touch on what made the original Die Hard one of the greatest action films of all time. A film that introduced us to the cynical yet charismatic cop, as he single handedly took on a group of terrorists (Well, thieves actually) on Christmas Eve, with charm and brutality in equal measures. We were treated to white-knuckle action, a colorful cast of characters and possibly the greatest movie villain to grace film who doesn’t have a breathing problem, played by the late, great Alan Rickman.
And unlike the recent additions to the franchise, John McClane is presented as a vulnerable hero, as he constantly gets wounded, bruised and battered in his battle against the overwhelming odds. The reason that the action in the original is so engrossing is because it has been established that McClane could get seriously hurt as a result. You wince and close your eyes as he digs shards of glass out of his feet because, at the end of the day, John McClane is just an everyday man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This interpretation of the character is unrecognizable when compared to the smarmy, unlikable superhero that we see today. John McClane is pretty much bulletproof as the writers put him in one ridiculous situation after another, believing that if they include bigger and louder explosions, then we wouldn’t realise that John is no danger at all, amidst the offensively obvious CGI carnage. This decision completely saps any tension out of the supposedly exciting action. How will John survive a harrier jet trying to blow up his truck!? I don’t know, probably by some nonsensical means that rob the character of any interesting depth or vulnerability.
However, it’s not just the fact that John McClane is pretty much Superman, but that the character is being written as a cocky jerk and played by a Bruce Willis who clocked out a long time ago. He just doesn’t care anymore and doesn’t bring ANY of the charisma and wry charm that made the character so lovable back in 1988. A Good Day To Die Hard, the 5th entry in the series, had John venturing over to Russia, assaulting local innocents (they’re only Russian after all) and finding himself embroiled in a global conflict between the CIA and Russian terrorists. He shoots bad guys and mumbles bad one-liners, smiling smugly all the while. When I want the main character of a film to fail, falling flat on his stupid face in the process, then you have a serious problem.
If you absolutely had to make another Die Hard, then you would get back to basics and show us a John McClane with his back against the wall, barely fighting off a small group of terrorists in a practical effects heavy production. If this isn’t how the studios are approaching this divisive franchise then someone needs to take John McClane deep into the woods and put a bullet in the back of his head.