Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Too Many - Die Hard Edition

There can, indeed, be too much of a good thing.  Especially when it comes to movie sequels.  The most recent example is the latest installment of the Die Hard franchise.  I think we can all agree that the original Die Hard is a classic action movie.  It changed the genre.  It gave us the intelligent villain, the everyday Joe hero, and it still holds up today.  It's quotable, it had great characters, exciting action, a cool plot twist, and proved that Bruce Willis could be a star.  We'll forgive it for doing that stupid 80's trick of having the supposedly dead bad guy suddenly come back for one last scare.  At least it paid off when Powell shot him and brought his character full-circle.
The second one, Die Harder, was kind of lame.  I mean, the title alone should have been enough of a red flag.  It took everything that was cool about the first movie and tossed it out the window.  Well, everything but Bruce Willis.  He was the only legitimately good thing about that movie.  We were expected to believe that, even in the Die Hard universe, John McClane could go just about anywhere in Dulles airport.  And that the entire airport had only one maintenance guy.  And that no one really cared about that one plane five minutes after it crashed.  It may have seemed that the second installment was one too many.
But the third movie, Die Hard with a Vengeance, made up for it.  It wasn't as great as the first movie, but it was a lot better than the second.  It brought back a lot of the elements of the first movie, particularly an elaborate heist plot.  The revenge plot against John McClane seemed like an afterthought and completely contrived with its whole cat-and-mouse game around New York, but it worked because McClane had Samuel L. Jackson as a reluctant partner.  Yeah, that's pretty much what made that movie.  Samuel L. M. F. Jackson.
When the fourth movie came out in 2007, Live Free or Die Hard, it proved that there was still life in the franchise.  It didn't shy away from the fact that John McClane was older.  Instead of having to save his estranged wife, whom we realized was useless character in the first act of the second movie, he had to save his daughter.  Not just save her, but save his relationship with her.  Justin Long wasn't half bad, either, and it kept his career alive a little longer.  The action was still Die Hard campy, but this time it was more inventive and fun.  Sure the plot was ridiculous and it had Kevin Smith in it.  But it also had Maggie Q.  Win.  Of the all the movies, this one is my second favorite.
Then this year, they went one too far.  A Good Day to Die Hard took everything that was good about the earlier movies -- even the second one -- and tossed them.  It tried way too hard to play up the estranged father and son story line between John McClane and is son, Jack.  When Jack turned out to be a CIA agent or some such BS, it was obvious they were trying to pass the mantle on to someone younger to continue the franchise.  But the plot was thinner than the hair on Bruce Willis' head.  The action was little more than car chases and fight scenes.  And talk about phoning in performances.  On second thought, let's not.  People who have wondered when Die Hard was really going to die just witnessed the flatline of the franchise.  Die Hard 5 was one too many.

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