Growing up almost entirely in a post Die Hard world, the action films that immediately followed were often a direct result of the 1988 classic, though replicating its successful formula was a near impossible task. Never before had Hollywood put the fate of this particular genre in the hands of an “every man” because, unlike other contemporaries like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis wasn’t built like a real-life superhero – in fact, he was still working on a “dramedy” series for ABC while filming. But there were many other variables that led to the film’s success and, as we all know, Die Hard became a runaway hit that year, propelling Willis while also creating a new franchise.
Hollywood wasted little time capitalizing on the first film’s success and within two years a sequel was released. Unlike its predecessor, Die Hard 2 lacked the trailblazing qualities the franchise was built upon, despite being an entertaining film – and one that scored again at the box office. The sequel tried to basically re-create the original film, only this time in an airport with Willis’ character, John McClane, once again in the wrong place at the wrong time at Christmas. There’s little built into the story to further develop the character that we saw in Los Angeles, instead the film really just turns up the swearing and gratuitous violence, all while turning down the logic. But that’s about par for the course of an action sequel, because there’s only a handful that are as good as the original – a few that come to mind are Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Dark Knight.
Then, three years later, Hollywood figured out a way to freshen Die Hard up considerably.
With Die Hard With A Vengeance came more story surrounding McClane, who at this point was a down on his luck police officer with the New York City Police Department, but Hollywood finally gave Batman his Robin and it came in the form of Zeus Carver, played by Samuel L. Jackson. This sequel often had the unintentional feel of a buddy cop film, thanks to the banter between the two characters, who made it abundantly clear that neither cared much for their counterpart. But, unlike the last two films, Die Hard With A Vengeance showcased its location, New York City, so much so that the city feels like it should be billed in the ending credits scene. Add in that McClane is being targeted for what happened in the original and it is arguably the best all-around film of the entire franchise – I know that might be an unpopular opinion, but I will die on this hill.
For how good the third film was, Live Free or Die Hard took a step backwards.
Once again, McClane finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, only this time the storyline eventually affects his now grown-up daughter, who is captured in the middle of the ultimate cyber-crime, an idea that was still somewhat in its infancy to most moviegoers more than a decade ago. It’s fun, man how this one is fun, with a solid bad guy and another enjoyable ride along buddy but somewhere between the end of the last film and the beginning of this one a massive change took place. McClane was no longer just the “every man,” who could talk and shoot his way out of any situation, but rather, an almost comic book version of himself. He’s driving cars into helicopters, jumping onto fighter jets – hell, it even ends when he shoots through himself to kill the antagonist.
Now, at this point, barring another script with some amazing writing, Die Hard should be finished, right? But another film was made and the script had anything but amazing writing. When I saw the trailer for A Good Day To Die Hard prior to its release in 2015, I will admit I was excited at the potential of more Willis in the role that made him famous but what I got was a film that is the Rocky V of the franchise – a cash grab with an unbelievably terrible premise built on heavy CGI and special effects. Littered with action, much of which can be seen in the trailer, this installment finds McClane heading to Russia where encounters his son and, to be honest, I turned it off halfway through and I still haven’t seen it all. Maybe I should consider going back and giving it another try?
Grossing a little over $67 million in the United States, it appeared that, like many franchises, Die Hard had run its course and suffered a slow, agonizing fall from grace, almost 30 years later. Now, with an announced plan for a sixth installment in the series, rumors continue to swirl about what moviegoers can expect from the film, still in the earliest stages of production. Well, it turns out we can expect it to be the first film not to contain Die Hard in the title. Earlier this week, news broke about the name and what might be in store for our death-defying hero this time. In a recent interview with Empire, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, a producer for the new film, opened up about the storyline:
“‘You can tell our intention by the fact that the title page we handed in says, McCLANE,’ producer Lorenzo diBonaventura told Empire. ‘We want you to get invested in John McClane more than ever before.’ He added that, despite rumors that the prequel section would take up more of the runtime, the sequel-prequel approach will feature Bruce Willis just as much as his younger incarnation. ‘I don’t know how you do Die Hard without Bruce,’ he said. ‘The idea that he’s not very significant in this movie is not accurate at all. We are gonna explore John McClane in his twenties. But just as prominent is the 60-year-old version.'”
No, no, no. Just stop it, Hollywood. After five films and the potential to delve into McClane’s back story, you’re going to wait until now to pop the hood and see what’s under the engine? Die Hard worked so well back in 1988 because of a fairly well written script that offered a unique take on a protagonist and an antagonist, with a premise that had never really been seen before but, in today’s landscape, the franchise has been so mucked up with effects and an unwillingness to create a story, that it’s really become like a lone wolf version of The Expendables. And while Willis has managed to age gracefully, he’s 63-years-old and with each passing month it becomes less believable. That’s not to say he can’t still play McClane. The real question is how exactly the film company plans to tackle this proposed idea of exploring the timeline of McClane, both young and old.
Bringing a 20-something McClane to the big screen means he will either have to be portrayed by another actor or, and this idea is cringeworthy, they’ll have to use CGI to create a younger Willis much like Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys or Princess Leia at moments in the Star Wars franchise, though at least that was just to enhance the story rather than the awful CGI version of the former Governor of California fighting himself in that disaster of a sequel. That’s another potential feature down the road, however.
There’s little else known about this upcoming sequel at this point. However, taking Willis away from another potential film to make what seems to already be trending towards a bad Die Hard sequel is not a good thing. Either way, the world doesn’t exactly seem to be clamoring for a prequel on McClane – that ship sailed after the last two films, which attempted to be nothing more than popcorn films. So, just die already, Die Hard and leave it alone, Hollywood – and then reboot in a decade like some of the other franchises these days. Stop dragging Willis and the character through the mud, because fans don’t really care all that much at this point. But hey, at least Willis will reprise his role as David Dunn in Glass later this year. Now, there’s something for which to be excited.