Original Die Hard still the gold standard
That's how far the "Die Hard" franchise starring Bruce Willis has fallen. The latest, and fifth installment, "A Good Day to Die Hard" hits the big screen on Valentine's Day, to which I say, "Yipee Ki-yay!!!" No, not really. Above is the tag line for this sequel as John McClane and (a new twist) his son battle the bad guys in Russia. Sounds kind of lame, but I'm a sucker. I'll see the film, even though I'm sure it won't rank anywhere near the original "Die Hard."
Similar to "Jaws," and its four-film franchise that got worse with the release of each sequel, the original film, released in 1988 and celebrating its 25th anniversary, continues to be the gold standard of action movies.
The sequels, while not horrible, don't hold up to John McClane's first adventure in Los Angeles' fictional Nakotomi building. Remember disccussions about action films that followed the original "Die Hard." They went like this:
"What's this one about?"
"It's Die Hard in a ..."
That's high praise, but it's more than that. "Die Hard" was unlike anything moviegoers had seen, especially with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone exploding off the screen in the 80s. Willis' McClane was an ordinary, everyday wise-cracking cop who did what it took to survive and took a big-time beating in the process.
Sure, the stunts were preposterous, but when McClane was pulling broken glass from his bare feet in the film's third act and was fearing the end was near, it pulled the viewer in as to think, "Wow, this guy could really die." He probably would have in real life, but this is a movie after all. John McClane doesn't die.
Let's not forget the supporting actors, either. From heist leader Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) to Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) to Deputy Police Chief Dwane T. Robinson (Paul Gleason) to TV reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton), "Die Hard" had it all: Non-stop action, funny one-liners, a plot with a twist and a set of actors suitably cast.
That's what "Die Hard" fans want every time out, but that's not the reality. With each installment, each factor has taken a hit. All the films are enjoyable, and I'm interested how "Good Day" stacks up, but I'm don't have high hopes.
When all else fails, there's always the original "Die Hard."
- Mark Podolski | @MPodo